Polling You #43: Slam Bidding – Controls, Day 3, February 21, 2011

Slam Bidding using controls in Contract Bridge

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At some point in our Bridge career we learn that making a 12 contract slam require Aces and Kings, lots of them.  And once we learn the Blackwood convention and no more, our slam bidding follows the old cliche, “When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail!”

Yet here we go again with yet another discussion about more instances when to use cuebids as a critical alternative.  Be on the lookout to avoid opponents cashing out their Ace-King before you get a chance to pull trump and try to promote a nice side suit.  Ditto when you have a void and attempt to Blackwood-ask for Aces: “Which Aces was that, partner?”

So what’s wrong with the Blackwood Ace-asking bid, you ask?  Well nothing, when the bid is used in the right situation.  As we shall see, the prerequisite to bid Blackwood includes:

1. A good trump fit

2. Sufficient points – either High Card Points or distribution points

3. At least one control in each suit, to ensure the opponents do not hold the Ace-King on a side suit

4. No voids in a suit – otherwise the Blackwood response will be ambiguous since the unspecified Ace might be double-counted along with the void

Controls in a suit include (4 suits, 2 per suit):

1. Aces

2. Kings

3. Singletons

4. Voids

Cuebidding Technique:

1. Trump fit
a. Partnership agree on a suit
b. One player bids strongly, indicating a self-sustaining suit (or semi self-sustaining suit)

2. Partners cuebid controls “up the line” (lower ranking suit first)

3. Cuebidding typically begins at 4 level (perhaps 3 Spades after 1H – 3H)

4. Bidding the agreed-upon trump suit is a signoff request – nothing else to show

5. Bidding a non-conventional Notrump bid (as 5 Notrump) is generally “to play”

6. The one who knows, GOES! (bids Blackwood, slam directly, etc)

7. Slow shows – fast denies (bidding slowly shows extra honors/controls/strength/shape)BridgeHands recommendation:

When partner makes a strong bid showing a self-sustaining suit, that suit is considered trump unless the responder bids Notrump.  Cuebidding a new suit implies trump acceptance and shows a control in cooperation with partner.

1. 1D – 2H; 3C     Strong Jump Shift with Hearts declared trump, 3 Clubs is a control-showing cuebid

2. 1H – 4C; 4D    Responder’s splinter bid shows 4+ Hearts, game values including shortness in Clubs, opener’s 4D bid is a control-showing cuebid

3. 2C – 2D; 3H – 3S  Opener’s Heart jump shows a self-sustaining suit, responder shows a Spade control

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Warm Regards,

BridgeHands

Comments

  1. Christel says:

    Your recommendations have some very good points about looking for slam …. The one I am not sure about is the 3S bid over 2C-2D-3H. What if responder has only 1 H and wants to suggest N? How else would s/he be able to do that if sp was her/his best stopper or even only stopper with QJxx? Thanks for pondering this bid a bit:)

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi Christel,
      .
      In the auction:
      2C – 2D;
      3H – ?
      .
      Bidding 3 Notrump would be to play, although not an ideal bid since the hand would be wrong-sided (strong hand exposed). Realistically, 3 Notrump is only a waiting bid, not necessarily to play since the opener is showing a self-sustaining suit.
      .
      Even with a doubleton Heart, cuebidding a control would certainly be acceptable. Obviously with a singleton or void and no appreciable points, the responder is in a real bind, which underscores why the opener should not jump to 3 Hearts or Spades without a REALLY TERRIFIC suit.
      .
      Warm Regards, Michael

  2. Ko says:

    With a void in a suit I like to use Exclusion Blackwood, possibly after having bid controls, asking Aces not counting the one in my void.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Ko,
      .
      Yes, Exclusion Blackwood certainly has its place provided the partnership knows when the convention is on (sometimes even 4 Spades) and the correct responses – some use normal Blackwood steps while others prefer Keycard responses (even pros have made this error in international tourneys). For those interested to learn more, please see the main BridgeHands website where we detail this and hundreds of other conventions:
      .
      http://www.bridgehands.com/E/Exclusion_Blackwood_Voidwood.htm
      .
      Warm Regards, Michael
  3. Jeff Holst says:

    I have not always let missing a cashable AK stop me from successsfully bidding and making a slam. Not that I recommend it, but sometimes you get lucky. (Once I figured I was gettting a bad score if I didn’t bid and make the slam. Partner bid 5C after I had attempted to place the contract in 4H, which I expected to be the standard contract and be makable. Since I had to take 12 tricks in clubs to break even, I bid 6C. Made an overtrick when I got a friendly lead and a discard that allowed me to take 2 discards on my hearts. I was missing AK of diamonds and had 2 each in hand and dummy.).

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi Jeff,
      .
      Yes, sometimes we get lucky playing a gambit. In fact, for those who are into the dark side of psychic bidding, a player could actually lie and show a missing control when they sense neither they nor their partner has a control !!! Doing so may cause the opponent to lead a trump, allowing the declarer to pull trump and promote their side suit.
      .
      However when that ploy doesn’t work, don’t tell anyone you heard about this nefarious tactic here…
      .
      Warm Regards,
      Michael
      • Jeff Holst says:

        On the hand I discussed, it was absolutely the right thing to do. 4H made exactly 10 tricks. There were 2 diamond losers and a trump loser and no place to dump anything. Once partner bid 5C, my best hope for a good score was 6C. If it goes down, I get essentially the same match points as making 5C. (Actually this turned out not to be true in the NLM event where this occurred. Most pairs did not get to game, and the only pair to bid 4H found a way to go down 2 in a cold contract. In the open game playing the same boards, my analysis would have been dead on, as almost everyone was in 4H. One or two pairs played 3H. Everyone in that game took 10 tricks.)

  4. Charles says:

    I think the point of Christel’s comment was missed. She wanted to bid 3S with QJxx to show a stopper in spades when she held only a singleton heart so the strong opener could possibly bid 3NT.

    However, with the strong hand jumping to 3H, which shows a long solid suit, I don’t think opener is interested in a NT game. Even with a singleton heart, she should still bid 4H, because that will play well opposite her partner’s strong heart suit.

    I would only bid 3S if I had a good 5+ card suit such as AQxxx or KJ10xx or AJxxxx and nothing else.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Charles,
      .
      Perfectly stated – when partner opens 2C and rebids 3H the responder is normally expected to accept Hearts are trump. Rebidding Spades will likely be seen a accepting Hearts as trump with 3S seen as a forward-going cuebid. 3 Notrump might be an option with a good Spade suit and a semblance of an outside entry, otherwise responder should consider signing off in 4 Hearts.
      .
      This begs the whole notion of what’s forcing here:
      .
      2C – 2D;
      2H – ?
      .
      Most everyone would agree the first auction is forcing 1 round, while some top players would say the only non-game forcing bid would be a 2 Notrump rebid:
      .
      2C – 2D;
      2N – P
      .
      So on this sequence:
      .
      2C – 2D;
      2H – 3C;
      3D
      .
      Many would play responders second rebid is a “double negative” and opener must set the contract, some others would disagree saying openers ONLY non-game forcing rebid is 2 Notrump – PERIOD. Having these types of agreements allows opener to avoid the complications of our original problem, not having to initially jump rebid to 3H. So for those players:
      .
      2C – 2D;
      2H – 3C;
      3H
      .
      …this would still be game forcing, eliminating the problem where opener is forced to rebid 4H with an average Heart suit and willingness to consider 3 Notrump if responder bids 3S. So as always, no system is perfect and partnerships should consider methods that focus on their primary goals, are consistent with other system methods and can consistently be remembered in the heat of battle.
      .
      Warm Regards,
      Michael

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