I call it “grandslamitis.” It means the inability of many players to contract for 13 tricks despite overwhelming strength in the partnership.

Sitting South, I was dealing, with North-South vulnerable in an OK Bridge deal:

                     S A 10 9
                     H K 10 9
                     D K J 10
                     C A J 8 7

WEST                              EAST
S 4                                   S Q 8 7 6 5 3
H 8 6 5 4 3                      H J 7
D 7 6 4 3 2                      D 5
C 10 3                             C 6 5 4 2

                 S K J 2
                 H A Q 2
                 D A Q 9 8
                 C K Q 9

The bidding proceeded as follows:

South     West     North     East
2NT•      Pass      7NT         All Pass

• 20-21 high-card points

Opening lead: H6

Fortunately, I had a partner up to the challenge of bidding a grand slam. It was a laydown with two spade, three heart, four diamond and four club tricks off the top. Now let’s get back to the auction. At our table, North’s 16 high-card points, plus South’s 20 or 21, spelled grand slam for North.

I have one small quibble: the partnership might have 36 HCP, and an ace might be outstanding. So I’d opt first for a Gerber auction:

South    West    North    East
2NT       Pass    4C•         Pass
4S••       Pass     7NT       All Pass
• Artificial ace-asking bid
•• Shows two aces

Another possibility is for North to ask South’s point count:

South     West     North     East
2NT        Pass      5NT•      Pass
7NT••     All Pass
• Asks if South has 20 or 21 HCP
•• Shows 21 HCP (with 20, South would bid 6NT)

With opponents holding only three HCP, meaning no aces, North can confidently bid 7NT.

Seems simple enough. Why then did almost half the North-South pairs subside at 6NT?

I see three possibilities why they stopped short.  First, 2NT-7NT is a rare auction (the first I’d seen in 30 years of duplicate competition) and easy to miss.  Second — and I’m serious here — many players don’t have grand slam arrows in their bridge quivers. They never bid it.

Third, there’s something enchanting about a 2NT-6NT auction. In fact, it’s my OK Bridge handle: twono6no. “Maybe you should change it to twono7no,” West said.

The lesson? Players must adapt to unforeseen circumstances and think outside the box they’ve inhabited. There’s always something new in a bridge game — in my case, a new way to screw up. That’s what makes bridge the fascinating game that it is.