How to Bid Slams in Bridge
In bridge, a slam comes in two varieties, small and grand. A small slam involves bidding and taking 12 of the 13 tricks, and, therefore, involves bidding to a six-level contract. A grand slam requires you to successfully contract for all 13 tricks, a seven-level contract.
Ninety-five percent of all the slam contracts you bid will be small slams (six-level contracts). Bidding a grand slam means going for all 13 tricks, so you really need to have a lot of confidence that you and your partner have the World’s Fair between you before you attempt one. When you bid a small slam, you have a little breathing room.
Slam bidding falls into two groups: notrump slams and trump (or suit) slams.
Bidding notrump slams
Typically, the two main ingredients to bid all the way up to 6NT are
A balanced hand facing a balanced hand
33 high card points (HCP) between the two hands
Wouldn’t you like to see a hand in which you have the power to make a small slam at notrump? Look no further than this figure.
With your eyes on a small slam, the bidding goes as follows:
The responder can’t always get such a quick fix on her partner’s values, but in this case, the responder sees enough points between the two hands to go for the gold at an early juncture. The responder has 18 HCP. The responder knows that the opener has 15 to 17 HCP, plus a balanced hand because she opened with 1NT. Therefore, the two hands add up to at least 33 HCP.
An old bridge-playing sage once said, “The one who knows, goes.” As soon as you have gathered enough information from the bidding to know that you have at least 33 HCP between the two hands, and both hands are reasonably balanced, don’t waste any time bidding 6NT. Just do it.
Bidding slams at a trump contract
When you bid a slam at a trump contract, whether it’s a small slam or a grand slam, you do it with a little finesse. What works best is when there is a good trump fit and each player has a different short suit. Unbalanced hands take more tricks at a trump contract than balanced hands.
Here’s a list of what you need to bid a slam at a trump contract:
A strong combined trump suit: If you have any doubts about bidding a slam, particularly because of a mangy trump suit, sack the whole idea and play the hand in game.
33 or more revalued points between the two hands: Both hands revalue after an eight-card fit or longer has been located. Don’t even think about bidding a slam unless you have a good trump fit and the two hands total at least 33 points after revaluation.
At least three of the four aces between you: Any one ace can be missing, but it’s definitely not healthy to bid a slam missing two aces!
No two immediate losers in any one suit: You don’t want your opponents rattling off the ace and king of the same suit, defeating your slam before you even get started!
Say that your partnership gets the hands in this figure. (You can’t see your partner’s hands while you’re actually bidding — this example just shows the building blocks that go into making a slam at a suit contract.)
Go over the checklist and see whether you have the power you need between the two hands to make 6♥:
Strong combined trump suit? Yes, in spades.
33 or more revalued points? Yes, you have 33 points before revaluation.
At least three aces between the two hands? Yes.
Two immediate losers in any suit? Yes — and that’s the wrong answer if you want to bid and make a slam. Look at the hearts in each hand. You don’t have the ace or king, which means that the bad guys have them and they may lead that suit.
You don’t want to be in a slam contract with these two hands.