One hand from Gryphons II -- May 19, 2001
           Jim Plank, with commentary by Kevin Wilson

Only one hand this time because I've spent way too long 
on it already.....

Board: 19   Dealer: S    Vul: E-W

You are east, and you hold:

                S 6542         
                D AKQ85        
                C AJ87         

South passes and partner opens 1S.  Pass to you
and what is your bid?  Think before reading on,
because I do not think that this one is easy.

Obviously, you should be thinking about a slam.  If partner
has AKxxx,xxx,xxx,xx, then your chances of making the slam
are extremely high, and that's a seven count.  Given that,
6S is probably an effective bid, and likely to work out in
a majority of situations.  Doing a quick simulation, out of
20 opening 1S bids opposite 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87, I have the
slam being 83%. I'll include them below if you want to

More interesting questions are these -- when should you not
bid a slam, and when should you bid a grand?  Are there
bids to help you evaluate those?

Obviously, if partner is off the two top spade honors, you
should give up on slam.  With two of the top three, I think
you should go for it.  I don't think I'd worry about any
other features for slam -- perhaps diamond length is
relevant, but I don't think so.

On the flip side, for a grand, I think partner needs the
AKQ of spades and either six spades, or the king of clubs.
Maybe a club stiff would work as well.  There are other
hands, but were I bidding, I'd confine my exploration to
those things.

So given that, now what is the best way to find the slams?
First off, do you have bids to find the spade honors?  In
other words, do you play straight Blackwood, or some
variant of Roman Key Card?  If you play Blackwood, then I
think bidding 6S directly over 1S is the best bid.  Why?
Because you have no way of finding out what you need to
know -- slam is a guess, so you should just guess.

If you do play Roman Key Card, then you have to figure out
how to make it work for you.  The hard part is that the ace
of hearts gets in the way.  If you don't know whether or
not partner has it, you will have a hard time evaluating
whether or not you should be in your game, slam, or grand.
Specifically, if you bid 4N and partner shows 1 key card,
should you be in six?  

I can only think of three ways to deal with this problem.
First is to give up on science -- get to your key card bid
however you are going to get there, and make up your mind
how you are going to deal with the responses.  I think I
would use the following strategy:

 - If partner shows zero or three, bid 5S. Pard will
   correct with three and if you have the agreements, you
   can explore seven.

 - If partner shows one, ask for the queen.  If partner has
   it, bid six.  Otherwise stay in five.

 - If partner shows two and no queen, bid 5s.  This is
   because chances are 66% that one of the key cards is the
   ace of hearts.

 - If partner shows two and the queen, bid 6s.

The second way to deal with the ace-of-heart problem is to
try exclusion key card if you have that agreement -- bid 5h
over 1s.  The problem is now you're way too high to make
any effective use of partner's responses.  Throw that one

The third way is to get partner to cue bid the ace of
hearts (or lack thereof) at the four level, so that when
you bid 4N, you know exactly what the responses mean.
We'll see more of this in a bit.

Onto the bids.  The two bids that come instantly to mind
over 1S are 2D, and 4H as a splinter.  The splinter bid is
the technically ``correct'' one, since you have four
trumps, slam-invitational values and a heart void.
However, 4H is not very useful here.  Partner is very
unlikely to make any rebid other than 4S, and now you get
to bid 4N without any clue as to the ace of hearts.
Granted, you will likely find your 6S contract most of the
time, but you'll only find seven when partner has all the
key cards.  You could have achieved the same thing by just
bidding 4N over 1S.

The effectiveness of 2D depends on whether your are playing
two-over-one bids as game forces or not.  If you are
playing standard american (i.e. 2D is not a game force),
then 2D turns out to be a very bad bid in my opinion.  Why?
Because if partner bids 2N over 2D, then you cannot set
spades as trumps, force to game, and get your key card bid
in.  Partner can pass 3S, and will pass 4S. 4N will not be
key card in spades, and if you bid 3C or even 4C, partner
may not correct to spades.

If you are playing two-over-one bids as game forces, then
you can handle partner's responses better, since you can
set trumps at the two or three level, and then 4N should be
key card.  The other good thing is that if partner bids 2S
over 2D, then you may be able to find your grand.  The bid
I would make over 2S is one that most people (including
Kevin, I'm sure) will find disgusting -- 4C. Typically,
that should be a splinter in support of spades, but I have
convinced my partners that I'd like to play it as an
``Alexander Haig'' bid -- it says "Partner, I am in
control!" Partner should treat it like a splinter, and
cue-bid aces, but partner shouldn't think I have a stiff
club and start blasting off to slam.  As in this hand, when
I get around to bidding 4N, I'll have better information,
because partner's only responses to 4C are 4H, showing the
ace of hearts, or 4S, denying it.

My last thought would be to bid 2n as a Jacoby spade raise.
Typically, this promises game-forcing values, four card
spade support and no singletons or voids.  So this is a big
lie, but the nice thing is that you can handle most of
partner's responses.  Most people play that

   - A suit at the three level shows a stiff or void
   - A suit at the four level shows a real second suit
   - 3 of the major shows nothing else, but some extra
   - 4 of the major shows a balanced minimum

Note that after almost all of these responses, I can find
out about the ace of hearts via a cue bid, and them make
the best use of 4N. If partner responds 4H, I'll assume he
has the AH. If partner makes any three-level response or
responds 4C, I'll cue bid 4C or 4D and find out about the
ace of hearts.  The only difficult bids are 4D, which is
extremely unlikely given my diamond holding, and 4S.  I
never really gave thought to why partner might bid 3N after
2N, but this auction leads me to believe that 3N is a much
better bid with a balanced minimum, because now I can start
cue-bidding at the four level.

So, given all that windy prose, here's how all my auctions
would go, depending on my bidding system:

Blackwood           RKC,2D-Standard           RKC,2-over-1

Pard     Me         Pard       Me             Pard      Me
1S       6S         1S         4N             1S        2D
                    5S         6S             2N        3S
                                              4S        4N
                                              5S        6S

RKC,Splinter        RKC,Jacoby-2N                          

1S       4H         1S         2N     
4S       4N         3N         4D    
5S       6S         4S         4N
                    5S         5N

In these auctions, 4N is Roman Key Card, and 5S shows two
key cards plus the queen of spades.  In the last auction,
5N asks for parter to bid kings up the line -- if partner
shows the king of clubs, I'm bidding seven.

Ok -- if anyone is still reading, I've just spent 184 lines
to show five ways of getting to the same contract.  But the
interesting thing is that if you didn't think about it
before making your first bid, especially if you blindly bid
2d without thinking about your rebid problem, you may end
up with something like the following auction, and miss your

                    Pard       You 
                    1S         2D
                    2N         3C
                    3N         4S

Moreover, the bidding sequences have different chances of
finding the grand, which may well be on with only 23 points
between the two hands (partner has AKQxxx,Jxxx,xxx,-).
More on that below.  

The actual hands:

         S 87           
         H KJ532        
         D JT2          
         C 632          

S AKQT9         S 6542         
H QT9           H              
D 96            D AKQ85        
C Q54           C AJ87         

         S J3           
         H A8764        
         D 743          
         C KT9          

Seven is indeed cold here since diamonds split three-three.
How should play go?  If they don't lead a club, I think you
draw trumps while ruffing two hearts.  When trumps split,
you play on diamonds, throwing a heart on the third
diamond.  When diamonds split, you claim.  Had diamonds not
split, you can take the club finesse for trick 13. Had they
led a club, I'd probably take the hook, since it's a better
probability than the 3-3 diamond break (50% versus 40%),
and only make six.  I don't think that there are enough
entries to your hand to take three heart ruffs and pitch
two clubs on diamonds.


    1: +1460 -- Only Gloria and Jo Anne found the slam, and
               they made seven.

    1: +710 -- Dave Jerviss and Vincent Carcello missed the
               slam, but at least made seven.

    3: +680 -- The rest were in game making six

    1: +650 -- Except for one making five....

More on the bidding.  Suppose you figure that there are
three situations when the grand is likely to be on:

   - Partner has AKxxxx of trumps
   - Partner has AKQxx of trumps and the CK
   - Partner has AKQxx of trumps and a club stiff or void.

Suppose also that you are playing Jacoby 2N, and
two-over-one.  Then 2D will enable you find the grand in
the first case, and 2N will enable you to find it in the
others (partner will bid 3C over 2N with the club stiff).
Which is more likely?  I would guess the second two, but
maybe not.  We'll see what the simulations say:

West             East              %   Bid 6S        RKC    2/1-2D       J2N

KQT73,AKQ76,J72, 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87 100    1430       1430      1430      1430
AKT73,KQ63,T,QT3 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  70     971        671       971       971
AKQ73,Q843,J3,Q9 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87 100    1430       1430      1430      1430
AKQJT,A98,973,65 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87 100    1430       1430      1430      1430
A9873,AQJ8,T4,62 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87   0    -100        650       650       650
KJ973,AQ86,62,K9 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  45     588        664       664       664
AQJ98,AQ972,7,K4 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87 100    1430       1430      1430      1430
AKQJ9,Q9642,,932 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  80    1124       1124      1124      1124
AK873,J,T94,K943 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87 100    1430        680       680      1430
AKJT93,A6,63,T42 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  M7    1460       1460      2210      1460
AQT87,KJ84,J,Q64 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  70     971        971       971       971
AKQ98,AT6,J963,T 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  M7    1460       1460      1460      2210
KQJ97,A953,J6,T5 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  50     665        665       665       665
AKQ93,3,T974,K96 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  M7    1460       1460      1460      2210
AKJT83,843,42,K5 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  M7    1460        710      2210      2210
AJT873,AT2,JT2,Q 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87 100    1430        680      1430      1430
KQT97,AK82,T93,4 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  75    1048       1048      1048      1048
AKQJ973,T72,7,93 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  M7    1460       1460      2210      1460
AKQ973,A94,JT6,4 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  M7    1460       1460      2210      2210
AQJ83,A43,J32,65 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  50     665        665       665       665
AKT93,KQJ8,97,Q4 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  75    1048        672       672      1048
KJT83,AJ984,2,K5 6542,,AKQ85,AJ87  75    1048        672       672       672

Averages:                                1153       1041      1259      1310

As far as finding the grand, 2D and 2N are ties, but 2N 
lets you know about the AH in some cases, and that tilts the 
balance in favor of that bid.  Interestingly, blasting to six
does better than bidding 4N as RKC.  

Ok, I've more than beaten this to death....

    Kevin: Wow.  I'm surprised that nobody considered 5s over
           1s.  I think this says go with strong trumps.  My
           analysis is that we clearly have enough tricks for a
           slam, the questions are whether or not we have 2
           trump losers and whether or not we have a grand.  I
           agree that 4h is a wasted bid in this auction,
           because it doesn't really help with the description
           and it almost always will draw 4S, given your power
           in diamonds and the ace of clubs.  I think 2N is
           probably my choice.  With this bid I can find out a
           couple of things.  First, if partner has a singleton
           club (great) or a singleton diamond (horrible).  It
           certainly sets trumps and encourages partner not to
           just jump to 4s.  My planned auction would be to bid
           5s over a 4s bid in the auction I just suggested and
           leave the ultimate decision to partner.