Reservation for Mr. Blackwood

August 09, 1959

While there appears to be a wide range between the modest bid of one club and the ultimate high of seven no trump, there are, in fact, only 35 possible bids—excluding such calls as pass and double. To the average player this affords plenty of room to roam, and he is entirely willing to fence off one of these bids—the one labeled Four No Trump—as the exclusive preserve of Mr. Blackwood. Any time the auction enters that particular area, it signals a call for aces.

There is much to be said for this policy on the grounds of both consistency and simplicity. To the expert, however, a mere 35 notes is a none-too-ample bidding scale, and he is loath to dedicate any one to a single use.

The following hand features the partnership employment of a four no-trump bid, not as part of a convention requesting a display of aces but in its natural sense. Observe how North-South put it into operation.

North's opening bid of one club elicited from South a bid of one heart, a response as pleasant as it was unexpected. That it was expedient to explore slam possibilities became at once apparent, and the method chosen by North was a jump shift. A jump in a new suit in this sequence of bids demands a game and at the same time suggests that a slam may be around the corner.

There is a certain risk in these fake bids in a higher-ranking suit since partner may raise the second suit with distressing enthusiasm. North felt constrained to run this risk. If South raised spades with any degree of violence, North's general strength assured a reasonably safe retreat into a high no-trump contract.

The important consideration was to make the slam suggestion before the game level had been passed. Trying for slam at the level of five is a practice which should be avoided wherever the situation will permit.

Observe what North's bidding did for South's holding. What a moment before had been a hand of mere average strength now blossomed forth by reason of the promoted black-suit holdings. The two kings were now the equivalents of aces.

On the second round South chose to return to three clubs, convinced that this action would tend to allay any fears partner might have about the complexion of his first-bid suit. North then jumped to four hearts, and South's bid of four spades, with hearts definitely established as trumps, was an attempt to announce the king of that suit.

Then came the pivotal bid of the deal: North's four no-trump call, which was not intended as a request for aces. (Had North wished to ask for aces, he would have done so on an earlier round.) It was meant to be a natural bid advertising a quick diamond stopper.

North was unwilling to contract for slam himself for fear that a diamond opening through the king might yield two fast tricks to the enemy. Possession of the queen of diamonds made it clear to South that only one diamond trick could be lost since partner was marked with the king. So South contracted for six hearts.

EXTRA TRICK
In long-established partnerships, it makes good sense to get maximum mileage out of every bid. Nevertheless, I make it a rule to treat every four no-trump bid as ace-asking unless I have positive knowledge to the contrary. In the rare cases where this may be wrong, it will cost far less than those ghastly incidents when partner is left in a four no-trump contract that meets neither his intention nor the shape of his hand.

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[Ace of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[2 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

NORTH

1 [Club]
2 [Spade]
4 [Heart]
4 NT
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
3 [Club]
4 [Spade]
6 [Heart]

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: diamond jack

PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)