Lesson 9 -- Slam Bidding Tools
Slam bidding is where the big money changes hands at rubber bridge; so it
isn't surprising that special tools exist for slam bidding.
Blackwood is a tool used to check to make sure that partnership isn't
missing two aces before going to a small slam (or missing an ace for
a grand slam). Blackwood is used after a trump suit has been agreed
upon. Bidding 4NT asks the responder to show the number of aces he
If the partnership has all 4 aces, 5NT may be bid to ask about kings,
the responses are very similiar, except 6C shows no kings and 6NT shows
all 4 kings.
- 5C: 0 or 4 aces.
- 5D: 1 ace.
- 5H: 2 aces.
- 5S: 3 aces.
Warnings about Blackwood
Blackwood himself once remarked something to the effect of: "If I had a
dime for everytime a partnership was helped by Blackwood [the convention],
I'd be well off. If I had that dime for each time it was mis-used, I'd be
a millionaire." There are several warnings about Blackwood that you
There are other rules, but those few will be a good start.
- Never Use Blackwood if you won't be able to tell what to do after
partner answers. For example, if you are missing two aces, are you
sure that you can make the slam if partner has 1 ace? If he has 0 or 2
you are fine, but what if he has one? Is that enough information? If not,
don't use Blackwood.
- Never use blackwood with a void. (This is really a corollary to above).
- Typically, you should let the stronger hand bid 4NT. The stronger hand
can use the information better.
Oops! Overshooting the contract
Sometimes, because of blackwood, you might get too high. For example, if
clubs are trumps, and you need 2 aces to bid 6C, if partner has only 1 ace,
he'll respond 5D. Obviously, you can't go to slam, and 5NT would be asking
for kings. So, you bid 5S, which asks partner to bid 5NT, which you will
Gerber is merely an extension of Blackwood, used mainly over NT auctions.
See the NT pages for details.
Grand Slam Force
If all you need to make a grand slam is good trumps, then Grand Slam
Force (GSF) is a useful convention. Bidding 5NT (without having
previously bid Blackwood) asks your partner to bid 7 of your suit if
he has two of the tip three honors in trumps, and to bid 6 otherwise.
If you have previously bid 4NT (Blackwood), then you can use a 6 of a new
suit bid as the Grand Slam Force (This is technically called Josephine.)
But I don't recommend pulling that on a partner without discussion.
By far the most powerful (and complicated) method if investigating slam is
by Cue Bidding. Typically, you cue bid over powerful auctions, such as
1H-3H or 2C-2S-3S. After a trump suit is agreed, bidding a new suit
typically shows first round control (an ace or a void).
If you skip a suit,
you imply that you are missing the control. If you ever run out of things to
bid, you just go back to the trump suit (inviting a pass from partner). Of
course, since Cue Bidding is a natural method, there are many different
ways to cue bid. Do you:
Cue Bidding controls should be discussed in any partnership.
- Bid controls up the line?
- Skip a control to show a control and a good second suit?
- Show second round controls instead of first to save space?
- Use NT to show trump control or is 4NT blackwood still?
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