Changing tack to land a small slam (English Bridge Union)


Article written by Christophe Grosset and published in the magazine the English Bridge Union (December 2017).

Since the start of September, the EBU has been running online robot games at every Saturday and Sunday with a monthly ladder compiled from the best four games each month. In the October ladder, this board stood out as a particularly interesting deal:

S A 2
H A R 7 5
D 6 5 3
C A D 5 4
S R D V 5
H V 4
D A V 4
C R V 9 6

Playing a 15-17 NT, South opened 1NT, over which North bid Stayman, looking for a heart fit and then followed this with 6NT with its powerful 17 count. Another option would have been to bid 5NT pick a slam, in the hope of finding a superior ♣6 contract. However, before making this kind of bid, one must be certain that partner is on the same wavelength (fortunately, on Funbridge, you know how your partner will interpret your bids before you make them). Since, when playing matchpoints, even an overtrick in ♣6 will not beat a bid-andmade 6NT, 6NT seems like a reasonable choice.

The lead was the ♣7, how would you play?

There are 11 top tricks with four spades, two hearts, four clubs and one diamond. The options for a twelfth are in hearts and diamonds. For the heart play to be successful, East needs to have the ♥Q (50%), whilst playing a diamond to the jack will require the ♦K and ♦Q to be onside (25%). Therefore, playing on hearts is twice as likely to succeed. Accordingly, you take the lead with the ace of clubs and play a small heart; East follows low but, unfortunately, West takes your jack with his queen and returns the ♣2.

The chances of success are now very slim, but there is one last hope. The twelfth trick has to come either from the fourth heart or from the ♦J, but the robot opponents know this and will pay careful attention to the play. The only chance is then that the same defender holds the ♦K and ♦Q as well as four or more hearts. Having cashed your remaining clubs, in this case, he will be squeezed on the run of the spades. This will be the end position when you play the last spade:

S –
H A R 7
D 6 5
C –
S –
H 9 8 6
C –
orientation S 
H 10 
D 10 9 8 7
C –
H 5
D A V 4

When South plays the ♠K, West has no good discard – if he pitches a diamond, South will make the ♠J after first cashing the ace; if he discards a heart, North will then make his three hearts.

You may think that a squeeze is too complicated for you to spot during the play. One of the nice features of Funbridge’s online tournaments is that, after each one, you can see the other players’ results and how they played, card by card, so you can learn from the best. On this deal, robdixon87 was one who bid and made 6NT in exactly this way for a score of 84.78%.

Signing up at Funbridge is free and then these 20board EBU tournaments cost €2 each.

If you want to know more about The English Bridge Union, you can click here.