The Slam Hunt by Samuel M. Stayman

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Fortunately we excel at some slams—particularly the ones that depend solely on the sheer mass of high cards. We have no desire to belittle these slams; they count just as much as the slams that must be ferreted out. But we do wish to emphasize that there are other kinds of slams

Sam Stayman
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The Slam Hunt, Chapter 15 from Do You Play Stayman? by Samuel M. Stayman (1965) New York: Odyssey Press

By all rights, Americans should be superb slam bidders. When an American, Harold S. Vanderbilt, invented contract bridge, he remembered that his countrymen like to “shoot the works” or “go for broke.” So he introduced the slam feature which held out tempting bonuses for successful adventures. This element, as much as any other, added excitement to the game and led to its fantastic popular acceptance.

Another American bridge pioneer, Ely Culbertson, gave Americans asking bids, a somewhat controversial tool for locating key controls. In one form or another, they are used throughout the world, but rarely in America. Certainly Americans like to bid and make slams as much as anyone. But apparently they have always liked a free-wheeling, “go-as-you-please” approach instead of the intricacies of Mr. Culbertson’s brainchild. 

The Easy Slams
Fortunately we excel at some slams—particularly the ones that depend solely on the sheer mass of high cards. We are so point-count happy that we delight in adding our points to those of partner’s and—eureka—”We have 33 points, ergo a slam!”

We have no desire to belittle these slams; they count just as much as the slams that must be ferreted out. But we do wish to emphasize that there are other kinds of slams—slams that depend upon suit fit and key control cards—and that these slams can be bid.

Recipe for a Slam
Successful slams have two elements: (1) declarer must be able to develop twelve tricks, but (2) he must cash them before the defenders can take two of their own. Totting up 33 points does not make a slam; it merely guards against the defenders having two tricks off the top. Slams do not live on points alone, for points only measure high cards. Almost invariably declarer must promote small cards to winning rank in order to score his slam. 

And that is where fit comes in. Unless you hold a self-sufficient suit, you will need help from your partner to develop winners out of your small cards. Take this extreme illustration: Would you want to be in a slam, regardless of partner’s holding, with this hand?

 A K Q 7 6 5 2  A K  A K  K Q

The correct answer is no—not if partner is void in spades. If partner has as much as a single spade, the odds favor a 3-2 break, so that you can bring in the suit without loss. But if partner is void in spades, you need a 3-3- division, which is against the odds. 

What is a Satisfactory Fit?
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