Source: 14th European Junior /1st European Schools Bridge Teams Championships

This article was written in 1994: 

The hand below was played in Round 3 by that well-known ‘grandfather,’ Alfredo Versace. I was disappointed that he played 6 in a very simple way instead of finding the ‘brilliant’ solution described here.

First, though, I want to point out that he reached this bad slam at least partly because he and his partner had rejected a convention I would like to share with you.

Misfit hands, as we all know, can often be dangerous hands, especially nowadays when some players feel they have to make a lot of bids before partner will realise that they have a ‘good’ hand.

Consider what responder has shown in the ordinary auction: 1Spade Suit – 2, 2 – 3. Is he 5-4 with a strong hand that doesn’t know yet where it is going? Is he trying to reach 3NT if opener has a little something in clubs? Does he have a real minor 2-suiter and slam interest? Who knows?

I believe that it is worthwhile to invest some ‘system space’ in explicitly solving at least part of responder’s ‘2-suit’ problems. This scheme works well when the 1 and 1Spade Suit opening shows at least five, and I suspect that it is also good if the major can be a 4-card suit.

Over 1 or 1Spade Suit a jump to 3 or 3 shows a game-forcing hand with either two 5-card suits (not opener’s suit) or a (semi-) solid 1-suiter. Opener’s cheapest rebid is an artificial relay while other rebids are basically natural but will depend on the rest of your system.

For example:

1 3

3Relay, to which responses are:

3 + 5  (the relay suit).

3Spade Suit + 4 Spade Suit.

3NT1-suiter, 12-14 points.

41-suiter, 15+, cuebid.

41-suiter, 15+, no club control.

3(Semi-) solid heart suit.

3Spade SuitSpade Suit + 6 (or 5-5+ if you play canapé)

3NT Natural, minimum, no slam interest.

Higher Real club fit.

For other suit combinations the bidding is similar. We look at the hand now:

Dealer: North. None Vul

9 5 2
Q 9 8 6 3
9 2
K Q J
K
2
A Q J 7 3
A 9 6 4 3 2
A 10 7 4 3
A K J 10 7 4
8 4
Q J 8 6
5
K 10 6 5
10 8 7 5

I will not bore you with the Albamonte-Versace relay auction in which Albamonte (West) tried to stop in 3NT and a later misunderstanding led to the delicate slam. Using my convention the auction simply goes 1 – 3, 3 – 3NT, Pass or 4, end. (As a general point, it is almost always easier to stop a simple auction than it is to stop a complicated one.) Think about how you would play 6 on the lead of the 7 for a moment. I think that declarer should make this plan: If I can take six tricks in hearts (which will need North to have Qx or Qxx), then I need only three diamond tricks and maybe can afford to lose the diamond finesse. But if the diamond finesse wins, I may be okay even if RHO has long trumps. I need to find out about diamonds quickly, so I start by trumping the opening lead and finessing diamonds.

Alfredo Versace
Alfredo Versace

Once this succeeds, I’m okay as long as North has the Q and three rounds of spades and clubs survive. I cash the A and the K, trump a club, cash the spade ace and ruff a spade. To finesse again in diamonds is worthless against a good opponent, because he should always play the King on the second round from any length. Cash the A and overruff a minor since North now has only hearts. Cash the A and exit with your last spade. You end with two spades and a ruff, two diamonds, one club and six hearts in your hand. Maybe, if ‘Grandfather’ had been awake, he would be winning the prize for declarer play, but not for the bidding!