Beginners essentials

Suit slam, Major or minor

No Trump slam

50%+ chance? Go for it!


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Slams - bid Slams a few times and you'll be happy

Slams are exciting, and very rewarding in terms of points and prizes. But they carry NO extra reward if you didn't actually bid them.

The better and winning players? All you have to do is to spot the chance, and then not be too timid to have a go.

The timidity comes from irrational fear of failure: you'll lose the bonus points you would have obtained for a less ambitious but still quite rewarding bid. And then there's reputation! But, when the chance was there, the penalty is not so great for trying but then going down.

A little arithmetic

There are two types of Slam, and they both make you lots and lots of extra points.

A Small Slam is when you bid and make 12 out of the 13 tricks. You win all your game winning bonus points (300 to 500), PLUS a 500 to 750 slam bonus, depending on vulnerability.

With a Grand Slam the extra slam bonus is 1,000 to 1,500 depending on vulnerability.

When you have a 50:50 chance of a Small Slam, the maths usually means you should bid it. Repeat it a few times, and the rewards outweigh the penalties.

This typically means having ~31 HCP and no more than one definite winning card missing. And the bidding will very often enable you to find this out. If it's in No Trumps, then you need 33HCP to pass the 50% safety guide, and again the bidding will often tell you if you have 33HCP.

With a Grand Slam, the maths shows that you should bid it when you have a 75% chance of making it. Typically, but not always, a "suit" Grand Slam requires around 34HCP, but a good shape with some helpful voids or singletons can reduce this a lot. After all, if you have all 13 Spades in your hand that's only 10HCP, yet a Grand Slam is certain! However, if it's in No Trumps, then shortages are no help - you need power and winners in all suits - and 37HCP is the 75% safety guide.

For beginners? Yes!

The techniques (known as cue-bidding) to find the exact voids and singletons are not really for beginners, BUT it's definitely worth having a go at asking how many Aces your partner has if you can see that 31+ HCP are in your hands. To do this, after you have established your suit and re-evaluated your combined strength by taking shape into account, then a bid of "4NT" is a special coded bid, which means "Hey, partner, Suit agreed! Now, I wonder if we can get a Slam. We need all but one of the top stoppers, how many have you got?"

When partner has none of them, she replies 5club. When she has one of them she replies 5diamond. And so on, increasing her bid by one suit for each extra Top Stopper. It's known as "Blackwood". If the answer is bad, the player who did the asking will put it back into the suit at the 5 level (e.g. 5heart), but if the answer is good he'll put it into Slam at the 6 level (e.g. 6heart). If the answer is perfect, and the HCP are very strong, he might even put it into 7heart, or ask about Kings by bidding 5NT.

Blackwood can go wrong in Clubs and Diamonds

If the answer to the 4NT question above comes back "5diamond", meaning "I've got one of the Top Stoppers", and yet two of them are needed to get to Small Slam, then you are in trouble! That's because the bidding has already taken you, inevitably, to 6club. (Unless you perversley want to end up in the wrong suit of diamond Diamonds). In this case, you should not have asked the question!


Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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