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Making a Slam Off Two Aces

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, No. 7 in the continent-wide “Instant Matchpoint” game held Sept. 26, shows the bidding as it occurred at one table. No, wait! It may have been in Monkey Cage No. 7 at the zoo, but who’s counting. South, whose name is withheld to protect the guilty, bid a slam missing two cashable aces — and of course he made it.

6 D South
Both Vul
S K 8 7
H K Q 9
D 7 6
C K 9 6 5 4


2 C
3 NT

1 D
3 D
6 D
S J 10 5 3
H 10 8 5 4 3 2
D 3
C A 2
TableS 6 4 2
H A J 6
D 10 5
C Q J 10 7 3

Lead: H 4
S A Q 9
H 7
D A K Q J 9 8 4 2
C 8

The trouble began at South’s third turn. Over three notrump he could not ask for aces, since four clubs would be a club raise (North’s suit), and four notrump would be a quantitative invitation to six notrump. Therefore, South decided to gamble with a jump to slam — a reasonable stab given the circumstances.

An expert would have avoided the pitfall by bidding just two diamonds at his second turn. (This is forcing since a two-level responder promises another bid.) Then over two notrump, a jump to four clubs would be the Gerber convention. When two aces are found missing, South would sign off in four notrump, the optimum contract.

West led the heart four, dummy played the queen, and East won the ace. East pondered his next play, and having the club suit bottled up he decided not to help declarer and exited with a trump. South certainly appreciated getting “no help” and quickly claimed his contract, stating he would discard his losing club on the heart king.

East and West glared at each other with daggers. No, wait! It may have been bananas, but who’s counting. “Why didn’t you return a club?” asked West. “Why didn’t you just lead your ace?” countered East. “Clubs was dummy’s suit; and even if I did lead it, how would I know to shift to a heart?” argued West. So who gets the blame?

East was the fall guy. He should return the club queen, not only because West might have the ace but because West might be void. Further, if West held the spade ace instead of the club ace, a club return would not surrender the contract unless South held nine diamonds. East’s actual return of a trump had no merit in any layout.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek