Golden Snake Hand? What is that? If that was your first reaction, do not worry, it is understandable. We invented the term because so far there is no term referring to the hand described below. However, it is not as scary as you think and it is good to have a name for such a hand.
Defining a Golden Snake hand (GSH)
Firstly, let us start with the imagination of a hand with characteristics below:
- An extraordinary hand that you almost do not need a partner to bid a slam or a grand slam by yourself.
- You just need perhaps one or two Aces should the partner has them.
- It is very difficult to bid. Your partner will never understand the magnitude of the value of the hand.
- It is quite rare.
- You will feel like an idiot if you cannot bid it properly – But, you do not want to just take a wild guess or punt just for the sake of bidding slam. Remember you do not have a reputation of a cowboy bidder. (Cowboy bidders bid whatever his gut feel to)
With all the above, we were describing a Golden Snake Hand (GSH)
Your first sighting of a Golden Snake Hand
As the grumpy gentleman handing you the board from the next table still furious with his partner, you open the board and see the following:
A 1-suiter version of a Golden Snake Hand (GSH)
It is a Golden Snake Hand! And that grumpy gentleman obviously didn’t know how to handle it! However, put all the joking aside, seriously, what would you bid?
Would you Open Strong (i.e.: standard’s 2♣)?
Firstly, the hand above although distributionally strong, it is not “HCP”-rich. Meaning, all the other three hands still have the rest of the high card. In this case, your hand has 15-HCP. So, your partner and opponents have 25-HCP. This means the possibility of overcall from the opponents is likely. Also, since your suit is Clubs, the opponent can find their fit or show their 1-suiter too which higher than Club before your partner even knows what suit you have.
The bidding could be 2♣-(2♠)-P-(4♠) and yes, you can still bid 5C – but then it is distinguishable with ordinary hand. Even worse, when the opponent competes to 5♠ and your partner double for a penalty, you will never know whether your partner’s double due to having defensive trick in Diamond (say Ace of Diamond) or defensive trick in another suit.
Or alternatively, with doubleton ♣ and AK ♦ your partner raise to 6♣ or 7♣ only to find in disbelieve that you only have 15 points to your “strong” bid and missing 2 of the Aces.
In general, it is a good practice to not mix a distributionally strong hand with “HCP rich” hand. A better system should be able to handle the two differently.
Would you open “normal” (i.e.: standard’s 1♣)?
Besides the possibility of opponent found their suit or jam the auction (already mentioned above), the real question for you is: what rebid will you do? If you rebid 5C, partner with only 5 point that consists of (A of Spade and doubleton C) will be happily passed.
Or the worst, you end-up play 1♣ contract!
Would you open with the Pre-Emptive Game (5♣)?
Sorry to say this, but my comment will be “Shame on you!” – How can you equate such a good hand with one example below:
|A legit pre-emptive hand|
Would you bid slam out of guessing?
This is the worst choice. It doesn’t matter if you made the slam or even grand slam, you lose respect from your partner, opponent and more importantly: yourself.
If you just want to bid wildly and without reasoning, logic and system, maybe Bridge is not for you. Do not be a “cowboy” player.
However, if you bid this because you do not know what to do, do not be dishearted, below is the answer.
The Answer: Specific Ace-Asking Opening
Yes, there is an opening bid which directly asks for a specific ace. In fact there are 2 of them for you to choose:
- 3NT Specific Ace-Asking Opening
This opening is giving you margin of safety in case partner doesn’t have Ace or have the wrong Ace, you can safely play in level-4 or level-5 game. However, the opponent still can overcall at level -.
- 4NT Specific Ace-Asking Opening.
Giving you the maximum of “blockage” effect from opponent disturbance. However, you will be playing at level 5 or beyond. If your partner does have an Ace, but the wrong one, you end up in level-6 Slam. Which is not ideal.
In our hand-example above, the bidding could go like this:
|(*)Ace of Spade|
|(*)Ace of Spade|
In general, I would prefer to play the 3NT opening as the Specific Ace-Asking bid as described above.
Some players use 3NT as a “Gambling 3NT” where you have an unknown solid minor plus a stopper hoping the opponent to lead the wrong suit. Even for a beginner, I do not recommend this opening. There is no point. A solid minor is a good asset, treat that with better respect. Hint: for a solid minor, just open 1 minor and rebid 3NT – since the point (HCP) is rather limited it will not usually get a round-pass. Therefore, you can use 3NT for this specific Ace Asking and use 4NT for high level 2-suiter minor opening (weak or strong)
Please refer to the specific sequence articles for further example and details. \
Golden Snake Hand can be any type of hand
For a balance hand, most of bidding system only cater for 20-22 HCP range. Above that, the only available bid sequence perhaps of 23+ HCP (with no upper limit).
Therefore, for a hand like this example, there is no way for the responder to know the exact HCP, Thus the Specific Ace-Asking Bid will help with this problem.
We have seen an example in quite detail in the example above with 1-suiter GSH.
|GSH 2 suiter|
For a 2-suiter hand, care must be given in using the Specific Ace Asking bid, especially if the longest suit is only a 5-carder. This is because to play a final contract in that suit you need a proper fit to prevent the trump become out of declarer’s control,
And whether or not a No-Trump contract is appropriate or not is highly depended on the side suit (Declarer must has stopper in all the suit if declarer wants to use the Specific Ace-Asking Opening.
In the example here, should the Ace of Club become the King of Club, the opener will need to choose a Heart or Diamond contract. And if that’s the case, the Specific Ace-Asking Opening doesn’t have a way to look for the support on that particular suit.
Therefore for hands that required support, it is recommended to use Strong 2 Opening ♣
|GSH 3 suiter|
Similar like the 2-suiter hand, if the short suit in a 3-suiter hand has no stopper (for example, swap the Ace of Diamond with Ten of Diamond), then finding a fit have to be prioritised.
Taming the Golden Snake Hand
We have seen above that various type of Golden Snake Hand that can make use of the Specific Ace-Asking Bid. However, care need to be considered if a support card is required before can choose the final contract.