Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson

      (Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for 35 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in Toronto since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner, Rosemarie, are now in their third year wintering in Lakeside.)
      This hand, played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club, produced a very satisfying result for one pair due to a particular weapon they had in their bidding arsenal. Playing the popular 2/1 game-forcing bidding system, South opened 1 spade and North responded 2 hearts, a bid that committed the partnership to reach at least game.
      Now came the key bid of the auction: 3 spades by South.  Since 2 spades would have been forcing, this pair had an agreement that a jump rebid in opener’s suit guaranteed a long, solid holding that could play opposite extreme shortness in the other hand.
      Armed with this information, all that remained for North was to check for first round control in clubs by bidding 4 No Trump, a form of Roman Key Card Blackwood.  In the RKCB system, the King of trumps is counted as a fifth ace, or Key Card.  When South responded 5 diamonds, showing 3 Key Cards, North knew that there was no way for the opponent’s to capture the first trick (except in the unlikely event of East ruffing the opening lead). Declarer should be able to establish North’s heart suit (after drawing trumps) to park any losers from the South hand, so North jumped straight to 7 spades.
      And so it transpired. West led the club King, won in the closed hand with the Ace. Declarer now drew four rounds of trumps before playing a heart to dummy’s Ace.  The heart King was cashed and when declarer ruffed a heart back to hand and the Queen fell, the rest of the hearts were now good. With a diamond entry to dummy, declarer was able to claim 7 spades bid and made for an outright top board as no other pairs reached the grand slam.
      Conventional wisdom states that a partnership needs around 37 points to bid a grand slam and it should not be bid without a high degree of confidence that it will make. This pair showed it could be done on as few as 29 high card points. About the only way that the contract could have been beaten would have been if one of the opponents had held all 5 outstanding trumps, or East was void in hearts and West found a heart lead, about a 10% combined possibility. I’ll take 90% grand slams any time I can!
       Questions or comments: email: masson.ken@gmail.com