Grand slam

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The term Grand Slam has a very precise meaning - which is different in different contexts. The root meaning is from the card game of Whist, where a 'slam' is winning all the tricks in a deal. This was adopted in Whist's descendants Bridge-Whist, Auction Bridge and the current form of the game, Contract Bridge, where a grand slam is bidding and then winning all the tricks in a deal. (A small, [or Little, or Minor] slam is bidding and winning all but one of the thirteen tricks.) From the earliest days (in the nineteenth century, where it is recorded in Hoyle, 1814), the term has been used figuratively and in transferred senses.

  • as a (military) all-out assault;
    • - and this sense is applied figuratively to all sorts of confrontations;
      • in baseball, a 'grand slam' is achieved when a home run is hit with runners on all bases, leading to a maximum possible score of 4.
  • in many other sports and games, to indicate winning a particular set of prestigious tournaments etc in a given year:
    • in golf, the Open (usually called the "British Open" in the U.S.); the 'Masters', at Augusta National Golf Club; the U.S. Open; and the PGA Championship;
    • in Rugby Union, defeating every other nation in the Six Nations tournament: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales;
    • in (Lawn) tennis, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open.
    • The term has been used in many other sports and competitions where a person may win a 'set' of titles recognized as important.

There has been an increasing looseness in usage over recent years, by which (particularly in tennis) the term 'a grand slam event' (one of the tournaments that go to make up a grand slam) is referred to simply as a 'grand slam', as in "she won two of the grand slams this year". This is inaccurate - but now appears to be becoming standard among sports journalists.

  • During the second world war, the Bomb, Medium Capacity, 22,000 lb, or 10 tons, was generally known as the Grand Slam. It was the largest bomb used by the RAF. It was designed by Barnes Wallis as a successor to the 'Tallboy', 5 ton bomb that had proved successful in penetrating hardened buildings such as U-boat shelters, and destroying bridges, etc, by the shockwaves it set up on detonation - the 'earthquake effect'.