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Weekly updates from Kit Jackson offering hints and tips for the modern Bridge player. Enjoy!

Friday, 9 April 2010

The Weird World of Cue Bids - 29 Oct. 2009

I often get asked “So exactly what is a cue-bid?” So, here’s a little run-down of some of the more normal uses of the cue-bid with a short explanation.

To be totally honest with you there are lots of different forms of cue-bids which all have exotic names but I’m not going down that convoluted garden path. Normally when you make a bid it's:
  • (a) a suit you have, and
  • (b) is at least 4 cards long.
A cue bid is a bid in a suit that you DON'T necessarily have. Weird, huh? As we’ll see a cue bid can be in a suit you don't have any of AT ALL! Dangerous stuff, I know. So, I hear you shout “how do we know it’s a cue bid and not a real suit?” Well start with the obvious one:

Cue Bidding The Opponent's Suit (Also Known As: “Fit-Showing Cue Bids”)

When partner bids a suit, and your right hand opponent (RHO) overcalls, how can you tell partner the difference between a hand that just wants to get in the way and a hand that has some genuine support and strength?

1S - 2C - ?

1) xxxxx ..............................2) KJxx
... QJx .................................... KQx
... Kxxx .................................. Kxxx
... x ......................................... xx

On the first hand you want to raise the level of the bidding with a pre-empt so as to mess up the opponent's attack, so you bid 3S, weak but supportive. Fine. But next time you get the same auction you are lumbered with hand 2). This time you want to raise partner because you have points and support - so can you bid 3S? Ah, No. ’Fraid not. We just said that 3S was going to be used as a pre-emptive manoeuvre for hand 1), didn’t we? so how can we tell partner the difference?

You’ve seen it coming, I know you have... yes it’s a cue bid of the opponent’s suit - 3C!! Here is a situation where the opponent’s bid, far from making your life difficult, has actually increased your options: you can turn their intervention to your own benefit. In this way when they venture into the auction’s murky waters, the opponents in effect create for you a handy stepping stone that was not previously there.

This “stepping stone” principle has many uses:

“Control Asking Cue Bids”

1D - 1H - 2H?

In this auction your 2H cue-bid not only tells partner you have values (probably 10+) but also asks if partner can stop the hearts suit well enough to bid No Trumps. Now the stepping stone is practically a full-blown bridge with 2-way traffic: you just told partner something AND asked a question all in one bid. 2H could mean a number of things but it is FORCING and asks partner to explain their hand further.

Clearly, in these situations when you bid the opponent’s suit, it’s a suit in all probability you don’t have. But it’s nevertheless a bid packed with extra illumination and intent like an information super highway. It also has the added value of freeing up all the direct raises of partner’s suit (1S - ? - 2/3/4S) as annoying defensive measures designed to clog up the opponents’ exchange and force them down an information cul-de-sac.

There’s more....

“Control Showing Cue Bids”

1S -PASS - 3S - PASS

Why is partner suddenly bidding this Club suit? Has partner pulled out the wrong card? Is partner having a stroke? We’ve agreed spades. So why doesn’t partner just bid game or slam or whatever? Unless ..... it’s a cue-bid!

This time there’s no opposition bidding but now partner wants to tell you something more. A trump suit has been agreed and a new suit has been introduced below game level. What’s the message? The only reason for this bid is that partner has sights set on the possibility of a slam and is giving you information in the hope that you can reciprocate; it’s a control showing cue bid ie thpartner is saying I have “control” of the club suit, that is to say the ace of clubs. The hand could be something like

AKxxxx ................ QJxx
Ax ........................ Kxx
Kxxx .................... AJxx
A .......................... xx

Now, if you’re lucky enough to hold the ace of diamonds, you can cue-bid that as well and suddenly slam looks a pretty good prospect and the auction could go something like:

1S .............. 3S
4C ............. 4D
4H ............. 5H

4C, 4D & 4H all show first round control of the suits mentioned (i.e. aces or voids) while, as the ace has already been shown, 5H must be a second round control (ie king or singleton). So just as you can get quite specific about not only the number of points in a hand or the length of a particular suit, you can also tell partner about specific individual cards (normally only once a suit has been agreed, so be careful!)

The other basic thing to remember about all these Cue bids is that they are unconditionally forcing. That is, partner CANNOT pass. Under any circumstances. Whatever they’ve got. Whoever they are. Claiming to be of royal descent will not suffice. Remember the graffiti in the 3rd level dungeon at the Tower of London? It says it all:

Who passeth fawcing byd
soonest be sans hyd

As AJP Taylor so memorably said in his book Really Bad Mistakes by Royalty: “Without that erroneous PASS, the Queen would have lived; our Nation’s history radically altered.”

Those who yearn for more rarified stuff can look up Michaels Cue-bids, Fourth Suit Forcing cue bids, Western Cue bids, Eastern Cue bids, and that old favourite - Invisible cue bids. (I promise you these all exist!)


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