'Next thing I knew,

I was playing in a slam!'



We will look now at the weakest hands ever held by the declarer in a slam contract. Many of the records in this book are bound to be broken, sooner or later. However, the record in this particular category can only be tied, for in both of our exhibits the declarer was the proud possessor of no points at all.

Pride of place goes to the more recent deal, because it is the better documented of the two. It arose in the US trials for the 1970 World Championship.


Love all                                   ª A Q J 8 5

Dealer South                          © A K 4

                                             ¨ A Q 

                                                   § Q J 2 

ª K                                                                  ª 9

© J 7 6                                                            © Q 9 5 

¨ K 9 8 6 4                                                   ¨ J 7 2  

§ A K 10 4                                                    § 9 8 7 6 5 3

                                                   ª 10 7 6 4 3 2

                                                   © 10 8 3 2

                                                   ¨ 10 5 3

                                                   § -


       WEST                NORTH             EAST                 SOUTH

       Eisenberg           Swanson            Goldman            Walsh

       -                            -                            -                            Pass

1¨                        Dble                    Pass                    3ª

Pass                     5§                       Pass                    5©

Pass                     6ª                        All Pass


Imagine you were watching the game, sitting between West and South. Which of the two would you think was more likely to become the declarer in a slam contract?

Swanson-Walsh had the appropriate tool to reach the club slam. South's 3ª was pre-emptive and 5§ was an asking bid in clubs. When South admitted to a club control, Swanson took a shot at the slam. West's opening bid had told him that the missing honours were likely to be well placed.

Dick Walsh found himself declaring a slam with not a single point in his hand! He ruffed the ace of clubs lead and felled the trump king on the first round. Ace, king and another heart set up a winner in that suit and he made the slam without needing to take the diamond finesse.  At the other table Wolff and Jacoby came to a halt in 5ª, making the same twelve tricks.

The second, older, example arose in the 1962 Whitelaw Cup final (the premier English event for women’s teams). Back in those chivalrous days it was the custom not to give the players' names when they had strayed from perfection. Unfortunately for us, Maurice Harrison-Gray followed this tradition when reporting this deal:


North-South game                ª A 4

Dealer East                             © J

                                             ¨ A K Q 9 5 

                                                   § A K Q J 9 

ª 6                                                                   ª K Q J 8 7 3

© A 10 7 3                                                     © K Q 8 

¨ J 6 3                                                            ¨ 10  

§ 8 6 5 3 2                                                    § 10 7 4

                                                   ª 10 9 5 2

                                                   © 9 6 5 4 2

                                                   ¨ 8 7 4 2

                                                   § -


       WEST                NORTH             EAST                 SOUTH

       -                            -                            1ª                        Pass

1NT                      2NT                     Pass                    3¨

Pass                     4NT                     Pass                    5§

Pass                     6¨                       Pass                    Pass

Dble                     All Pass


Apart from West's final double, which made little sense, there was no reason to censor the names at this table. North-South found their best fit and ended in an excellent slam. If trumps had been 2-2, declarer would not have needed §10 to drop in four rounds. She could have ruffed a club and a spade in dummy. On the actual 3-1 trump break she needed the club suit to come in, which it duly did. Since declarer held only one 10 in her hand, compared to the three held by Walsh on the previous deal, she can claim to be the record holder.

It was the bidding at the second table that brought forth the censor's red pen.


WEST                 NORTH             EAST                 SOUTH

       -                            -                            1ª                        Pass

Pass                     2ª                        3ª                        Dble

Pass                     4NT                     Pass                    5¨

Pass                     6§                       All Pass


North's 2ª, to show a strong hand, was standard in those days. Nowadays players would start with a double, however powerful the hand, intending to show the strength later. South's double of 3ª was an interesting move. We're not great admirers of the call, since she could offer fair playing strength in a red-suit contract.

North now bid Blackwood, or so she intended her 4NT bid. South read the call as Unusual and showed her better minor. Placing partner with an ace, North then moved her pile of chips onto the club slam. With little knowledge of the hand opposite, and having already given preference to diamonds, South decided to let matters rest there. After a heart lead and continuation the club slam went three down for an     18-IMP swing.

Perhaps, in those far-off days, names were not allowed to be mentioned if the swing was more than 3 IMPs.


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