Real Deal #41 (From Audrey Grant Magazine)

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 09/29/2022
Level: General Interest

Dlr: South
♠ AJ10
♥ AK
♦ K432
♣ QJ84
♠ Q964
♥ J942
♦ A10985
♣ --
  ♠ 52
♥ 10875
♦ QJ76
♣ 1075
  ♠ K973
♥ Q63
♦ --
♣ AK9632

This Real Deal was dealt by Joseph Grill, a teacher and director from Charlotte, NC.

South opens 1♠ and West might be tempted to enter the auction. However, since he is vulnerable, he passes. North has 18 HCP, but should be in no hurry. Any kind of jump would ruin the auction. North should bide his time with 1♠. This natural bid promises only 6+ points, but of course it is forcing (his partner has to bid again).

South should introduce the 4-card spade suit next by bidding 1♠ (he can repeat the clubs later). North still has to be patient. If he jumps to 3NT, that would be an underbid—with a good chance of missing slam. Neither should North jump to 4NT (Blackwood) as he has no idea yet if there is a slam (or where).

 What about jumping to 3♠? No good. A jump to 3 of a previously bid suit is only invitational. North couldn’t stand it if he raised to 3♠ and his partner passed!

The solution is to use “fourth suit forcing” (in this case, by bidding 2♠). Any time the responder bids the 4th suit, it is forcing—and forcing to game. It doesn’t mean the responder actually has the fourth suit. In fact, it says nothing at all about hearts. It just announces: “Partner, I want to be in at least game, maybe slam.”

So, the auction has begun 1♠-1♠-1♠-2♠. Opener’s third bid will be a natural bid. He should bid 3♠ now to tell his partner he has a long club suit. If South had a flattish hand with a heart stopper, he would have bid 2NT. Now that he has shown long clubs, North finally has a good idea of where he is headed. North can envision a slam in clubs. At this point, he would probably use 4NT (Blackwood). It would be either plain old Blackwood, or “Roman Keycard Blackwood” if the partnership has added this toy to their repertoire (in which case it would ask not only about the 4 aces, but also about the king of clubs--the last-bid suit).

How does South answer? Showing the number of aces (or keycards) is one possibility. But can he also show the void? This is a way-too-complicated topic for this series. In fact, very experienced partnerships often mess this up. There are several schemes available here. Unless it is a very experienced partnership with strong agreements and infallible memories, it is impractical to worry about showing a void in response to Blackwood. I recommend South simply answers (aces or keycards) and ignores the void. 

After hearing the answer, North will give up on 7 and probably settle for the small slam. He could be greedy and try 6NT, but let’s assume he settles in 6♠.


  West    North    East    South  


 1♠ Pass 1♠ 
 Pass  2♠*  Pass  3♠
 Pass 4NT   Pass 5♠** 
Pass 6♠ All Pass  







*Four suit forcing

**Two keycards without the queen


Should West lead his ♠A? In general, I don’t recommend laying down an ace on opening lead. Here, it would help declarer. Also, a spade lead would relieve declarer of finding the spade queen. Only a heart lead gives nothing away. I can see West leading any of the three suits—there is no obvious answer.

Declarer can easily make 6♠. It is just a question of whether or not he makes an overtrick. He can’t lose any tricks in diamonds, trumps or hearts. What about spades? He can guess the ♠Q, or possibly trump spades in dummy (after throwing one of dummy’s spades on the ♠Q). I’d guess 13 tricks would be taken, but if things go poorly, declarer might hold himself to 12 tricks.


Lesson Points
1) Go slowly when you have a big hand (as long as your bid is forcing)
2) With marginal values for an overcall, choose to pass instead if vulnerable
3) As opener, show a 4-card major at your second turn (even if you have a longer minor)
4) Jumps to 3 of a previously bid suit are only invitational.
5) When responder’s second bid is the 4th suit in the auction, it is artificial and forcing to game
6) There are ways to show a void when responding to Blackwood, but it is impractical to study this topic


You can find more about slam bidding in this webinar from Robert Todd.