Ross Taylor

The slam decision – poll results


You hold J32  K3   A432   AJ32

You are dealer and they are red and you are white

You open the bidding one club

LHO bids 3 hearts. Partner bids 3S. You respond 4S, partner bids 4NT and you bid 5H. Partner bids 6 clubs. What do you bid if 

  • You are playing with your regular expert partner


  • You are playing for the first time with an expert partner


  •  You were asked to fill in for this hand and you don’t know your partner 

Assume this is imps in the early stages of a KO match

I received several emails in response to my question, and also comments herein from Bobby Wolff and Luise Lee – and the results were more clear than I expected. The majority of respondents feel 6C is a choice of slams, and having decided that, correctly choose to play there.

Only in fixed partnerships was the possibility of 6 clubs being a grand slam try exist, though I am intrigued to note that my own regular partner Keith felt strongly 6 clubs was a choice of slams in each scenario, whereas my money was on the grand slam try!

Some of you were terse and emphatic,

DANIEL KORBEL   “6C shows clubs. I pass. Partner could conceivably have AKxxx QJx x KQxx”

KEITH BALCOMBE  “ I would pass 6C in all cases”

Less terse, but just as emphatic,

JONATHAN STEINBERG  “Anytime you bid a suit that could be trumps, it is a suggestion to play. Since this is your first opportunity to show clubs it is clearly natural. A grand slam try can only happen in a suit that can’t logically be trumps.

I usually do not change my bids depending upon how confident I am in my partner. That said, if you were filling in or playing with a pick-up partner, you could make the safety play of 6S. No guarantees of success.”

DAVE CUMMINGS  “ I pass, partner is probably 5-5 in blacks. Playing the hand from my side must be better, and maybe partner has A-hearts and three little diamonds.”

MICHAEL YUEN “ Interesting problem. I believe it depends on partnership agreements how you take the 6C bid.

With my regular partner: 6C is a choice of slam, as clubs are my natural opening. If he is interested in the club king he can use 5NT to ask. Besides I don’t think he can use 4NT without a club control.

His likely holding is at least 5-4 in the blacks. More like 5-5 in the blacks as I could have only 3 clubs for my 1C opening bid.

6D or 6H on the other hand would ask for King of that suit and invite for the grand in spade and not to worry about the trump queen.”

MIKE KENNY “My style would be to open 1D.  Gee I have a lot of deuces and threes.  In all cases I would view 6C as a choice of trumps and would be inclined to accept the suggestion and pass.  Even at match points.  I think if partner is offering the choice then 6C must be safer with my black suit holdings.”

These last two panelists beg the question – would your answer be different had the opening bid been 1 diamond, since in the actual problem, some were swayed by the fact that the suit, clubs, had already been bid in he auction. Imagine 

                1D  (3H)  3S     P

                4S    P     4NT   P

                5H    P     6C     P


Michael Yuen’s regular partnership knew how to handle this type of auction. Jeff and Isabelle Smith, playing with regular partners other than each other, both knew what 6 Clubs means. As a result, they chose to bid 6 spades, instead of pass.

JEFF SMITH “ Should be asking for the club Queen…I bid 6S. With a casual partner, I pass, partner bid my suit, besides, I don’t have him to play it! “

ISABELLE SMITH “For Sondra and I, 6C asks for 3rd round control of clubs so I bid 6S. With a casual partner, I pass.”

Next came an honest answer from Luise Lee.

LUISE LEE “I am a beginning player, and I do not know the rules of bidding, and probably not much more in play and defense.

Having said that, I think it’s fairly obvious that, under all of your three criteria above, I would almost always prefer to play in partner’s suit rather than in my own since I do not trust my abilities to play the hand correctly. Therefore, I would be bidding 6S.”

Ah yes, I remember that feeling well, as if it were yesterday. We all do, I am sure. We were in a place where we were developing a crush on this great game of ours, but at the same time a wee bit intimidated by it. And heaven help us if we screwed up big time. (at least, that’s how we thought – truth is, our partners are always very understanding) Luise, hang in there, this phase passes pretty quickly !

From the voice of more experience than most of us combined….

BOBBY WOLFF “  A. As you have so helpfully pointed out, one choice would be to treat 6 clubs as a grand slam try in spades and the other as a choice of small slam strains.

B. If partner was interested in a grand slam try, why wouldn’t he just bid 6 hearts, which could never be misinterpreted, at the very least never passed.

C. Would it ever be practical for partner to offer a choice of slams, with the backdrop being the bidding up to now? Absolutely, there are many hands partner can have which are consistent with the bidding. However, do not ever bet the farm on anything so subject to discussion and judgment.

Whatever happens, use it as a means of discussing intelligently partnership preferences and future hands. The result will lead to partnership growth and expertise.”

Yes indeed, for those of us who like to drill down into the nitty gritty of our partnership agreements, this last point is so important. In the heat of the battle, the well prepared partnership will stand taller and stronger.

OK , now for the actual hand, and the story that goes with it.


Dealer: West

Vul: North South

West   East
875 94
AQJ10854 972
109 KJ765
10 754


6 clubs from South’s hand is a gorgeous laydown. West is endplayed at trick one !!!

6 spades has virtually no play.

My own view on the sequence is (a) in my regular partnerships I would expect 6C to be a grand slam try of some specific meaning, and (b) In a casual partnership, 6C may well be an attempt to play there.

At the table however, my partner inadvertently said “skip bid” as he bid 6 clubs over my 5 heart bid. My LHO jokingly said “aha, that’s to ensure you understand this is a choice of slams. “

Well, now I felt I had an ethical problem. I now felt if I were to pass 6 clubs it would have to be a call made almost all of the time without any table action. I could not tell, so I chose the noble way out and bid 6 spades, going down 1.

I now understand that I could have passed, as most respondents would have done so without the table noise.


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