Bridge - The Scotsman 07/03/2012

Wednesday’s puzzle...

Balanced hands require many high cards to make slam. A long suit can provide tricks with small cards – length tricks. Hands with length tricks require fewer high cards for slam, but they do need aces and kings to control the other suits. You might make 7NT with just 19 points if you held a ten-card suit headed by the ace-king and the other three aces. It is on hands like these, where there are plenty of tricks, that ace-asking conventions come into their own.

When South opened 2NT North knew that his side had at least 24 points. He saw plenty of tricks, and his only question was: how many aces did partner hold? If only three he should play in 6H; but if partner had all four aces he could count 12 tricks in no-trump. He used a popular conventional bid, Gerber, where 4C asks partner to name the number of aces he holds. Partner responds in steps: 4D shows no aces or four; 4H one ace; 4S two aces; and 4NT three aces. 4D told North that South had all four aces – with none he could not have 20 points. North followed up with 5NT, asking how many kings partner had. (Some people use other enquiries for kings, but 5NT is unambiguous). 6C would show none; and 6D showed one. That was all North needed to know to bid the Grand Slam, and claim 13 tricks.

This is one of very few situations where Gerber is recommended – mostly we need 4C to mean something more useful.