Spades Column of the Month -- August 2005

By Joe Andrews

1. The July Quiz:

I have repeated the question for your convenience:

The score in a typical Spades game is 422 - 375 in their favor. You are the dealer, and pick up this collection:

6 4 3 2

None

A 10 9 7 5 3 2

4 2

The bidding proceeds (from your left):

2 (Left hand opponent), 3 (by partner), and then a 6 bid on your right. Do you go for the set? Do you bid the Nil with four spades?

Answer - Bid The Nil! 27 out of 29 responses concurred with this advice. The key card is the deuce of spades. It is amazing how this seemingly useless spot card often decides the outcome of a lot of Nil bids, especially those which consist of a four card spade suit. Obviously, the other cards in the spade suit are critical, too! Todd M, a very accomplished player, submitted this very precise commentary:

"You have to bid to win no matter how unlikely it seems."

There is no sense bidding anything but Nil in this situation. Your partner probably doesn't have much more then 3 and made the bid to open the door for you. You certainly don't have 3 tricks for the set. The A of dimes might hold up if you get a chance to play it. Your whole defense centers around your void in hearts (1 trick if it is lead) and the A dime walking.

With 7 in your hand that leave 6 for the other 3 players and there is a high likelihood that one of them is void. Once spades are broken and lead you have no winners in that suit and depending on the order of play no entries back into your hand. I weigh every option before a bid, and make the correct bid to win the game. It can be frustrating when players don't take into account the situation before making their bid.

When we look at the Nil, there are no winners in your hand except for a possible 4th spade lead. We can probably assume that the 6 bidder has at least 4 spades, if not more.

1. Have a void or singleton in at least one suit. (More the merrier)

2. Have a long side suit that cannot be set. (The more you have, the fewer leads around the table, the less likely spades will be drained)

3. The power bidder is East opponent or partner. When partner has a high bid it is more tempting, but having the power in East instead of West makes it more likely you will be able to dump a spade or 2 under a cut.

In this situation you have no hearts. If hearts are lead twice you can throw your clubs making 2 voids. If East cuts hearts or clubs at this point you throw a spade and are home free. With the dimes you have to assume with 6 out there it will be 2,2,2 or 1,2,3. So you can throw off on hearts, throw off on clubs after you drop them on a heart or club lead, and your diamonds are safe for a lead or two as well.

There is no real place for anyone to dump spades and you can signal safety to partner to keep them from wasting trump. The few situations of course where you could still be toast would be a club/diamond void between East and West cross trumping from the start. This is unlikely and if you didn't bid the Nil you would lose the game anyway.

Well done, Todd!

2. Endgame Analysis:

Now we come to another hand which recently occurred at a live Spades event: Let us analyze the hand and pretend that we are sitting in the East seat. Then I will tell you what happened.

This was the layout:

North

6

5 4

J 6 5 2

A K 10 6 4 2

East

A K J 5 3 2

J 3

A 9 8 4 3

None

South (Dealer)

Q 10 9

K Q 9 7

K Q

Q J 9 8

West

8 7 4

A 10 8 6 2

10 7

7 5 3

Score - E/W - 461, N/S - 396

500 Point Limit

Sometimes during the heat of battle, some very basic bidding maneuvers are overlooked. West has a borderline 2 bid; however, he opts for a call of one. North's Nil is automatic. Now East must do some thinking! His wonderful 6 - 2 - 5 - 0 shape should yield a lot of tricks. A bid of six seems to be just about right. The combined seven bid by E/W will yield a score of 531. Now South needs a call of four to land in the mid 530's (assuming less than 4 bags, and a successful Nil).

If East bid 7 by himself, he is assuming that he will win six trump tricks. Will the spade Queen drop doubleton? Does his partner have this card? Maybe a "bagging" approach is better. If East bids three, his side finishes with approximately 500 points. Pinning 4 bags on the South player will drop 100 points from their score, and will clinch the win. The bagging course is decided, and East inserts his three bid. South is very confident as he makes a comfortable bid of four.

West opens with the five of clubs. North ducks with the four, and East drops the Jack of hearts. South is in with the club Queen, and decides to cover the Nil. The King of hearts is won with the Ace. The three of clubs draws the deuce, as East trumps with the Jack of spades. Now he returns the five of spades, and South wins the Queen. The Queen of hearts is followed by the ten, as East tosses the Ace of diamonds. The nine of hearts is played, and this time East trumps with the King of spades, and returns the spade three. West and North are mere spectators for the duration.

A club is led in desperation. It rides around to East, who now trumps high and leads the diamond four. South tries the Jack, catching the seven, followed by the lead of the diamond King. When this wins, it is all over. East takes one more high spade at the end of the hand, and his side scores a tidy five tricks, while N/S bag out, and lose.

As for the live result - East tried for a bid of seven (by himself). He scored five spades tricks, and a quick grab of the Ace of diamonds. His partner contributed the Ace of hearts, and that was it - one trick short. Had East played a low diamond on the first round of that suit, he could have put South to the guess.

Ah, the heat of battle. What would you have bid in the East seat?

3. Grand Prix Word Series of Spades - Last Call!

This is the seventh annual National Spades Championship. The dates are September 16-18, and the event is held in Cleveland, OH. Last year, 50 Teams participated. The competition is very intense, with several seasoned Pairs in the field! The format calls for seven qualifying games of spades for each Team in a progressive format. Playoffs then follow, with a best 2 out of 3 Finals on Sunday morning. Check out the Official Site for more information on the guaranteed Prize Fund, and the Tournament Rules. There are no door entries at this event, as all players must receive an Invitation. If you want to participate, please email: heartsmoon@aol.com for more details. And check out the Grand Prix Site:

www.grandprixtournaments.com

Enjoy the rest of this never ending Summer!