Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson

There is great satisfaction in arriving at and making a contract that none of your competitors in a duplicate event managed to find. Such was the case in this deal played at the Lakeside Bridge Center in Riberas recently.

North began proceedings with a bid of 1 heart and South responded 1 spade. North had an awkward rebid with 18 high-card points, a broken 6-card heart suit, a good 4-card diamond suit and Aces in each of the short black suits. North solved the problem by treating her hand as a game-force and made the jump-shift bid of 3 diamonds. South now considered 3 No Trump but realized that would be a sign-off so South decided to temporize with 3 spades. Normally this would show a six card suit but South considered that the quality of his suit would compensate for the lack of a sixth card.

To his pleasant surprise, North now raised him to 4 spades and visions of slam flashed before South’s eyes. Without further ado, South launched into Roman Key Card Blackwood (1430). In this form of Blackwood, responder considers the king of the agreed trump suit as well as all four Aces as “Key Cards”. A bid of 5 clubs would show 1 or 4 Key Cards, or 5 diamonds (as in this case) would show Zero or 3. (5 hearts would have shown 2 Key Cards, without the trump Queen; 5 spades, 2 Key Cards with the trump Queen).

South naturally assumed that his partner’s 5 diamonds showed 3 Key Cards (and not zero) and signed off in 6 spades. West led the 7 of hearts which caused declarer no inconvenience whatsoever. South let the opening lead come around to his hand and won East’s Jack with the Ace. Three rounds of spades quickly gathered in all the enemy trumps and now it was a simple matter to set up the hearts by playing the 9 to the king and ruffing a heart in hand to set up the suit for three pitches.

South now played a diamond to the Queen and when this held he had 13 tricks. No other pair had managed to find the slam, the key to which was South’s 3 spades rebid. This was really a win-win bid as South intended to pass a 3 No Trump bid by North but left the door open to the possibility that North held something along the lines of her actual collection.

West had a problem in selecting his opening lead as the lead of either minor could well have cost a trick. A trump lead would probably have been the selection of most experts but in fact, on the lie of these cards, slam could not be defeated by any lead.

So the lesson of this hand was, when you are in a game force auction, try to find out as much about partner’s hand before signing off. There may be a better place to play than in the “obvious” contract.

Questions or comments: email: masson.ken@gmail.com