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Proper Trumps Produce Grand Slam

  by Richard Pavlicek

The Labor Day Regional Tournament in Atlanta drew throngs of avid bridge fans from all over the Southeastern United States. Two of the brightest stars of the tournament were Julian and Gracie Gabbai of Fort Lauderdale, who led their team of four to an undefeated victory in the prestigious Flight A Swiss Teams.

A key deal contributing to their win was the following, in which Julian Gabbai, partnered with Bill Passell, reached a grand slam. This resulted in a large pickup, since the opposing team managed to bid only a small slam at the other table. Even more important than reaching the grand slam was choosing the right trump suit.

7 S South
Both Vul
S A 8 6 5
H K J 10 5 4
D 5 2
C A 3

2 D
3 H
5 H
6 D
2 NT
4 NT
5 NT
7 S
S J 4 3
H 8 2
C J 9 6 5 4
TableS 9 2
H 6 3
D 9 8 7 6 4 3
C Q 10 7

Lead: D K
S K Q 10 7
H A Q 9 7
D A 10
C K 8 2

The labyrinthian auction deserves an explanation. Julian and Bill were using a bidding gadget favored by some tournament players: an artificial two-diamond opening to show five hearts and four spades with 11-15 high-card points. This convention is called Flannery, after its inventor (William Flannery). The two-notrump response was forcing, and the three-heart rebid showed exactly 2-2 in the minor suits — thus pinpointing North’s exact distribution of four spades, five hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. The remainder of the auction should be familiar to everyone; a routine Blackwood sequence discovered that North held two aces and one king. South’s bid of seven spades ended the auction.

Observe that South deliberately placed the contract in spades despite the fact that more hearts were held. (The bidding revealed a nine-card heart fit but only an eight-card spade fit.) There was method to this apparent madness. If the hands are played in hearts, only 12 tricks can be made (try it); but in spades, 13 tricks are available. The reason is that the heart suit (with spades trump) provides a discard for the losing diamond in the South hand, while the spade suit (with hearts trump) provides no such discard.

The play in seven spades was short and sweet. After the diamond-king lead to the ace, trumps were drawn in three rounds and 13 tricks claimed. In tournament competition it is quite common for declarer to curtail the play by spreading his hand and stating how the remaining tricks will be won.

This deal illustrates an important principle. When the bidding reveals a choice of adequate trump suits, it is usually better to select the more evenly divided suit as trumps. For instance, a 4-4 fit is superior to a 5-3 fit because the 5-3 fit will provide discards if the 4-4 fit is trumps.

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© 1981 Richard Pavlicek