Bridge Basics 1U17 Main

Lesson 11

 by Richard Pavlicek

Slam Bidding

Until now I have stressed only the primary bidding goal, which is to bid game. Actually there is a secondary goal — to bid a slam or a grand slam — which offers an additional bonus.

A slam* is a bid of six in any suit or notrump, which requires that you win 12 tricks. If your side can win 12 tricks, it is not sufficient to bid only game; you must bid six to receive the slam bonus.

A grand slam is a bid of seven in any suit or notrump, which requires that you win all 13 tricks. Bidding and making a grand slam earns an even greater bonus than for bidding six.

*The traditional term is “small slam” but this usage is obsolete — just say “slam” or you will be tagged as a novice. The word “slam” is also used to refer to either a six-bid or a seven-bid, as in the title of this lesson or the next heading.

Requirements for Slam

In Lesson 3 you learned the requirements to bid game. The following table shows the point-count requirements to bid a slam or a grand slam. Remember, these are the combined points held by you and partner — including distributional points at a suit contract.

ContractPoints Required
Any 6 bid33 or more
Any 7 bid37 or more

Notice that there is no difference between major suits and minor suits as to the number of tricks needed for slam. Either requires 12 tricks (or 13 for a grand slam) so the point-count requirements are the same.

Quantitative Four Notrump Bid

When adding your points to partner’s, you will sometimes need to find out if partner’s point count is minimum or maximum to determine whether your side has 33 points. If your goal is six notrump, there is a special way to do this. Rule:

If partner’s last bid is 1, 2 or 3 NT, a bid of 4 NT asks partner to bid 6 NT with a maximum or to pass with a minimum.

The Control-Bid

You may also invite partner to bid a slam in a suit contract, but the method is different. First, you must have agreed upon a trump suit — either partner raised your suit, or you raised partner’s suit. Rule:

If a trump suit is agreed, a bid four or five in an unbid suit is a slam try and forcing.

This is called a “control-bid” because the standard practice is to bid a suit in which you hold the ace — a controlling card.

After the control-bid, partner must decide whether his hand is minimum or maximum for his previous bidding. Generally he should follow this strategy:

If minimum, return to the trump suit at the cheapest level. If maximum, bid any other suit, which is also a control-bid.

Bridge Basics 1U17 MainTop Lesson 11

Blackwood Convention

If you are confident that you have at least 33 points, another concern is the danger that you are missing two aces. It is desirable to have a method to inquire about the number of aces held. Rule:

If partner’s last bid is a suit, a bid of 4 NT asks for aces.

This is the Blackwood convention. Partner must show the number of aces he has according to the steps listed below:

Number of AcesBlackwood Reply
0 or 4*5 C
15 D
25 H
35 S

After the Blackwood reply, the four-notrump bidder must place the final contract. Alternatively, if all four aces are held and a grand slam is possible, he may bid five notrump. This asks for kings and the replies are similar but one level higher.

Gerber Convention

Since the Blackwood convention applies only when partner’s last bid is a suit, a different method must be used to ask for aces over notrump. This is the Gerber convention and it is summarized below:

If partner’s last bid is 1 NT or 2 NT, a jump to 4 C asks for aces.

Number of AcesGerber Reply
0 or 4*4 D
14 H
24 S
34 NT

*Making the same bid with 0 or 4 aces may seem unusual, but partner will always know which it is based on his own hand and the previous bidding.

Bridge Basics 1U17 MainTop Lesson 11

Quiz 11

Assume you are the dealer. Fill in the opening bid and the rebid you would make. Partner’s response is shown in each case.

Enter calls like this: P 1H 2C 3N 4S 6D

1. S A Q J 5
H K J 6
D 10 8 3
C K Q 7
4 NT

2. S K Q 4
H A Q J 9 2
D K Q 10 4
C 5
3 H

3. S A J 8 7
H 2
D A Q 9 7 6
C J 10 2
4 NT

4. S A K 9 7 5 3
H K 4
D 10 2
C A 9 5
3 S

5. S K J 8
H A K 10 2
D K Q 9
C A Q 3
4 NT

6. S A J 8 2
H K J 9 2
D A 2
C A 8 4
4 C


Top Lesson 11

Now assume partner opens the bidding and makes the rebid shown. Fill in the response and the rebid you would make.

7. S A 3 2
H A Q 8 2
D A 4 3
C 9 8 7
1 C
2 NT

8. S 2
H K Q 9 6 2
D A K 2
C K Q 8 2
1 H
5 D

9. S J 8
H K Q 8
D A Q 7 6
C J 10 6 5
1 S
4 NT

10. S Q 10 8 2
H Q 7 3
D A K 9 2
C K 2
1 S
4 C

11. S Q 9 6
H K J 8 6
D A 8 2
C J 10 2
2 C
3 NT

12. S K Q 8 3
H J 7 5
D 6 4 2
C A K 5
1 D
3 S


Top Lesson 11

© 2012 Richard Pavlicek