Polling You #42: Slam Bidding – Controls, Day 2, February 18, 2011

Control Bidding and Slams: Contract Bridge Lesson

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Are you in control?  How much control do you like?  How about sharing control with your partner – is that important?

Well, Bridge is a partnership game and controls are the foundation of sound slam contracts.  So once we have found a trump fit with partner and are ready to explore slam, one way or the other prudent Bridge players will double check their aggregate controls on the road to slam nirvana.   In today’s poll and blog posting we develop a foundational to build our slam bidding framework.  As you would suspect, while slam bidding controls do have their place it’s critical to know when and how to apply them.

Slam Contracts – The Three Way Triad:

1. Classic Trump-oriented Slam – Major or minor suit slam

2. Balanced Slam – Notrump, typically with 33/37 points to make slam/grandslam

3. Slam “Magic” – Major or minor slams with very distribution one or two suited hand

Controls: Aces, Voids, King-Queen, Singletons, King + others

Two Ways to Count Controls:

1. Basic – Two Controls per suit
Ace, King, Singleton = 1 control each
Ace-King, Void = 2 controls each

2. Advanced: Three Controls per suit
Ace-King, Void = 3 controls
Ace+ = 2 controls
King, Singleton = 1 control

Typical Usage of Controls – Suit Slams, where Voids and Singletons highlight extra value as controls
Caution – Suit shortage is a liability in a Notrump contract

Slam Control Bidding Prerequisites:

1. Trump Suit Agreement

2. Slam controls typically shown at the 4 and 5 level
Partnership Bids Suit
1S – 3S; 4D
1S – 2H; 3H – 4C
1H – 3H; 3S        An exception where a control cuebid is made at the 3 level
One Player has Self-Sustaining Suit
1H – 1S; 3H – 4D
2C – 2D; 3H – 4C

Slam Control Bidding is “OFF” at Low-Level Contract (Conventional)

1. 1H – 2H; 3D              Help Suit Game Try

2. 1H – 1S; 2C – 2D     Force Suit Forcing (responder rebids in new suit are forcing, artificial)

3. 1S – 2C; 2H – 3D    Probably shows a “Half Stopper” (Qxx Qx, or Jxxx)

4. 1N – 2N; 3H             Opener accepts game, showing a 5 card Heart suit (asking for 4H response with 3 Hearts)

5. 1C – 1S; 1N – 2D      New Minor Forcing convention

Partnership Agreements Required:

1. Slow Shows (extras), Fast Denies (extras, i.e., a signoff bid)
2C – 2D; 2H – 4H       Advanced – “To Play”
2C – 2D; 2H – 3H       Advanced – Showing extras with interest in slam, initiates cuebidding controls

2. Shape Showing Quandary
1S – 2C; 3C – 3H          Seeking 3 Notrump?
1D – 3D; 3H                  Seeking 3 Notrump?
1S – 2C; 2D – 3D         Seeking 3 Notrump?
1C – 2C; 2H – 2S         Playing Inverted Minors, do 2H and 2S show imbalances or controls?

More Partnership Agreements Needed

1. Controls After Strong Bids
1S – 2N; 3D – 3N          Playing Jacoby 2 Notrump, 3D rebids shows shortness but what is 3 Notrump?
1H – 2S; 3C                    Responder’s Strong Jump Shift to 2 Spades shows 16+ and great Spades, but what is 3C?
1S – 4D; 4H                    After responder’s “splinter” showing 4+ Spades and shortness in Diamonds, what is opener’s 4 Heart bid – shape or a control?

2. Italian Cuebids
Can control show a King as well as an Ace?
Can a King control be shown at the 5 level?
1D – 1H; 4H – 4S          Does 4S guarantee an Ace?

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Warm Regards,



  1. warrenwolff says:

    Three Clubs is the wrong rebid after Jacoby 2 NT

  2. BridgeHands says:
    Many thank Warren!
    In our video part 2 at minute 4, we discuss opener’s correct response (3 Notrump). The above bidding associated with hand 1 diagram will be corrected right away.
    Thank you, Michael
    • christel says:

      I am not sure I’d bid 3 N either – with 2 dbltons? How about 4 C?

      • Jeff Holst says:

        I don’t have access to part 2, so cannot speak to the specifics. Even without seeing the hand, I know 4C cannot be right. 3NT denies a singleton ot void and defines the HCP range. It is rarely to play, since you have at least 9 cards in a major. The way I learned Jacoby 2NT (and there are variations) a 4 level bid in a suit other than the agreed trump suit shows a second 5 card suit. Obviously, there is a singleton or void someplace, but knowing about declarer’s second 5 card suit may be more valuable for slam bidding.

        • BridgeHands says:
          Hello Christel and Jeff,
          Like conventions as Reverse Drury, the modern treatment for the Jacoby 2 Notrump convention is a “Slow Shows – Fast Denies” approach to opener’s rebids. So after 1S – 2N:
          – 4 Spades shows the weakest hand (7-8 Losing Trick Count, typically 11-14 points), i.e., Fast Denies
          – 3 Notrump shows some extras (6 Losing Trick Count, typically 14-16 points), i.e., Slow Shows Extras
          – 3 Spades shows a strong hand (often 5 LTC, 16+ HCP) with no shortages but strong slam interest
          – 3 in another suit show shortage in the suit, i.e. a CONTROL!
          – 4 in another suit can show a second GOOD 5 card suit (obviously the opener also has a singleton), or a few players prefer to use 4x side suit bids to show a void (not a common as the method to show a second 5 card suit)
          You can find the Jacoby 2 Notrump convention documentation in our BridgeHands Encyclopedia at our main website (not in our blog subdomain) here (note – the method documented also describes the original “classic” treatment created by Oswald Jacoby where a 3 Spade rebid only showed an extra trump (Spade here) rather than a stronger hand:
          Warm Regards, Michael

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