Matchpoints. N-S vulnerable.
♠K Q 9 ♥6 ♦A K Q J 8 5 4 ♣K 2
What’s your call?
As the scorer, Cohen saw 13 panelists exploring for slam and looked favorably on them, whatever the means of exploration. Observe closely, though: As good as this hand is, it is missing three aces. While there is a strong desire among the panelists to inquire about aces, some don’t feel they have the tools.
By the slimmest of margins, a majority of the slam-probing pros choose a forthright 4♦ call, which Lawrence stresses “is unconditionally forcing.”
Sanborn says, “Normally I would play 5♣ as super Gerber, but I don’t think that applies to this bidding forum, plus it could get us too high.” She bids 4♦ as “a gentle probe.”
The Sutherlins, too, treat 5♣ in this sequence as a form of Gerber, but because it is not a Bridge Bulletin Standard agreement, they temporize by bidding 4♦. “In a wonderful world, partner will have the black aces and the ♥K, but we are practical. We think a direct 4NT is a value bid. So we have to stall to bid Blackwood.”
“I would consider 4NT if I knew it was for aces,” Lawrence says, summing up the predicament. “One ace-asking bid I have is 5♣, but it will get us too high on some hands where we are off two aces. If partner bids 4♥ or 4♠ over 4♦, I will ask for aces. If he bids 5♣, I sign off in 5♦.”
Matchpoint-minded Stack makes the same sequence of bids, unhappy if it ends in a 5♦ contract. “I must make a move toward slam even though partner’s hand might contain only one ace. If partner bids 5♣, we will subside in 5♦ and wish we had passed 3NT.”
The Joyces plan to go quietly if, over their 4♦ call, partner bids 4NT. Colchamiro feels hamstrung by his inability to inquire about aces, as well. “Partner’s 3NT bid, rather than a double, makes me believe he has two heart stoppers. So slam may suffer if we’re off two aces on a hand like:
♠J x x ♥K J 10 ♦x x ♣A Q J x x.
Alas, sorting out the aces thing may not be so easy, which is a shame because this hand definitely has the goods for a small slam at least.”
Four panelists choose to bid 4NT. Two of them mean the bid to be quantitative:
“4NT. Invitational, of course,” states Boehm, as if there was ever any doubt. “5♣ (super Gerber) is a possibility, but two aces may not be enough for slam.”
Falk bids a quantitative 4NT, too. “I can construct a hand for North that does not contain two aces, so I have to invite slam. I hope my partner plays the usual expert style of accepting by showing how many aces he holds.”
Only Walker believes 4NT to be ace-asking. “I think it’s impractical to play 4NT as anything but Blackwood. I can’t see any accurate way to find partner’s aces if you bid 4♦.”
Cohen throws caution to the wind and makes the call everyone else only talks about. He bids 5♣. “It’s not the way to score well in a bidding contest, but this is super Gerber to ask for aces — which is all I really want to know. If partner has two, I’ll probably bid 6♦. Partner can convert to 6NT if he wants to. Opposite only one ace, I’ll hope we can make 5NT. I wish 4♣ were Gerber but it is not. It is natural. Thus 5♣ is how to ask for aces.”
Kennedy makes her move toward slam via a 4♥ cuebid. “Partner may have any number of combinations for us to make 6NT with the ♥A or ♥K.”
Amazingly, Robinson used the “P word” only once this month: “I pass. When I doubled 2♥, I hoped partner could bid 3NT,” he says. “We could have a slam, but partner could have
♠x x ♥K Q x ♦x x ♣A Q J x x x,
where 3NT is our best matchpoint contract.”
Meckstroth, too, plays it cautiously. “Even if I should catch both major suit aces, we may still have only 11 tricks. 3NT at matchpoints should be okay.”
The Sutherlins’ reasoning is the same as Robinson’s and Meckstroth’s, and they add: “We don’t like bidding 4♦ when we are missing three aces.”
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