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  Spades Tips and Strategies




Spades Column of the Month – September 2006




By Joe Andrews




Adventures in Nils

Here are my top four favorite Nil Scenarios of all time.

Each hand shows the lighter side of Spades and how the bid of Nil can be more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Exhibit A

In the Quarter Finals of a "Win A Free Trip to the National Championship" event, a well - known player picked up this collection:



 K J 6

 Q 9

 K 10 5 4 2

 Q 4 3



It was the first hand of the match. After a discernable pause, our hero (in first seat) bid Nil! Three four bids in succession were then declared. Mr. Nil's partner had the opening lead and led the Ace of hearts felling his partner's Queen. The heart King followed and it rode through, dropping partner's NINESPOT. (Perhaps, the Q - 9 of a suit shows a void for the third lead of that suit.)

Then came the DEUCE of hearts, and the club Queen was pitched.

Two high clubs were promptly won by the opponents and a third club was ruffed (trumped) by the one of the opponents with the spade ten. A small spade was played by the player in front (to the right) of the Nil bidder. He immediately flew with the KING of SPADES, and it was taken by his partner's ACE.. The Queen of spades fetched the Jack, and nine of spades snagged the eight, the six, and a diamond discard.

The Nil bidder's partner later won a trick with the Queen of diamonds and the last spade netting six tricks and set for the their side. And the Nil made easily, which got them out of the gate with a fat 220+ point margin.

The game was won in due time by this very clairvoyant pair!



Exhibit B

In a desperation situation (losing by 70 points) and playing the last hand of a ten hand match , our hero (dealer) gathers in this hand:



 10 7 5 3 2

 8 6 5 2


 J 5 3



The bids were: 3, 5, and 3. Bags were not a problem. What were the choices? Go for the set? Bid a safe 1 or 2?

Neither of the above – our hero went in for Nil!

This really happened at a live tournament. The opening lead came from the left, a small diamond. The table bid total was eleven. Bags were not an issue.

The Nil person's partner had bid 5. The opening lead was the Jack of dimes, and Nil's pard played the Ace of diamonds and the Queen fell nicely. He led a small diamond and when the King popped up on the right, the Jack of clubs was heaved. A middle club was won by partner, who promptly played another diamond. This time, the fellow on the right cut with the Queen of spades, a dubious play. Mr. Nil, heaved the ten of spades with a very discernable sigh, and a diamond was played in last seat. Now, Hearts were explored and, sure enough, Nil's partner was in. Yup, you guessed it, another diamond came out and the right hand opponent of the Nil bidder cut with the four of spades. No problem here. The deuce of spades was played, and the Ace of spades came out in last seat.

It was all to no avail The Nil's partner had the Jack, nine, and eight of spades, and two of these trump helped him to reel in his six bid and provided the right amount of cover for the Nil.

A five spade Nil, no less!



Exhibit C

At another live tournament, it is the first hand of a match. Our hero, sitting in last seat (the dealer), holds:



 A 9 7

 K 9 6

 A 3 2

 J 10 8 6



The bids proceed as follows:

5, Nil, 3. The bidding concludes with 2. Our hero hopes to cover his partner's Nil and that diamond suit presents a tricky problem. A low heart is led on the left as Nil bidder plays low and up comes the Ace on the right. Now the ten of diamonds is tabled. After a slight pause, the three is played ("Surely he can duck a ten" LOL). A middle diamond then follows and, as the fates would have it, the Nil hand holds singleton Jack of dimes, and it is pinned accordingly (with very discernable groaning, teeth-bared growling, and incessant eye-rolling).

The Nil bidder now watches the play like a hawk and the appearance of the Ace of dimes causes the groan to be become a loud roar and more rolling of the eyes to become a prolonged and vicious icy glare with the comment, "Aces are higher than Jacks, partner!"

Now fast forward to three games later. This pair is still together – a minor miracle by itself! And sure enough, it's time for deja - vu! Our hero (the dealer) gets this hand:



 A K Q

 A 4 3

 J 7 5 3

 K 8 7



A decent hand, to be sure. A four bid on the left opens the proceedings. Across the table comes another Nil bid (by his partner), followed with a call of 3. A four bid by our hero looks nice and comfy. And the last bid closes the auction with a total of 11 tricks + a Nil. The left hand opponent leads the six of diamonds, ducked by the fourspot, and up comes the Ace on the right. The three of dimes is a logical play four our hero.

And now, here comes the ten of hearts – from the right, no less! Oh My God! Have we seen this before? Remembering the scolding, icy stares and snarling of the previous match, our hero flies with the Ace in a flash (after all, a face card might be "hanging" in the Nil hand) and we know what happened the first time! He is aware of the fact that partner may come over the top of the table if another Jack or the Queen or King of hearts is pinned!

Down comes the eight of hearts and the nine spot from the Nil hand. A diamond looks like the best play (Nil had ducked earlier), and the diamond Jack is won by the King as the Nil drops the deuce. From the left, the five of hearts is played. The Nil hand plays the six, and the deuce appears from the right. The three is deposited and the Nil is set. On a lousy six spot, no less.

Sharp, crispy comments are the order du jour, the most noteworthy of which is the piece de resistance - "You are so inconsistent, partner – this time you should have ducked as I did not hold a face card. Why did you do up with the Ace? I needed that card to be played on the second lead of hearts, not the first lead. You obviously do not know when to go up and when to duck. Another makeable Nil down the drain! You are useless, why don't you just join their side - you are sure playing like that. Geez - three against one!"



Exhibit D

At another "live" event back in the late 90's, a certain pair has been having a great weekend.  Lots and lots of wins – most by crushing margins. In the preliminaries, they compile the best record of all of the players at the event. They are the # 1 seed in the field. People are awestruck with this pair and the ogling is accompanied by plenty of ooohs and aaahhs!  Many grumble about how unfair it is to have "professionals" in the tournament! A victory speech has been rehearsed. It reminds you of the 1948 Presidential Race in which Dewey was declared victor over Truman.

And the first round playoff opponents – it sure looks easy, eh? Our "Super Pair" has blown away this team in a previous game. The professionals are talking about how well they have played. They review their list of conventions prior to the first Round of the TOC. Their coos can be heard across the room! It is like a mutual admiration society meeting.

Now the "weapons" are displayed. We will be using Big Five, Nil Reverse, Hi-Low, Suit Preference, Rusinow Leads, Trump Management, Standard Nil defense leads, Attitude leads, Inverted discard signals, etc. etc, ad nauseum.

The opponents are greeted warmly with handshakes and wishes of good luck are conveyed. The game is afoot. The Super Stars get off to a lead - a really big lead. With two hands to go they are ahead: 404 - 182. It's all over but the shouting. The victory speeches and "shaking of tailfeathers" are ready to be unleashed. They chat about their strategy for the next round. They lean back in their chairs. They are loose and purring like big, fat, well-fed Cheshire cats.

They tell the opponents that it has been a good game and how cards often decide the outcome of a game, and how well the opponents have done considering what bad cards they have been dealt.

Then the roof falls in! The pros are able to muster only 82 points on the last two hands as their cards "dry up". And the opponents roll out bids of Nil/ 6, and Nil/ 7, making both Nils without breathing hard as the 330+ points in the final two hands blow the game wide open. The opponents cross the finish line with a score of 514 and that seals the win. One of the "pros" has been leaning back on his chair.  He falls over backwards and crashes to the floor. He then staggers out of the room. His partner asks, "Where's the bar"?

With his partner still dazed by the outcome, one of the opponents says, "Yes, I do agree with you - cards often decide the outcome, and you guys did well considering the last two hands. Losing to us is no disgrace."

Ah, the thrill of the Nil!






2006 Live Tournament Roundup

Here's a really terrific "live" Spades event. It's fun to meet your online friends in person and to have a nice getaway for a weekend of fun and games. Check out this link:

The Grand Prix World Series of Spades - October 6- 8, St. Louis, MO

This is the National Spades Championship event

GrandPrix Tournaments: The World Series of Classic Card Games

Check 'em out, and make plans to have a great time!



See you in October!