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  Spades Tips and Strategies




Spades Column of the Month - March 2003




By Joe Andrews, author of The Complete Win At Spades; copyright 2001 by The U.S. Playing Card Company and Bonus Books, Inc.




The fun side of Spades
Special thanks to Charlie H. (a new player) of Staten Island, NY for sending these two interesting Spades "puzzles." Charlie and I now have a friendly wager. I told him that several Zoners would solve these in a heartbeat! And I will award the first person (e-mail/earliest date) with BOTH correct answers -- an autographed Spades Book, and two new decks of cards. However, if I do not receive correct solutions to both of the puzzles, I will then send an autographed book to Charlie.

Hint: These are pattern or sibling hands with very similar solutions. Only one hand is illustrated for each puzzle (South). The problem is then proposed. Your mission is to lay out (diagram) all four hands, and the line of play. Always assume BEST play by all four players. West (the Eldest hand to the left of South) has the opening lead in both instances.

Puzzle A: The Wonder of Nil
Can South's seemingly "ironclad" Nil be set? Here is his holding:






* 3 2
 5 4 3 2
 5 4 3 2
 4 3 2





The score is 0-0. West bids 5; North Bids 2 (North holds both red suit Aces); East bids 5. South looks at his "monster," and makes the obvious call of Nil. Thirteen tricks later, the Nil is up in smoke, and North's bid is set, as well....How could this happen?

Puzzle B: Great Balls of Fire
Can South be held to NO tricks with this collection (below)? Remember, he is trying to make his bid with best play.






 K J
 A K Q 6
 A K Q 6
 8 7 6





The score is 0-0. West bids 4, North bids 1 (he holds three clubs -- the Queen, ten and nine), and East bids 5. South closes the bidding with a call of 3. Surely, he can win two tricks in the red suits and a spade, or - three tricks in the red suits. (Some South players would bid only 2.) Once again, disaster strikes! North's one bid is set, and South is held to ZERO tricks, as E/W "run the table" and trot home with the whole "ball of wax". Incredible!

Mission: You have enough clues, and now it is your mission to determine what happened. Lay out all four hands for each problem, work it out. Remember, no one is "tanking" a hand. Send both of your solutions to --

And let's tell our friend from New York, "Sorry Charlie, back to the sea!"

Duplicate Spades – the conclusion
Last month's column featured a full-length article about Duplicate Spades. This is a concept which has been successfully used by the ACBL for several decades. However, is the game of Spades ready for duplicate? I received several interesting comments, and have selected two. One very dedicated Zoner, Bob R., made this observation:

"I have always wondered why someone or group of tournament organizers haven't put this (concept) together as a regular format on or for that matter anywhere. I think the idea is great and would allow the best players to excel, rather than rely on the luck of the cards. Example being: I had four straight nil hands last week and just blew out our opponents. So the luck of the cards most often creates a false champion. Hope this fortifies your position of duplicate spades."

Yours truly, Bob R. (YoTaxi)

Then, on the other side of the fence comes this comment from tourney regular - Jen S.
"I prefer the regular game , as it is the way I learned to play Spades. There seems to be a lot more excitement in a 500 point game, especially with the bagging, and bidding strategies. There is also a continuity from hand to hand as the game moves along. Yes, luck is a factor; however, it is just great to defeat a better team on occasion.- And you just can't match the excitement toward the end of a game when the score is close, and both sides a having a severe bagging problem, and there is an 11 or 12 bid on the table. Duplicate would create a hierarchy in which the strong players dominated, and this would drive off a lot of the newcomers and intermediate folks."

Sincerely, Jen S. (Lady_J)

My conclusions are as follows:




a. Most players prefer the standard 500 point game. An eight or ten hand limit without Double Nil is quite popular.

b. Until the scoring system of Duplicate Spades is perfected, this variation will continue to remain as a novelty.

c. The luck of the deal is one of the most intriguing aspects of the game. It is reasonable to assume that cards tend to "level" as more hands are played. I have reached the conclusion that luck plays a bigger factor when the players are equally matched. However, and in the long run, the better players do win more consistently.

d. The cost of programming a Duplicate Spades format on any site is astronomical. Then, it would be necessary to educate the players about the mechanics, strategy, and techniques of Duplicate.

e. The game of Spades and the game of Bridge are members of the same card game family, (as is Whist). However, these "sibling" games are as different from each other as you could imagine! Spades has its own personality and charm.

f. "F" as in finally, Duplicate Spades is at least 5-10 years away from becoming an acceptable variation. The Jack of Diamonds has become a variation in the game of Hearts, and "Kitty Whist" has become an alternative form of "Straight Whist." Euchre has its variations, too, including the option to order or name trump without a natural trump in your hand. Spades has remained the same for a long time....