Does your partnership have an agreement about all the possible follow-ups in this auction?
What’s your call holding ♠A4 ♥AJ742 ♦Q75 ♣AK6 ?
One way to show your diamond fit and slam interest would be to make a control cuebid. The standard way to do this is to bid your cheapest ace (4H), but complications can arise when the cuebid suit is a major you’ve bid naturally. Many pairs have the agreement that when in doubt, a game bid in a major suit previously bid by either partner is an offer to play there.
If you cuebid 4H, partner may think you’re suggesting a final contract, showing poor holdings in his suits, but strong hearts. For example, ♠43 ♥AKQ109 ♦J52 ♣AKJ.
A 4S advance will also sound natural and passable. It’s the bid you might make with a good doubleton – a hand such as ♠KJ ♥AKJ52 ♦543 ♣KQJ. The third possibility – 5C – is a clearer move toward 6D, but it uses up a lot of space and, like 4H and 4S, it won’t talk partner into bidding the slam. With no outside aces to cuebid, he’ll have to retreat to 5D and you’ve learned nothing.
When you hold this much strength, it will usually be easier to ask partner what he holds rather than try to show him what you have. The perfect asking bid here is keycard Blackwood. If partner shows the ace-king of diamonds, you can continue with 5NT to invite a grand slam.
Before you try this, though, you’ll want to consider how obvious it will be to partner that 4NT is ace-asking. Is it possible that he’ll think 4NT is to play, as in this similar auction?
2NT 3D (transfer to hearts)
In this sequence, your 4NT is commonly played as a notrump retreat. It tells partner you don’t have a heart fit and aren’t interested in 6D, but that you have good stoppers in the unbid suits. If partner applies this principle to the first auction above, he may pass 4NT.
Your hand is so perfect for slam that you shouldn’t be willing to take that risk. If you have any doubts about how partner will interpret 4NT, your safest course is to jump directly to 6D.
In practice, the best bid may depend on what you know about your partner’s experience, personality and approach to the game. Experts and “system geeks” are more likely to assume that an ambiguous 4NT bid is anything but Blackwood. Less experienced players and those who prefer simpler bidding systems will lean more toward the ace-asking meaning.
What do you believe is the “correct” meaning for your 4NT bids the auctions below? And more important, how do you expect your favorite partner to interpret them?
Partner RHO You
1C 4S 4NT
(2) 3S 4H 4S 4NT
Pass 3NT Pass 4NT
(4) 2H DBL Pass 4NT
More about these and other 4NT dilemmas in the next issue.
© 2011 Karen Walker