ACES ON BRIDGE
“Government and cooperation are in all things ... the laws of life. Anarchy and competition ... the laws of death.”
— John Ruskin
The decision of when to use Blackwood requires judgment, but the responses are relatively hard to mess up. By contrast, a cue-bidding auction requires judgment from both sides of the table, so both players need to be in harmony.
Today’s deal shows cue-bidding resulting in an almost hopeless contract. When South showed slam interest and short spades, North cooperated by showing his club control. Now South drove to slam, hoping that he would buy a subsidiary diamond honor in dummy.
Can you see what meager chance South was able to exploit to bring home his slam? Declarer won the spade queen with dummy’s ace and ruffed a spade, then crossed to the club king and ruffed another spade, bringing down the king. Now he cashed his clubs to discard dummy’s spade loser, and played the heart ace, bringing down West’s nine.
Had trumps turned out to be 2-2, declarer might next have played the ace and another diamond, trying to endplay West. But the fall of the heart nine allowed declarer to cross to the heart eight and then to reconstruct West’s hand. Since that player had turned up with one trump, he was far more likely to have three diamonds than two, because he had not made a Michaels cue-bid. So South led a low diamond from dummy, covering East’s card. That forced West to win one of his honors, after which he was endplayed to return a diamond to South’s jack, or else concede a ruff-anddiscard for the 12th trick.
ANSWER: It would be simple to drive to four spades at once, but if partner has raised with three trumps, this might be premature. Your hand may be a little too good for a non-forcing call of two notrump (though some play this as a forcing inquiry about shape and range — in which case it would be perfect). But to my mind, your lack of intermediates makes the twono-trump call your most accurate way forward.