Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
In all walks of life successful people usually rely on some form of mentoring to help them on their way. Bridge is no exception – the more opportunities you have to play with (and against) experts, the better your chance of reaching a good level yourself. Many years ago I was fortunate to play a number of times with the late Duncan Phillips who was a leading light on the Canadian bridge scene.
This month’s hand was one that I played with Duncan which left a big impression on me and I still remember it to this day. In a match-point duplicate game West opened one club and, sitting North, Duncan doubled. Although he didn’t have a typical take-out double, with his spades being much better than his hearts, he felt he was too strong for a simple overcall and he envisaged introducing his spades at his next turn to bid. East bid one heart and, while my overall strength was weak, I thought my reasonable six card suit was worth showing, so I bid 2 diamonds. West raised hearts and, seconds later, most of North’s bidding cards landed on the table – 5 no trump!
This was the Grand Slam Force (GSF), requesting me to consider only my diamond honors for my next bid. With one of the top three diamond honors I was expected to bid six of that suit; with two of the top three, bid seven! I did have two of the top three diamonds so I was obliged to put us into the grand slam.
There was nothing to the play – I ruffed the opening club lead, drew two rounds of trumps, established the spades by playing the ace and king and ruffing a third round in my hand and claimed 13 tricks.
Duncan knew I must have a decent diamond suit (and some length) to bid in a competitive auction since, on the bidding, I was marked with very few high card points. About the only holding I might have which would cause me difficulty in the play was three small spades, in which case, I might lose a spade trick if the hidden cards did not divide 2 – 2.
It was a reasonable gamble and produced a clear top in comparison scoring. After all, how often do you reach a cold Grand Slam when your opponents open the bidding and your side holds a combined total of 21 high card points!
If you decide to add the GSF to your list of conventions, make sure you and your partner discuss it so you are both on the same wavelength. The GSF is used in cases where the combined hands of a partnership are so strong that a small slam (winning at least 12 tricks) is a near-certainty and a grand slam (winning all 13 tricks) is a distinct possibility. It allows one partner to gain information on the quality of trumps in the other partner’s hand. The asking partner knows that his side has first round control of all the other suits and usually has a good long suit on the side.
The GSF is only used when it does not conflict with other conventions used by the partnership such as asking for kings in the Blackwood convention.
Column: Bridge by the Lake
Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for more than 40 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in the Toronto area since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner Rosemarie have been wintering in Lakeside since 2006. Even after all these years of playing they find bridge to be a constant challenge and enjoy sharing some of their triumphs and mishaps with Ojo readers in each column.