Back in the 1930s, Ely and Josephine Culbertson introduced their new Grand Slam Force (GSF) convention, a 5NT bid that asked partner to bid seven with two of the top three trump honors. This gadget was quickly accepted as indispensable and itís been a mainstay of standard bridge bidding ever since.
Although the GSF is still ďon the cardĒ, itís become something of a dinosaur in modern systems. Trump honors are now easily located with Keycard and Exclusion Blackwood, leaving 5NT available for other uses.
Today, the expert view is that 5NT is the GSF only when itís a jump and thereís just one possible trump suit. The suit is usually a major thatís been raised, but it can also be one where the 5NT bidderís fit is strongly implied (after partner opens a preempt, for example).
In other situations, 5NT is played as a quantitative notrump raise, a specialized cuebid or a request for partner to choose a small slam. Many of these ideas are now widely accepted as ďexpert standardĒ, but they arenít just for experts. If you have an experienced or studious partner, itís likely that heíll assume the modern meanings, so youíll want to be familiar with them, too.
What do you believe your 5NT bids should mean in the auctions below? And, more important, how do you expect your partner to interpret them?
Partner RHO You
(1) 1NT Pass 2D
Pass 2H Pass 5NT
Pass 2H Pass 5NT
1S 2H 4S 5NT
There should be little confusion about (1), which is a standard ďpick-a-slamĒ auction. Your transfer-then-5NT sequence shows exactly five hearts and the strength for 6H or 6NT. If you had responded a direct 5NT, it would be a quantitative raise inviting 7NT.
(2) might be read as a trump ask because the original GSF was applied to the last-bid suit if it was a natural call. Although partnerís 2H showed hearts, this 5NT bid should still be treated as a search for a small slam. Since itís possible you have a 4-4 spade fit, openerís choices are 6S and 6NT.
The Culbertsons would have defined (3) as GSF for partnerís hearts, but the choice-of-slams interpretation is preferred here, too. This meaning takes precedence when there are two or more possible strains. The possibilities depend on the auction, but in general, they include any suit that was bid naturally, even if you havenít supported. Notrump may be in the picture, too, if it was bid naturally.
Here, your 5NT suggests extra length in your suit and support for partnerís
suit, but doubt about which slam is better. You might hold
♠Void ♥964 ♦AKQ982 ♣AK74
Partner will usually bid six of the suit he prefers. Although your 5NT shows
interest only in a small slam, he also has the option of bidding seven if he has
In some situations, partner may even be able to offer you a choice. Over your 5NT, he can suggest yet another strain by bidding a natural 6C with a hand such as
♠J64 ♥AQJ72 ♦Void ♣QJ1032
The choice-of-slams treatment is trending ďupĒ, but its popularity doesnít necessarily make it standard. If you havenít discussed these auctions, youíll want to think carefully about your partnerís bidding knowledge and style before you try a pick-a-slam 5NT. If he reads it as the Grand Slam Force and jumps to seven, he wonít have much sympathy for the excuse ďBut itís expert standard!Ē
© 2011 Karen Walker