Control Bidding


Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 03/30/2018
Level: Advanced

If you have a suit in which your side could be off the first two tricks (such as Qxx, or Jx), you shouldn't use Blackwood. For example, Opener holds:

♠ AKJ7642  
♥ AKQ  
♦ 32  
♣ 3.
 

You open 1♠ and partner makes a limit raise to 3♠. You expect to be in the slam zone. This is not a Blackwood hand. Let's suppose you use Blackwood and partner shows 1 ace. Now what? If you jump to 6♠, you could be facing:

♠ Q1093  
♥ J32  
♦ Q54  
♣ AQ5.
 

You are in a slam off the ace-king of diamonds--no good. But, what if partner's "one-ace" hand were:

♠ Q1093  
♥ Q32  
♦ AK64  
♣ 42?

Now, slam is laydown. So, Blackwood should not be used when you have a suit off two quick losers. The solution for these non-Blackwood hands lies in cue-bidding.

“Cue”-Bidding

First, let's explain what a cue-bid is. The term "cue-bid" is a bit misleading. If the opponents open 1♠ and you bid 2♠, that is a Michaels “Cue-bid,” showing spades and a minor. This has nothing to do with a "cue-bid" for slam bidding. I prefer to use the modern term, "control-bid" (more specific than the term "cue-bid"). When looking for a slam, we show a control. A "control" is an ace or a king (or, if in a suit contract, a void or a singleton). Think of a control this way: "If we have a control, the opponents cannot take the first 2 tricks in that suit." We use control-bids when we have agreed on a trump suit and are moving towards slam.

Example:

♠ AKJ7642  
♥ AKQ  
♦ 32  
♣ 3.

You open 1♠ and partner bids 3♠ (invitational). We saw above, that Blackwood is useless. Instead, you "control-bid" 4♠, to show that you are interested in slam, and have a club control. In this case, your "control" is a singleton. You know that the opponents cannot cash 2 club tricks. You are worried that they may be able to take the ace-king of diamonds. Your partner will now control-bid 4♠ for you, if he has a control in that suit. If he has:

♠ Q1093  
♥ J32  
♦ Q54  
♣ AQ5,

he hears your 4♠ control-bid, and will have nothing to contribute. He will bid 4♠--he has no control in either red suit. Opener will pass 4♠.

What if instead, responder held:

♠ Q1093  
♥ Q32  
♦ AK64  
♣ 42?

He would control-bid 4♠ and opener would know there are no suits off the first two tricks. Opener could then use Blackwood to make sure two aces weren't missing.

When is a new suit a control-bid?

A good rule of thumb is:

Below 3-of-your-major, there are no control-bids. Above 3-of-your-major, once a fit has been found (a suit has been agreed), a new suit is a control-bid (ace, king, void, or singleton).

Example of NOT a control-bid:

1♠ 2♠
3♠*

*Not a control-bid. This says nothing about the ace or king (nor length) in clubs. Most partnerships use it as some sort of "naturalish" game try. It is not a slam try.

Example of a control-bid:

1♠ 3♠
4♠*

This shows a control in clubs and slam interest (don’t ever control bid without slam interest).

Bid controls in order (whether first or second round). This is the so-called "Italian" method, which I highly recommend. Don't be concerned that you would show a singleton or king before an ace or void--up the line (in order) is the key to making this work!

The trump suit is not a suit in which you make a control bid (RKC will eventually be used to make sure you aren't missing the ace-king of trumps).

Never jump into a control bid.


 

Slam bidding quiz

Larry's DVD on Slam Bidding