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Copyright 2002 by John Strichman (all rights reserved)

John Strichman is the author of
by JohnGalt Strichman

Valley Publishing - Richmond, Virginia


This month’s column comes from a game I played recently. What would you bid sitting 4th in the following situation?
Your Team: 363
Pones: 427

    North (2)      
West (3)         East (5)  
    SOUTH (?)

4 9A
4 8 10
3 6 9
3 5 8 J
The opps have bid to game. In order to stay alive, you must either set them or bag them out on this hand.

You would need to win 6 tricks to set their 8 bid. It does not seem at all likely that you and your pard will be able to accomplish that feat, so bidding to 14 is not the way to go.

Not much choice left then. You can bid 1 and hope that you and your pard will be able to set yourselves and hand out the 3 bags needed to bagset the opponents and keep the game alive. If you can, the score will be…
Your Team: 333
Pones: 410

Whereas this score would still allow for a possible chance to win the game, the chance would not be that good, and, more important, with your cards it is not very likely that you will be able limit your team’s take to 2 or fewer tricks on the hand.

There is a better alternative.

The best approach here is to bid NIL!

If you bid nil (a seemingly nutso bid from the opps viewpoint), they will probably conclude 2 things.
  • 1)You don’t know bidding strategy very well because a successful Nil will still lose the game, and...
  • 2)The game is theirs for the taking, and all that they have to do is not take 3 bags in the process of making their 8 bid.

    Here is what happened after I bid Nil.

    West issued the perfunctory LOL.

    East was short-suited and early in the hand trumped in with the Queen and King of Spades.

    West was short-suited and early in the hand trumped in with the 10 of Spades.

    I held my Club Jack until the 3rd round of the suit. When East led clubs, West allowed my Jack to go through, apparently wanting to add insult to injury. At this point my pard had taken 2 tricks.

    West won the next trick and led Spades. My pard won the trick with his singleton 8, under which I dumped my 4.

    West got into the lead with 2 tricks to go, and the only trump left outstanding higher than my 9 was the Jack. West led a low Spade (he had the Jack) and I took the trick with the 9.

    At this point, both opps (each thinking that the other had the Ace) started congratulating each other on a good win. When I led my Spade Ace there were 3 stunned players, including my pick-up pard who called me an idiot.

    The score was now…
    Our Team: 287
    Pones: 347

    We got a Nil/6 bid on the next hand, and went on to win the game.

    Every now and then you have the good fortune to play a memorable game, and this was one of those.

    More important, though, is how this game underscores the most important thing to remember when you are playing Spades…. The object of the game is not to bid your hand or to make your bid, but to get to 500 points first. The score is all that matters.

    A Nil bid is just another tool that you can use to try to make that happen.

    Don’t be afraid to bid Nil with a hopeless hand if you think that doing so might be the best way to get to your goal. Winning players think OUTSIDE of THE BOX.. When they do, they are often rewarded with a game that is



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