This Real Deal was dealt by bridge teacher Liz Nixon
A quick look at the dull deal shows that North-South have a grand slam on a finesse for the spade king. Let’s see how the bidding should go.
What is North’s opening bid? Some players would erroneously open 4. Why is this wrong? A four-of-a-major opening is preemptive. It shows something like KQJ10xxxx and nothing else. Don’t preempt with such a strong offensive hand. North should start with 1.
South has 20 HCP and is immediately thinking of slam. However, there is no rush. Inexperienced players are guilty of committing what I call “premature Blackwood.” There is no rush for South to ask for aces. He should go slowly and try to learn more about partner’s hand. He responds in his best suit, clubs by bidding 2. I feel strongly (as does Audrey Grant) that this bid should be played as game forcing (even by beginners). It is much easier to bid if neither partner has to worry about getting dropped in a partscore. Accordingly, a two-level response in a new suit shows approximately 13+ points (counting useful distribution). Subsequently, neither partner can pass below the level of game.
After the two-over-one game forcing response, the opener bids naturally. In this case, he will repeat the spades to show his extra length. He should not jump! Jumping has a special meaning (it shows a solid suit and sets trump). Here, opener treads slowly with a 2 rebid.
South has now learned that his partner has at least six spades. Is it time for a majestic leap to 4NT Blackwood or slam? No. What’s the hurry? Why not get more information? South should mark time with 2NT. Remember that the partnership is forced to game, so South need not worry that his partner will leave him in 2NT. South shouldn’t jump to 3NT. That bid would not be forcing, and South doesn’t want to be dropped in only game. Via his 2NT bid, he will get to hear even more information.
Back to opener. He should repeat his spades again. He has already shown six, so bidding them again would tend to show seven. He bids 3 and also knows his partner won’t drop him there.
South now has the information that he is facing a seven-card spade suit. At this point, there are several fancy slam-bidding tools available, but those are beyond the scope of this column. Now it is okay to wheel out old Blackwood. One requisite for Blackwood is that you are sure the opponents won’t cash the ace-king of any suit. South knows that isn’t possible; he has every suit under “control.”
How should North respond to 4NT? The first question is whether or not the partnership is using Keycard Blackwood. If so, 5 would show two keycards and the queen of spades. If 4NT is plain old Blackwood, then 5 would show two aces.
What about the void? Here is some practical advice. Do you meet all three of the conditions below?
1) You and your partner have each been playing serious bridge for 10 or more years.
2) You and your partner both have strong memories.
3) You are playing with a regular partner with whom you have discussed and studied responding to Blackwood with a void.
If you meet all of those conditions, maybe you would be writing for instead of reading the magazine. For 99% of my readers, it is not practical to delve into the “responding to Blackwood with a void” topic. It is impossible to remember (there are at least three methods) and rarely comes up. I suggest you ignore the void. Just respond as if you don’t have one.
If using plain Blackwood, after learning about possession of all the aces, South would likely ask for kings. Upon learning of zero kings, he will know the spade king is missing. If South hears the answer of 5 to Keycard Blackwood, he will know a keycard (an ace or the spade king) is missing. So, with any kind of Blackwood, South would not want to be in seven (at best on a finesse). He should stop in six. Because notrump pays more and because he has all suits well stopped, South should bid the slam in notrump. Furthermore, by becoming declarer, South’s AQ of hearts are protected from a lead through the queen.
There is not much to the play. Whatever is led, South wins and leads the 10 for a finesse. When it works, he will soon be able to claim 13 tricks. 6NT making seven for a score of 1020.
What went wrong? Nothing. 6NT by South is the correct contract and a score of 1020 would likely produce a good matchpoint score (beating any pairs in 6 or game). Maybe a few pairs will wander into the grand slam, but there is no need to be there. It just happens to make, but switch the East-West hands and the players in seven will get a near bottom board.
1) Don’t open four-of-a major with a strong offensive hand (two aces and a void, in this case).
2) In a 2/1 Game Force auction, go slowly to gain information.
3) Don’t be in a rush to use Blackwood.
4) Don’t use Blackwood unless you are sure your partnership is not off the ace-king of any side suit.
5) When responding to Blackwood, ignore a void.
6) Don’t worry about what “can make.” Being in seven on a finesse (even if it happens to make) is not good bridge.
For more on Keycard Blackwood, you can purchase this webinar from Michael