A Bergen Grand

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 06/24/2009
Level: All Levels

I hope Marty doesn't read this. On more than one occasion, Marty Bergen and I reached a good grand slam (going down) while unbeknownst  to us, the other table (with our cards) played in only a game.  The risk/reward of the IMP table suggests it would be much better to play a small slam making 12 tricks for a large enough gain than to attempt a grand slam (trying for an even larger gain). An old friend of Marty's (and our teammate at times) decided to dub these contracts "Bergen Grands."  (I wonder why not a "Cohen Grand?")

At the Las Vegas 2009 regional, Dave Berkowitz and I played in a so-called Bergen grand:

?K Q 3
?J 2
?A 7 6
?A K Q 7 6
?A 8 7
?A 7
?K J 10 9 8 5
?J 4

The exact auction isn't important, but North raised South's diamonds and South used RKC. Sure, he could have asked for the trump queen, but he knew that if North held ?Axxx, that seven would be excellent (missing only three to the queen). Even if North held the actual ?Axx, it would be at worst on 2-2 diamonds or 3-1 with the queen singleton.

Furthermore, there could be help from the opening lead. The "normal" lead against a grand slam is a trump. You assume your expert opponents won't be careless enough to bid a grand slam without checking for all the keycards and the trump queen. So, a trump is supposed to be the safe lead.

When LHO didn't lead a trump, the declarer inferred there was a good chance West was looking at the trump queen. Accordingly, he won the opening (club) lead in hand and laid down the ?K.

Do you agree with this play?

If you assume West would routinely lead a trump from xx or xxx, maybe you should lay down the ?J at trick two. If West plays low, run the jack--playing West for Qx or Qxx or Qxxx.  This would be embarrassing, of course, if RHO did start with a singleton (or doubleton) ?Q.

This could drive one crazy. An added benefit of playing the jack first is that LHO might show out. Then you can go up with the ace and finesse the other way. In fact, that was the situation at the table. West was indeed void in trumps. Down one.

At the other table? Well, you guessed it. They played in 3NT making 7 (520). Maybe that should be called a "Bergen game?"