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Two possible slams for both sides - one each could fail, one will make!!

Hand played on 23/05/2013
Board number 24
Dealer West
Vulnerability Love All
Submitted by Alaric Cundy

The Hands


The Bidding





3 (1)

No (3)





4 (2)

5 (4)



  1. Splinter - showing a singleton or void in spades plus at least four hearts
  2. Cue bid - first round control in clubs
  3. Forcing passes
  4. Cue bid - first round control in diamonds


This hand is surely a strong contender for the most bizarre deal ever to arise at the club!!! To summarise:
  • Both sides have two slams to choose from - one 'obvious' / probable, the other less likely
  • Both sides could fail in their 'obvious' slam - but only courtesy of 'top drawer' defence!
  • Both sides have an alternative, but less likely, slam that is unstoppable!!! No pairs at any table played in an unstoppable slam!!!
At our table, the bidding progressed as shown above, and West finished as Declarer in 6. Despite the lack of high-card points, West was able to reason as follows:
  • East's Splinter showed a singleton or void in spades
  • East's lack of a double of 4, which would have suggested potential wasted values in the shape of high cards in that suit, therefore implied his values would be in hearts and clubs
  • East's lack of a cue bid in spades, which if it followed the Splinter, would show a void, or singleton Ace, implied there was a spade loser - hence a grand slam would have no chance
All of this thinking left West reasonably happy about signing off in 6.

6 only fails if the Defenders cash the top spade and then secure a club ruff - but at the table North started with the A, and now the contract is plain sailing. Had North paid careful attention to the bidding, and believed West's 5 cue bid, then he might have tried a spade instead and helped to steer partner to the winning continuation.

North could have made life more difficult for East / West had he been able to deploy a two-suited gadget, such as Michaels, i.e., a bid of 2 over the 1 opening to show a two-suited hand with spades and a minor. It now becomes much more difficult for East to pinpoint all the key features that his hand includes, and it might help North / South achieve a better outcome, courtesy of a sharper defence against 6, if East / West still reach that contract, or after some more aggressive 'barrage bidding', into a making contract of their own.

It is interesting to note that 6 by East / West is unbeatable on any defence - and indeed will make all 13 tricks if the Defenders fail to cash the A at trick 1 - but the hand was not played in Clubs at any table!!!

At other tables, two pairs were doubled in 6, but the Defenders then failed to find the winning line.

Many North / South pairs were allowed to play the hand in spades; none bid 6, but four made 12 tricks, sometimes doubled. Assuming that North is Declarer, East has to find a diamond lead against the spade contract for a ruff, and if West is being courageous, he could under-lead the A to enable a second ruff, and hence hold the contract to 10 tricks! If South Declares, then West has to start by under-leading the A to partner's King, for a diamond return and a ruff, so now 11 tricks will be made. The best contract for North / South is actually 6, which cannot be beaten on any Defence!!! Indeed, once again, 13 tricks are available if East / West attempt to cash the wrong Ace at trick 1!!!! Declarer just needs to avoid any spade losers by felling the singleton King under the Ace. In practice, no North / South pairs played in Diamonds!!!

A comment from former club member, Mike Graham:

Strange hand, indeed.

One thing it does illustrate is that with a big double-fit you should aim to play the hand. South's pass of 6 is amazing, with North bidding spades and diamonds. You may go for a penalty but you don't concede a large score when the opposition slam makes.

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