Bidding Controls

The phrase “cue bid” has two totally unrelated meanings:

  1. The bid of a suit the opponents have bid, either overtly (such as hearts with a 2♥ overcall) or implicitly such as diamonds with an unusual 2N overcall).
  2. A bid that shows a suit in which the bidder has an Ace or singleton, so that the bidder’s side does not have two fast losers in that suit.

As a bid about fast losers, a better name for the second meaning is a control-showing bid, or control bid. Alas, this improvement in language has not caught on widely. In this chapter we will discuss this second kind of cue bid.

When we’ve agreed on trump at the 3-level, a new suit shows a first-round control, and that that suit is the cheapest such suit to bid. It suggests the possibility of slam. For example:

1♠ - 3♠ (limit raise)

This 4♦ bid shows an Ace or void in diamonds, and denies such control in the suit or suits skipped over, in this case clubs. It cannot be a help-suit game try because it is past the point of no return for that, 3♠.

Responder should just bid trump if he has no control in a suit that was skipped over. Making a bid in a non-trump suit promises a control in every suit that was skipped, plus the suit named.

Responder should take a cue-bid to mean, “We may have enough points for a slam, perhaps, but I have a suit with two fast losers or I have some other problem, such as a void, and knowing how MANY Aces you have doesn’t help me by itself.”

If there is a suit where the partnership has already established first-round control, bidding it again shows a second-round control. Bidding no-trump shows no more controls, but control of any suit that was skipped, and extras enough that you have slam interest.

Example, South opens the bidding with 1♥ and North makes a limit raise with 3♥. South holds:

♠KQ5 ♥AKQ764 ♦A ♣89

Suppose South bids 4N and learns that North has one Ace. If it is the Ace of Clubs, 6♥ seems like a great bet. If it is the Ace of spades, there are possibly two fast losers in clubs. Asking for Aces doesn’t work if you have a suit with two fast losers, unless those are your only losers.

If, however, South control-bids 4♦ after 3♥, he simultaneously lets North know he is interested in slam, is missing a first round control in spades and in clubs, but has one in diamonds.

If North now replies 5♣ it would show the club Ace or a void but no Ace of Spades. On the other hand, if North replies 4♠, it does not deny a control in clubs.

South can ask for Aces if the bidding has not passed 4N. It is often useful to cue bid and then ask for Aces. In our case, if North replies 4♠, asking for Aces will find out if he has the other one.