Slam Bidding and Control Asking Conventions - New Project

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Slam Bidding With No Trump Hands

The following applies only to hands where no trump will be the final contract.
When bidding indicates that no trump will be the final contract, the level of the contract is usually a matter of total points in the two hands.  In other words it is a math problem.

If you know partner’s hand to be balanced and you have a reasonably balanced hand, your best contract will probably be no trump.

    ·       If you know the combined values of the two hands to be 33 to 36, your contract should be a small slam (6 nt).
    ·       If you know the combined values to be 37 or more you contract should be a grand slam (7 nt).

Okay, that part is fairly easy.  But what if the combined values of the two hands could be 33 or 37, but you don’t know for certain.  This is a case for a slam invite.

The One Who Knows Goes

Imagine partner opens 1 no trump 15 to 17 hcps.  
    ·       If your hand is balanced and has 18 or 19 hcps, you know that your combined values are between 33 and 36.  You will bid the small slam directly.                    1nt… 6nt.
    ·       If your If hand has 22 or more hcps, you know your combined values is 37 or more.  You will bid the grand slam.  1nt…7nt.

The Quantitative No Trump Slam Invitation

Imagine your partner opens 1 no trump 15 to 17 hcps.

    ·       If your hand has 16 or17 hcps, your combined values will be 33 if your partner has his max of 17 hcps.
           1)   Your bid is to invite the small slam by bidding 4 nt.  
           2)   In this situation your 4 nt bid says, “Partner bid the small slam only if you have the max for your opening bid, otherwise pass.
    ·        If your hand has 20 or 21 hcps, your combined values will be 37 only if your partner has a max, of 17 hcps, for the 1nt opening bid.
           1)   Your bid is to invite the grand slam by bidding 5 no trump.  
           2)   This bid tells partner that he must bid six no trump, but with a maximum of 17 for the opening bid, he should bid the grand slam.

The bidding above applies only when the final contract will be no trump, the hands are balanced and only high-card points are counted.  

Bidding a Slam with Suit Oriented Hands, When Length and Short-Suit Points are Counted.

To bid a slam with suit oriented hands you need:

    ·       33 total points for a small slam and 37 total points for a grand slam.
    ·       Control of all four suits.  
     1)   A small slam requires first round control of three suits and second round control of the fourth suit.
     2)   A grand slam requires first round control of all four suits.
§  First, round control can be either an ace or a void.
§  Second round control can be either a king queen combination or a singleton.
   ·       A source of tricks. (A long suit that can be established or ruffing values.

The Blackwood Convention

Players can ask their partners to indicate the number of aces they hold by bidding 4 no trump.  This initiates the Blackwood convention and is applicable only when the bidding indicates that the final contract will be a suit, and both partners know what that suit will be.

Do not confuse this 4 no trump bid with the quantitative 4 no trump bid discussed earlier.  The quantitative 4 no trump bid is made when both partners know that the final contract will be no trump.  The Blackwood bid is made when the final contract is to be a suit.  

The 4 no trump bid asks, “How may aces do you have?”  Partner responds in the following manner:

    ·       5 ♣.  I have 4 aces or I have 0 aces.  
    ·       5 .  I have 1 ace.
    ·       5 .  I have 2 aces.
    ·       5 ♠.  I have 3 aces.

Once the number of aces has been established, and if (only if) the partnership has all four aces, the bidder who initiated Blackwood, can inquire about kings.  This is done by a bid of 5 no trump.  Responder indicates kings in the following manner:

    ·       6 ♣.  I have 4 kings or I have zero kings.  
    ·       6 .  I have 1 king.
    ·       6 .  I have 2 kings.
    ·       6 ♠.  I have 3 kings.

Remember, the inquiry for kings is used only when the asker knows that the partnership holds all four aces.

The Gerber Convention

Suppose partner opens one no trump and you have a hand something like this one:

   K       A        K        3
   J        6        Q       
  10                J     

Even though your high-card values do not reach 33, you can easily see a slam in diamonds if partner has two of the three missing aces.  The way to find out how many aces partner has after a no trump opening is through the Gerber convention.  The convention is initiated by a direct bid of 4 ♣, after a 1 or 2 no trump opening bid.  Beware, Gerber applies only after a no- trump opening bid or when no trump is the obvious final contract.

The bidding goes Opener “1 no trump (or 2 no trump)”… responder “4♣.”  The no-trump opener replies in the following manner.

    ·       4 .  I have 4 aces or 0 aces.
    ·       4 .  I have 1 ace.
    ·       4 ♠.  I have 2 aces.
    ·       4 nt.  I have 3 aces.

If Gerber initiators need to know the number of kings, they can ask partner to provide that information by bidding 5 ♣.  The no-trump opener answers in the same way as for aces.

Do remember that the number of kings is requested only when the partnership holds all 4 aces.

When Not to Use Blackwood or Gerber
Cautions to consider when using Blackwood or Gerber.

    ·       Do not initiate Blackwood or Gerber if you have a void
    ·       Do not initiate Blackwood or Gerber when you are not sure, your side has enough strength to be in a slam.

  •       Do not initiate Blackwood or Gerber when you have an small doubleton or tripleton.  
    ·       Be aware that Blackwood or Gerber is used to keep you out of a bad slam (when you don’t have adequate suit controls).  It is not to help you find a                 slam when you are not sure you have the values.  
    ·       When partner asks for aces, never bid a void as an ace.  Partner will want to know how many actual aces you have.
    ·       Do remember, Blackwood or Gerber can tell how many aces the partnership has, but not witch aces they are, unless of course the partnership has            all four aces.  If you need to know whether or not partner has a specific ace, you cannot find that information with Blackwood or Gerber.

Using Control Bids in Slam Exploration

Once you recognize that the partnership’s combined holding is close to this range, you might begin a slam exploration.  

Not all hands lend themselves to Blackwood or Gerber as a means of determining whether or not the partnership has adequate controls to safely bid a slam.  
There are two types of hands for which Blackwood will not work: a) hands with a void and b) hands with a weak suit of two or more cards
a)   ♠ A K J 9 6 5 3, K Q 3, K J 2, ♣ ___
b)   ♠ A K J 9 6 5 3, A K Q Q 7 , ♣ 3

If you opened either of these hands 1♠ and partner offered a limit raise of 3♠, you might think a small slam is a good proposition if partner has just one ace.  But, one ace may not give you a good slam.  If partner had the ace of clubs with either hand you might lose two tricks right off the top.  However, if partner had the ace of diamonds a small slam might be a good proposition.  So, you need to know, not how many aces partner has, but which ace(s), if any she has.
The way to do this is by using a control bid.  A control bid (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a cue bid) is the bid of a new suit beyond the 3 level after a trump suit has been agreed upon.  A control bid gives partner two bits of information.  

          i.          I have first round control of the suit I bid.
          ii.          I am interested in exploring for a slam.
First round control is either an ace or a void.  The control bid asks partner to show her lowest ranking first round control.

After 1♠ … 3♠, with hand a) you might bid 4 ♣, a control bid showing first round control of the club suit and interest in a slam.  If partner has first round control of either hearts or diamonds, partner will bid that suit and you could bid 6♠, with a reasonable chance of making the slam.  If partner did not have a diamond or heart control, she will simply bid 4 spades, and you will play that contract.  

With hand b), after 1♠ … 3♠, you would bid 4to show first to show first round control of hearts and slam interest.  Partner with no control clubs or diamonds will bid 4♠ and you will play that contract.  If partner bids 5♣, to show first round control of that suit, you will sign off with five spades, but if partner bids 5, you might be willing to give 6 spades a try.
Guidelines for control bids:
·       A control bid occurs whenever a new suit is bid: 1) above the three level and 2) after the partnership has agreed on a trump suit.
·       Control bids are given up the line, with the lowest or most convenient to bid, first.  If a player bids 4, as a control bid, that player does not have a first-             round control of the club suit.

   o   ♠ Q 10 7 3, A 8 7 J 7 3 2 , ♣ A 2

   o   You have the hand above.  Partner opens 1♠, you respond 3♠, partner bid 4, you must show your heart control, because it is most convenient.  

   o   If you had bid your club control, partner will assume you do not have first round control of the heart suit.

·       Players should initiate control bidding only when they have good reason to believe that a slam may be possible.

Here are some examples of how control bids might function.

West                                                   East
♠ A K 8 6 5                                          ♠ Q J 9 3     
2                                                        A K 8        
A K 10 9                                            Q 4 2
♣ 5 4 3                                                ♣ Q 10 9
West           North           East            South
1♠               pass           3♠                pass
4               pass            4               pass
4               pass            pass            psss
Both East and West realize the neither has a club suit control, therefore slam is a bad prospect.  They will settle for a game.  

West                                                   East
♠ A K 8 6 5                                          ♠ Q J 9 3     
4                                                       A K 8        
A K J 10                                           Q 4 2
♣ 5 4 3                                                ♣ A 10 9
West           North           East            South
1♠               pass           3♠                pass
4               pass            4               pass
4               pass            5♣               pass
5               pass            5               pass
6        all pass
This time East has a much better hand and is willing to show his club control at the 5 level.  West and East show second round control in diamonds and hearts.  West bids a almost certain six spades.     

Roman Key Card Blackwood

Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKC) is a modification of the standard Blackwood control-asking convention.  The main difference is that the king of the agreed trump suit is included as one of the controls inquired about.   In other words, we might say there five aces (key cards) to be Inquired about.  These are the four regular aces plus the king of the agreed trump suit.  

It should be clear why including the trump king as one of the key cards is an improvement over regular Blackwood.  Bidding a small slam missing an ace and the king of trump or a grand slam missing the trump king is a bit like trying to make a margarita without tequila. You are missing an important ingredient.  

As with traditional Blackwood RKC is initiated with a bid of 4 no trump.  The responses are as follows.  

·       5 ♣ = 1 or 4 of the key cards
·       5 = 0 or 3 of the key cards
·       5 = 2 or 5 of the key cards without the queen of trump.
·       5 ♠ = 2 or 5 of the key cards with the queen of trump.  

If you have extra unknown length in the agreed trump suit and you have two key cards you should respond as if you had the trump queen.  For example, if partner opens 1♠ and you respond 3 ♠, partner will know you have 3 or 4 spades.  If, however, you had 5 spades, you RKC response with two key cards should be 5♠.  

If the response to 4 no trump is 5 ♣ or 5 , the RKC initiator -- if she.he wants to know about it -- can ask about the trump queen.  This is done by bidding the next non-trump suit.  The negative response is to bid the very next available bid.  The possession of the queen is indicated by skipping the next available bid.  

If the partnership possesses all 5 key cards, plus the queen of trump, the RKC initiator can inquire about kings.  Since the trump king is known, there are only 3 kings to be considered.  5 no trump requests the number of kings.  

·       6 ♣ = 0 kings
·       6 = 1 king
·       6 = 2 kings
·       6 ♠ = 3 kings.

Responding With a Void

When responding to a key-card inquiry, you must never include your void suit in your key-card response.  Two questions remain: a) should you show a void at all? and b) if so how to show it?

As a general rule, a void should not be shown unless the responder has reason to believe it would be helpful to know about it.  For example, you should not show a void in a suit which partner has bid naturally or is likely to have some strength.  On the other hand a void in an unbid suit or one that opponents have bid might be quite valuable.
When you choose to show a void, it can be shown n the following manner.  After 4 no trump:

·       5 nt shows an even number of key cards (nost likely two), plus a void.  
·       6 of a suit below the trump suit shows an odd number of key cards (most likely one), plus a void in the suit bid.
·       6 of the trump suit shows an odd number of key cards, plus a void in a higher ranking suit.

Key Card When the Opponents Interfere.  

It is very seldom that the opponents will make a bid over a key-card inquiry.  Occasionally, this will happen.  Here’s how to describe your key cards if opponents make an overcall.
Key-card initiator     Opponent    Responder
      4 nt                       5 of a suit        ??

The system described here is a modified version of what bridge players call D.O.P.I.  This stands for ”Double with 0 key cards and pass with 1 key card.”   

·       First step is double.     Shows 0 or 3 key cards.
·       Second step is pass.     Shows 1 or 4 key cards.
·       Third step is the cheapest available suit or no trump.  Shows two key cards without the queen or extra length in the trump suit.
·       Fourth step is Bid a suit or no trump, after skipping one suit. Shows 2 key cards with the queen of trump or extra length in the trump suit.

You can see that RKC provides a good bit more information, when trying to determine whether or not you side has a reasonable chance ar a slam.  However, the system is complex.  You will have to study it, then practice using it, before you will feel confident using it at the bridge table.  
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