If you smell a slam, in­ves­ti­gate it

Cecil Whig - - & & - By Phillip Alder

I Giuseppe Verdi, an Ital­ian com­poser, said, “You may have the uni­verse if I may have Italy.” This week, we are look­ing at slam bid­ding. In Italy, it is con­sid­ered the great­est crime of the game to miss a slam. If there is the faintest aroma of a slam waft­ing around the ta­ble, Ital­ians will dab­ble their toes in the slam wa­ters -- as South did in this deal from that Euro­pean coun­try.

Af­ter North made a game-in­vi­ta­tional limit raise, South was op­ti­mistic in mak­ing any sort of slam sug­ges­tion. He had six losers (two spades, three hearts and one di­a­mond), which sug­gested set­tling for game. (With only five losers, it would have been rea­son­able to make a con­trol-bid.) Here, though, South, af­ter mak­ing a four­club con­trol-bid and hear­ing North co­op­er­ate with a four-di­a­mond con­trol-bid, signed off in four spades, an­nounc­ing to part­ner, the op­po­nents and the bar­tender that he did not have a heart con­trol. As North lacked one as well, he passed.

West, not deaf to the auc­tion, led the heart six. East won with his jack (bot­tom of touch­ing hon­ors when play­ing third hand high), cashed his ace and king, then led his last heart. What should South have done? Who had the spade queen? The clue was East’s ini­tial pass. If he had the spade queen as well as all those heart hon­ors, he surely would have opened the bid­ding. So South ruffed the fourth heart with his spade ace, then ran the spade jack through West. When the fi­nesse worked, de­clarer took a sec­ond spade fi­nesse, drew West’s last trump, and claimed.

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