Ross Taylor

Do you go all the way?

Late in the final match vs Woolridge, Grainber, Korbel, and Lebi, it felt we were down at our table, when I picked up  J  A10xx   K9  108xxxx.

Keith opened the bidding 1 spade, and I responded 1 forcing NT. Keith now jumped to 3 clubs, which is 100% game forcing of course. I now had to decide if I should play the role of “ captain or crew”. (I think it was Eddie Manfield who wrote on that topic many years ago in the Bridge World)

A crew member would raise to 4 clubs, and let the big hand control and dictate the flow of the auction. A captain would effectively pirate the auction by asking for key cards and driving to slam.

I chose to take over – I jumped to 4 diamonds, which we play is KCB for clubs. Keith responded 4 spades, showing 1 or 4 key cards, clearly 4 in this case.

Now I bid 5D, suggesting a grand slam and asking for specific kings in the event he could not simply bid a grand at that point.

Keith bid 5NT. This meant he had no outside kings, but he felt he had extra values, otherwise he would sign off in 6 clubs.

So having chosen to captain the auction, the final decision was mine. I knew he had the spade Ace with length; the diamond Ace, and at least AKxx of clubs. Clearly more, since he had jump shifted to 4 clubs, but not the spade king, nor any red kings.

What should I do? I now feel I should have bid 7 clubs. Although no one likes to bid a grand going down, as I said, it felt we were down at our table (we were) and this was a chance to recoup. 

Possibly 7 clubs would have a poor or no play, but other times it could be golden – for example if Keith has 6 spades.

I in fact bid 6 clubs, very much in tempo, just in case Keith wanted to rethink his own hand evaluation, and to avoid ethically barring him. He passed anyway.

The layout was as follows:


Dealer: North

Vul: None

Keith Balcombe      

Robert Lebi      

Daniel Korbel      

xxxx Kxx
Jxx KQxxx
QJ10xxx xx
void Jxx
  Ross Taylor      



6 clubs making 7 was a push. The grand salami was there for the taking – a reasonable contract for a team down in imps near the end of a tough match.

After the match I discussed the hand with Daniel, who felt a 4 club raise by my hand might lead to a more effective auction. Keith was ok with my taking control, but felt that his 5NT bid was enough to allow me to jump to 7 clubs.

To each his own of course. But the principle of captaincy comes up an awful lot in slam bidding – and it does not always have to be the big hand who takes control of an auction. Frequent bidding practise with your favorite partner will sharpen your skills in this regard.


Wayne TimmsJanuary 2nd, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Let’s see. Would partner suggest the values for a grand without a king outside the club suit with a hand like AQ10XX XX AX AKQX ? I don’t think so.

That is, it should be the singelton heart that would cause him to propose a reasonable grand, but what do I know!!::)

Neil KimelmanJanuary 5th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

I prefer a 4C raise.

Ross TaylorJanuary 11th, 2010 at 6:04 am

I think both approaches can work – there was enough info at hand for me to bid the grand.

Dave BakerJanuary 31st, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Kickback Blackwood practitioners should be using NT as a bid in the Kickback suit. Over 5D, your methods don’t allow you to show the dKing before you get to your safe 6c contract, unless 5NT shows the dKing. If diamonds is the kickback suit, a jump to 4NT is a d splinter; in a cuebidding sequence, 4NT is a d cuebid. We often use 5NT to show extras, but only when it is clear there are no other Kings (4NT[0314]-5c-5d[Q ask]-6s[Q+no Kings+min.] or 5NT[Q+no Kings+extras])

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