You hold as South:

S K 2
H 10 4 3 2
D J 4 2
C K 9 4 2

North dealer, game all

Partner opens a "natural" 2C, i.e. showing six or more clubs in a limited (11-15 HCP) hand, usually without a 4-card major. The bidding goes:

Goldfein Wolff Robbins Hamman
2C 4S 5C
5S 5NT 6S ??

What now? Pass, double or sacrifice to 7C? And what will you lead against 6S if you elect not to bid on?

Scroll down for what happened at the table.

This is a hand from the US Team Trials for the 1996 Olympiad.

With a certain trump trick, Bob Hamman doubled 6S. He then led a low club. It is generally a sound principle, when holding a certain trump trick against a slam, to try and establish a second trick with the opening lead. However, in that case the club lead allowed declarer to bring home the slam.

The full deal was:

                        S ---
                        H Q 7 6
                        D A K 10 9
                        C Q J 10 8 7 6

S 8 7 6                            S A Q J 10 9 5 4 3
H K J 8 5                          H A 9
D Q 7 6 5 3                        D 8
C A                                C 5 3

                        S K 2
                        H 10 4 3 2
                        D J 4 2
                        C K 9 4 2

After the club lead, Robbins, the declarer, played ace-king of hearts, ruffed the third heart bringing down the queen and so he had a discard for his diamond loser. Robbins's team went on to win the match and then the US trials. However, they had a poor start in Rhodes last year and they failed to qualify for the knock-out stages.

Back in the bidding, now. It seems that Bob Hamman overlooked a detail: his partner's 5NT bid. What can this mean? Suppose that Hamman-Wolff's suit were diamonds, instead of clubs. In that case, a 6C bid would clearly be lead-directing, in case the opponents bid the slam. It follows that the actual 5NT bid was lead-directing for a side suit that could not be conveniently named, most probably a diamond.

This is another unusual use of a notrump call in competitive auctions. Better to have clear understandings with partner, though. But it certainly merits adding it in your bidding arsenal!

Special thanks to Al "BiigAl" Lochli, District 16 ACBL Internet Coordinator for assistance with the HTML presentation.

Nikos Sarantakos,
Luxembourg, June 1998