Todays deal features what I think is the most valuable tool to determine whether to bid a slam: the splinter bid. An unusual jump bid shows an excellent trump fit with partner, the strength for game, and a singleton or void in the suit bid. Partner can then determine whether his high cards will be useful or wasted.
After Souths one-spade response, North was willing to insist on game in spades. A routine four-spade bid would not be informative, so North jumped to four clubs. South now could see that the hands fit well (A-x-x-x opposite a singleton is ideal) so he bid aggressively to six spades after checking for aces.
It is educational to note that an excellent slam was reached with a combined total of only 26 HCP. This opens ones eyes to the reality that point count is only an approximation of trick-taking potential. The degree of fit (how the high cards are working) is just as important, and experts use this regularly to gauge when to overbid or underbid.
Now that Ive convinced you how great the slam is, it might be a good idea to make it. Six spades would be easy if trumps divided 3-2, but accurate play is required to overcome the 4-1 break. West led the club king to Souths ace. Declarer realized the slam was doomed if hearts broke badly, so he began with ace, king and a low heart; East discarded a diamond and South ruffed with the spade five.
The rest of the hearts are good, so all declarer has to do is force out the spade ace and draw trumps. Right? Wrong. When West wins the spade ace, he will return a club to tap the dummy; then you cannot draw trumps. Declarer didnt fall for this trap but instead took advantage of the solidity in his trump suit. He continued with the diamond king, diamond ace, heart ruff with spade king, and proceeded to crossruff. The only way West could interrupt this was to overruff with the ace and return a trump, but then dummy could draw trumps and win whatever hearts remained.
© 1990 Richard Pavlicek