Partnerships 2: Slam or Not?


Here are the six hands for this week, to practise bidding with (or without) your partner. They are the same hands as I've given you to play, and which I've reviewed above.  If you’re working with your partner, print out one set by clicking on the button on the right (Person A Hands OR Person B Hands), and ask your partner to print out the other set. There’s nothing to enter into your computer, but  get together with your partner, in person or via phone, Skype, email, or even on a walk! to bid the hands.

It’s not essential to see all 52 cards. Just reach the best contract with the two hands you and partner have. On some, you're the dealer, and on others, partner is. Vulnerability is not important. After you’ve practised the bidding, you (and partner) could do the lesson, play these hands and then watch the reviews.   


Slam or Not?

The most costly area of partnership misunderstandings are those related to bidding to slam. It seems that championships are won or lost on slams that are bid or not bid, and those which make or don’t make. It really shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

So, we need to sharpen our partnership understandings in this area. To summarise, treat balanced hands differently to unbalanced ones. If you pick up a big balanced hand, and partner’s hand is balanced too, it will be only high card points to consider when deciding whether to go for slam or not. Quantitative invitations are the go here. If partner asks you how good your hand is, and it’s maximum, just bid slam, but if minimum, don’t.

With suits, there’s more to consider and the main thing is to have bids which allow you to show where your hands match. The trump suit is a given, but if you have shortages in other suits where partner has no wasted cards, then slam might make on fewer points than the 33 which the books suggest are needed. And then checking for controls is a necessity before selecting slam (to avoid the embarrassment of watching the opponents take the first two tricks against you).

There are two ways to check for controls, and that’s cue-bidding, where you get to tell partner WHICH controls (aces/voids, or kings/singletons) you hold, or Blackwood which tells HOW MANY controls you hold. Sometimes we combine both methods, but the main thing is not to go to the six level if you’re missing two controls.

Finally, there is often a “captain” when looking for slam, and that’s the hand which takes control because you’ve given them enough information during the bidding. If using cue bidding, you don’t keep showing controls, if one or the other can either place the contract, or ask how many aces there are via Blackwood. It’s the most exciting area of bidding, but worth getting correct!

The Online Library contains other lessons that cover strong hands and slam bidding. Check the lesson library or use the links below:

Strong Balanced Hands
Strong Unbalanced Hands
Slam bidding & Blackwood
Cue Bidding to Slam