Lesson 3R Main

# Notrump Slam Bidding

by Richard Pavlicek

This lesson pertains to two related areas: slam bidding in notrump (6 NT or 7 NT), and investigating a suit slam after your side has already bid notrump. It is essential to have a firm understanding of the available tools.

You should be familiar with the point-count requirements of 33-36 points to bid a slam (any six-bid) or 37+ points to bid a grand slam.

## Quantitative Bidding

An important aspect of bidding is the quantitative nature of notrump bids once your partner has already bid notrump (as a natural bid) and no major suit is agreed. These bids are summarized below:

Quantitative Notrump Bids
2 NTInvitational to game
3 NTSign-off
4 NTInvitational to slam
5 NTForcing to slam
6 NTSign-off

The point-count system is very accurate when balanced hands are concerned. This can simplify the bidding of many strong hands:

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

 3 NT Pass 6 NT

The bidding may not be elegant, but there is no better auction. Opener shows 25-26 HCP and responder adds his own 8 HCP to determine that 33 HCP are held. The only thing easier than the bidding is the play.

It is interesting to note that if you replace the J with the two, reducing the total to 32 HCP, the slam then becomes inferior — you would need a 3-3 spade break which is only a 36% chance. A similar case exists if you replace the J or the J with a low card of the same suit.

 Lesson 3R Main Top Notrump Slam Bidding

## Natural 4 NT Bid

Many players are brainwashed by Blackwood — whenever they hear 4 NT they answer aces — because they learned bridge by copying the bad habits of others. Unfortunately, the natural (quantitative) 4 NT bid is crucial to accurate bidding. If you belong to the “Blackwood camp” I suggest you repeat 100 times:

4 NT is not always Blackwood.

Even experts do not exactly agree when 4 NT should be natural. Here is the rule I use, based on 36 years of bridge playing:

4 NT is natural if your side has made a natural notrump bid and no major suit is agreed.

Conversely, 4 NT is Blackwood if your side has never bid notrump naturally or if a major suit is agreed.
Exception: An overcall of 4 NT after an enemy bid is a special case (it is for takeout).

 2. 8 4 K Q 5 3 K J 6 2 A 7 4 A K Q 2 A 2 8 5 3 K Q J 3

 1 1 NTPass PassPass 1 4 NT PassPass

The 1 NT rebid shows 12-14 HCP and 4 NT is invitational to slam. Opener uses good judgment to pass.

 3. A J 2 K Q 8 6 K Q 4 A K 8 K Q 8 4 4 3 A J 6 2 J 10 2

 2 NT3 6 NT PassPass 3 4 NT PassPass

Responder first uses Stayman to check for a spade fit, then invites slam with 4 NT. Opener, having shown 20-22 HCP, has the tiptop maximum so he accepts.

 4. K 8 3 A K J 9 8 2 A K 9 3 A 10 4 2 K Q J 10 9 4 J 5 2

 1 3 4 NT PassPassPass 2 3 NT6 PassPass

Opener invites with 4 NT. Responder is low on point count but high on playing strength, so he accepts the invitation by bidding slam in his self-sufficient suit.

### 4 NT Discouraging

In examples 2-4 the natural 4 NT bid was made by the partner of the original notrump bidder; hence it was a slam invitation. A different meaning should be apparent from the other side of the table:

If the original notrump bidder retreats to 4 NT, it discourages slam (assuming no major raise).

 5. K Q J 7 K 5 2 A Q J 7 A 4 4 A Q 8 4 8 6 2 K J 9 7 6

 2 NT3 4 NT PassPassPass 3 4 Pass PassPass

Responder first uses Stayman and then bids 4 (natural) to try for slam. Opener’s bid of 4 NT suggests minimum values and no club fit. If opener wished to encourage slam, he could bid an unbid suit (a control-bid), 5 NT (pick a slam) or 6 .

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

 1 3 NT4 NT PassPassPass 2 4 Pass PassPass

Opener’s heavy values in the major suits make slam unlikely so he discourages with 4 NT. Note the importance of being able to stop in 4 NT rather than 5 .

 Lesson 3R Main Top Notrump Slam Bidding

## Forcing 5 NT Bid

The classic meaning of a 5 NT response to a notrump opening bid is to invite a grand slam. Opener is supposed to bid 6 NT if minimum or 7 NT if maximum. Since I can’t remember the last time I used this bid, I will not waste your time with an example. (If you get these hands a lot, I recommend you play money bridge for big bucks.)

### 5 NT “Pick a Slam”

A far more practical use of 5 NT occurs when both notrump and a suit have been bid:

5 NT is forcing and asks partner to pick a slam, provided your side has bid notrump,
at least one real suit has been shown, and no major suit is agreed.

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

 2 NT3 6 PassPass 3 5 NT PassPass

After using Stayman responder has the strength to bid 6 NT, but that would preclude playing in 6 if opener also held four spades. The problem is neatly solved with 5 NT.

 8. A Q J 4 10 2 K Q 10 3 Q J 10 K 8 2 A K 9 7 4 A 8 4 K 3

 1 NT2 6 NT PassPass 2 15 NT PassPass 1. Jacoby transfer

After transferring to his five-card major, responder next bids 5 NT (forcing) to ask opener to choose between 6 and 6 NT. Opener lacks heart support so he bids the slam in notrump.

 Lesson 3R Main Top Notrump Slam Bidding

## The Gerber Convention

In situations where 4 NT would be natural it may be possible to ask for aces with the Gerber 4 bid. The following rule dictates when 4 is Gerber.

If partner has bid notrump as a natural bid, a jump bid of 4 is Gerber to ask for aces.

Important: The Gerber bid must be a jump. Hence, on some auctions there is no ace-asking bid available.

The responses to Gerber are by steps, as in regular Blackwood:

Responses to Gerber
0 or 4 aces4
1 ace4
2 aces4
3 aces4 NT

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

 1 4 4 NT PassPassPass 2 NT4 Pass PassPass

Opener asks for aces with 4 and discovers that two are missing. Opener could sign off in 5 but prefers to play 4 NT to try for a better score at matchpoints.

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

 1 NT2 4 PassPassPass 2 4 6 PassPass

After finding the heart fit with Stayman, responder has enough distributional points to warrant a slam bid; but it is possible that two aces are missing so he uses Gerber to check for aces.

##### Gerber Malfunction
 West1 NT5 ?6 ?7 ? NorthPassPassPassPass East4 5 6 I quit! SouthPassPassPass

Sorry, dear, you bid clubs first.

Geez! If I bid again I’d hear eight clubs.

 11. A K 8 4 3 A J 5 J 3 A J 10 — 4 3 2 A Q 10 6 5 K Q 9 5 4

 1 3 NT4 PassPassPass 2 4 6 PassPass

Not Gerber. Since 4 is not a jump, it is a natural bid (forcing). Opener’s 4 is a control-bid showing the A, so responder is encouraged to bid the slam.

If the Gerber bidder continues to 5 at his next turn, it guarantees that all the aces are held and that a grand slam is possible. This asks for kings in the same manner that 4 asked for aces, except the bidding is one level higher. (Note that 4 NT by Gerber bidder is always a sign-off in notrump.)

Over 5 the Gerber responder is allowed to bid a grand slam directly with an exceptional hand instead of answering how many kings.

 12. A J 9 7 A J 8 K 3 A J 8 7 K K 7 A Q 8 6 5 4 2 K 6 2

 1 2 NT4 NT5 PassPassPassPass 1 4 5 7 NT PassPassPass

Responder’s 4 bid is Gerber. Opener shows the three missing aces, so responder asks for kings with 5 . The 5 response shows one king. Responder now can count 13 tricks barring a 4-0 diamond break.

 Lesson 3R Main Top Notrump Slam Bidding