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South Deals
Both Vul
A K Q 8 6 5
7 6 5 4
A 4
10 7
A K Q J 3
Q 8
A 9 4 2
West North East South
Pass 2 NT1 Pass 3 NT2
Pass 4 NT Pass 5 3
Pass 5 4 Pass 6 5
Pass 7  Pass Pass
  1. Game forcing raise with 4+ hearts
  2. Artificial, showing 15-17 HCP with no shortness
  3. Three aces OR two aces plus the heart king
  4. Artificial ask for heart queen or extra heart length
  5. "I have the heart queen or extra heart length but no side king."
7  by South
Lead:  5

This deal is Board 13 played on November 25, 2015 at South Bend Bridge Club as part of The Common Game.


When South opens the bidding 1 , North realizes a solid heart suit and nothing else in partner's hand will often be enough for slam, so he sets trump with a game forcing raise, planning on bidding Roman Keycard Blackwood on his next bid. After learning the opening bid contains three top hearts and the club ace, North bids the grand slam.


Pretend you are declarer. After the  5 opening lead, what should you be thinking?

1. "This diamond lead stinks! It knocks out a potentially crucial dummy entry I might need if hearts and/or spades do not split in a friendly manner. Never am I ducking in dummy when very few players will lead away from a king against a grand slam and there are still very good chances to make 13 tricks if I win the ace."

2. "If spades split 3-2, I have 13 tricks in both a heart or notrump contract."

3. "If spades split 4-1 and hearts split 3-1, I'm cold for 13 tricks by drawing trumps, then playing spades, using a later club ruff to reach two spade winners."

4. "If spades split 5-0 and hearts split 2-2, I'm still cold by playing spades early and ruffing clubs as later dummy entries."

After winning the diamond ace in dummy, you lead a trump and RHO discards a diamond. So the hearts split 4-0! Now what are your options?

(a) Draw trumps and hope spades split 3-2, OR

(b) Ruff clubs in dummy for extra tricks in case spades are not split 3-2.

If you try to ruff clubs in dummy, you need three ruffs in dummy with the three remaining trumps in dummy. But with no entries outside of trumps to get back to hand for more club ruffs, there is no chance of ruffing enough clubs to reach 13 tricks. (Also, you need LHO with the trumps to hold at least four clubs so he cannot ruff with a trump higher than dummy.) So you have no choice when trumps are 4-0 other than hoping spades are split 3-2.

It likely is correct to risk ruffing at least one club in dummy to limit the undertricks if spades do not split 3-2. But eventually you will need to draw all the trump and hope spades are splitting for you, allowing you to discard your diamond and club losers.

You do not want to start ruffing clubs immediately because you use your dummy entry club ruff you need later if hearts are 3-1 and spades are 4-1. But what if you knew hearts were 4-0? Could you start ruffing clubs immediately and survive spades not splitting 3-2? No! Rarely will this work. RHO would need to be the one with the four trumps and spades would need to split 3-2. But if spades are splitting, then you should draw trumps and claim your 13 tricks!

Only the combination of the 4-0 heart split and the diamond opening lead gives declarer a problem on this deal.

Bud Hinckley

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