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Bridge – Tackling slams

Paul Mendelson

12 November 2021


Paul Mendelson heads up our Saga Bridge Club team and is the author of over a dozen books on bridge. He has coached at all levels, from complete beginners to national team players, and has helped tens of thousands of players to improve their bridge, and most importantly, to enjoy this amazing game even more.

Slams can cause stress and clarity of thought often suffers. Look at this high-stakes hand played in Paris…

Playing a Strong NT, North counted at least 32pts for his partnership, and decided to bid the slam immediately.

West led a passive 6♣︎, which proved completely safe.

South can count four spades, a heart, two diamonds and four clubs. That makes 11 tricks. What should he do to give himself the best chance of a 12th?

At the table, well-fortified by fine red wine, declarer won the lead in dummy, and led 3. When East followed low, declarer finessed with Q, which lost to West’s K. Now, there was no additional chance to make an extra trick.

Dummy frowned; declarer gulped, reached for his wine glass, and gulped again.

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The problem with taking the heart finesse early is that, if it is wrong, you have virtually no other chances to succeed.

As a general rule, you should delay taking a finesse until all other options have been investigated.

On this deal, declarer has an extra chance which, if taken, will result in making his slam contract. If East holds Q, then declarer’s J can be established as the 12th trick. Better still, if this play fails, there is still time to take the heart finesse.

Declarer wins trick one in hand and plays spades, winning A♠︎, K♠︎ and J♠︎ in dummy. Now, he leads 4. If East plays low, South puts on his J and this holds the trick. If East rises with Q, declarer plays low but, later, he can cash J, cross to dummy with Q♣︎, enjoy his AK, and make 12 tricks.

Bridge game diagram

Bridge game diagram

Join us online at the Saga Online Bridge Club. We have friendly, social sessions, mildly competitive duplicates, and some seminars and lessons. Come alone – and we’ll find you a nice partner – with a friend or with a table. Bridge season is up and running now, and we would love to welcome you.

Article first published in Saga Magazine November 2021.

Image © Shutterstock

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

Paul Mendelson

12 November 2021


Paul Mendelson heads up our Saga Bridge Club team and is the author of over a dozen books on bridge. He has coached at all levels, from complete beginners to national team players, and has helped tens of thousands of players to improve their bridge, and most importantly, to enjoy this amazing game even more.

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