I opened a "strong two clubs." Partner bid 2 NT, which between us, meant "9-plus points, slam interest."

I bid my suit, 3 spades, with the following: (s) AKQxxx (h) AKx (d) Ax (c) xx. That's a 6-card suit with 22 points (20 in high cards, two more for the minor doubletons).

Responder bid 4NT, and we ended up in 6 Spades, which went down, because my left hand opponent had JTxxx of spades.

Partner had: (s) x (h) xxxx (d)Kxxx (c) AKxx.

She said, "I had 10 HCP, 12 counting the spade singleton. That, with your 22 should mean a small slam."

My response was, "Spade singleton" was the whole point. You should have downgraded your hand when you heard 3 spades, because you didn't have normal trump support. If you had xxx or Jx, the contract would probably have been made."

Should partner had "downgraded her hand" and refrained from bidding the slam with shortness in my spade suit?

  • 2
    Seems like you just got hit by a bad trump split. 3-3 or even 4-2 probably would've made the contract even with partner's singleton.
    – bwarner
    Sep 24, 2012 at 16:57
  • 1
    @bwarner - actually, there will always be a heart loser unless you are lucky and a squeeze materializes (and you know how to play the squeeze.) If there is a spade loser, this slam will probably go down.
    – user3264
    Oct 27, 2012 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


"Bidding your suit" typically means 4 or 5 card length. Because of that, I would expect the bidding to go more like this:
Partner sitting there with one card in that suit would then respond with their suit (4C in this case), which denies support for your spades and shows that clubs is their best suit. The new suit bid is forcing, so it's now back to you to decide what to do. Partner doesn't have your spades, but you can rebid them since you've got 6 of 'em. If you really want to you can make a NT bid, since partner should have your one weak suit covered. Whatever you reply with, partner has a chance to correct if they're significantly over the 9+ they've promised. With the length you've got, a spade rebid is valid and 4S should be a solid contract. After that you each have to decide if you're going to go to Blackwood and look for the slam possibility.
Sure there's interest in slam, but there's no 8-card fit. And the bidding should show that. Someone has to make the call as to whether or not to go there, and at what point the bidding stops. That's whoever makes the Blackwood bid. With an even split, you get it. Without, you don't. As long as the player making that bid understands the risk involved and wants to go for it, it's all good.
If both of you understood the danger you were getting into and the possibility of a bad split ruining it all, then I can't say you've got any problems in the bidding. If on the other hand someone thought the slam was solid, then I'd say that your bidding needs to be a bit more descriptive.

In specific though, YES, there are two specific situations where shortness doesn't give ANY points:
1) In the trump suit
2) In a NT contract

And that's one of the more reliable rules in bridge. 8 )

  • 1
    I don't like 4C at all. Responder has a nice easy 3NT because 2NT showed all the values he had and he doesn't have his own suit nor spade support. However, I agree with @woodchips that responder's first bid should have been a waiting 2D.
    – ruds
    Feb 3, 2013 at 7:16
  • @ruds: I don't have a problem with 2NT. But the narrative above was "modified." What REALLY happened was that partner heard "2 clubs" and bid 4NT (Blackwood) with "12" (ten plus two for the singleton), and we landed in six spades. I said, "I wish you had limited yourself to 2NT, let me bid 3 spades, and then made a decision between 3NT and 4 spades with your one spade." She said, "That's not the issue. I had 12, you had 22, we had 34, small slam." As Americans, we are both aggressive bidders, but one more than the other.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 27, 2013 at 22:46
  • 2
    Well, there's the flaw in understanding right there. 34 is certainly enough for a small slam; in NT or with a trump fit. You weren't in NT, and you didn't have an 8-card trump suit. The primary concern is finding the fit, and going straight to 4NT takes away all the room you should be using to do so. Applicable bridge rule: "When there's no fit, QUIT."
    – Task
    Apr 30, 2013 at 15:12
  • @Task: Actually, only (1) is a reliable rule of bridge. Reread boring old Goren again closely, and you will note that his 16-18 point notrump range includes +1 point for a doubleton if held, and -1 point for a 4333. Though few realize this, good old Goren actually invented the 15-17 HCP point notrump long before modern bidding theorists made it popular in the 60's and 70's. In traditional Goren, the points counted for shortness are actually measuring the power of the additional long-suit length, not ruffing power, for which he added additional points after finding a trump suit. Oct 7, 2013 at 22:54
  • While the long-suit length is certainly valuable, and long-suit points are interchangeable with short-suit points, you'll note that it's actually the length and not the shortness that is valuable. Shortness doesn't give any points in NT. Length can, yes, but shortness is technically valueless in NT.
    – Task
    Oct 8, 2013 at 14:51

The Blackwood convention is often misused, or perhaps just misunderstood. The bidder needs (among other things) to be sure that there are twelve tricks available; normally this means the trump suit is 5-4 or better (my dog-eared Bridge manual says "4NT is not definitely Blackwood unless a trump suit has been agreed" but that is probably too extreme nowadays). If your partner knew that the contract would be in spades, the singleton is a minus rather than a plus, so you don't have the points for slam. There could be a slam elsewhere, of course. in which case the two 'phantom points' could reappear; but she has to bid a suit (probably 4C) before you can agree the level.

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