Control-Showing Cuebids

        Control-showing bids are an extremely effective tool accurate slam bidding. Instead of finding out how many aces your partner has, you can use control-showing bids to figure out exactly which aces he posesses, as well as kings and other controls. This is often necessarry to find a good slam.


         Controls.     A control is a holding in a suit which prevents the opponents from taking quick tricks in the suit:

A first-round control is either an ace or a void.
A second-round control is either a king or a singleton.

As a rule:

1.    To make grand slam, you must have first-round control of every suit.
2.    To make small slam, you must have first-round control of three suits
             plus second-round control of the fourth suit.

With most hands, it is much more important to know about your partners controls than about his aces. This is why good bridge players use control-showing bids instead of Blackwood for most slam auctions.



The Initial Control-Showing Bid

        After a trump suit is agreed, you may sometimes bid a new suit to show a control. In particular:

A bid is control-showing if:
        1.    A trump suit has already been established, and
        2.    It is a non-jump bid in a new suit at the 4-level or higher.

EXCEPTION:    If the trump suit is hearts, a bid of 3 spades can be control-showing.

EXAMPLES:    All of the following bids are control-showing:

1 3 4
1 3 3
1 1 3 — 4
1 1 2 — 3 — 4
1 2 2NT — 4 — 5


         What Does it Show?     In general, the initial control-showing bid shows slam interest and first-round control of the bid suit.


         Responding.     After your partner makes a control-showing bid, you should obey the following rule:

If you are uncomfortable exploring slam, then return to the trump suit at the cheapest available level.
If you have a reasonable hand, then you should continue the slam attempt.

For example:

1 — 3 — 4 4:     Shows a below-minimum limit raise.
  4: Shows first-round control of hearts.
  5: Shows first-round control of clubs.
  5: Shows second-round control of diamonds.
  4NT:     Blackwood.

Note that the bid of 4 does not deny having first-round control of hearts. It simply communicates an unwillingness to participate in slam exploration. After responder bids 4, opener can always insist on a slam attempt by making another control-showing bid.



Further Control-Showing Bids

        After the initial control-showing bid, both partners usually begin showing controls up-the-line. For example, consider the auction:

1 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6

The 4 bid is an initial cuebid, showing first round control of diamonds and denying first-round control of clubs. (With club control, opener would have bid 4 instead.) The 5 bid shows-first round control of clubs, and denies having first-round control of hearts. (With heart control, responder would bid 4 instead.) At this point, opener decides to sign off in 6. (Apparently this was all he information he needed.)


        Second-Round Controls.     There are two situations under which you may show second-round control:

1.    If you have already skipped over a suit, then cuebidding the suit shows second-round control.
2.    If your either partner has already cuebid a suit, then re-cuebidding the suit shows second-round control.


        1.    In the auction:

1 — 3 — 4 — 4 — 4

the 4 bid shows second-round control of spades. With first-round contol, opener would have bid 3 initially.

        2.    In the auction:

1 — 3 — 4 — 4 — 5

the 5 bid shows second-round control of clubs (since opener has already shown first-round control) and denies having second-round control of spades. Responder should probably signoff in 5 at this point unless he has a spade control.


         Suits Bid by Partner.     When your partner bid a suit, you may cuebid it to show either first or second-round control. Furthemore, since partner probably has length and strength in the suit, you should not cuebid your partner's suit to show shortness.

1 — 1 — 3 — 3 — 4 — 4:     Shows the Ace or King of diamonds.


         Returning to the Trump Suit.     A return to the trump suit is always a signoff attempt. It commuticates the following message:

"Partner, given the current information I am unsure about our slam potential. Maybe we should stop here."

Your partner may then either pass or continue the slam exploration, taking your hesitation into account.


        Late Control-Showing.     When exploring grand slam, it is common to cuebid controls up to the 6-level or higher:

1 — 1 — 2 — 4 — 5 — 5 — 5 — 6:     Shows second-round control of clubs.

If you run out of first and second-round controls, feel free to bid third-round controls!


        Blackwood.     Either partner may bid Blackwood at any time:

1 — 1 — 3 — 4 — 4NT:     Blackwood.