Slam Bidding Basics over Suit Openers

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Point count is not very accurate with unbalanced hands that have a fit. Tricks and controls, or controls with distribution and lots of trump are the hand types that make slam easily with less than 33 points. For example, the following two deals both make slam and neither has the required points.

West East West East

In the first example there are 13 tricks available (6 spades, 6 hearts, and 1 diamond) and the opponents have only 1 trick. The A. Here there are plenty of tricks in hearts and spades with both minor suits controlled, one on the first round (ace of diamonds) and the other on the second (singleton club). The auction would start


1 1
3 ?

Now East should say to herself,

” My partner has a good 6 card heart suit and I have the ace – 6 tricks, if she has the A I have 6 spade tricks, if she has the A as well, or the A and the K then the opponents cannot cash 2 tricks before we take our 12.”

So how does East make a slam try? She makes a cue-bid of 4 . In this type of auction, 4 is always a playable game as is perhaps 3NT or 4 . You would not go looking for a minor suit to play in, thus bidding 4 of a minor shows a control. The bid of a control rather than a real suit is called a cue bid, it usually shows the ace, but sometimes can be the king or a singleton with interest in slam. How do you think the above auction should proceed?


West East
1 1
3 4 cue-bid
4 cue-bid 4 well, I made my slam try
4 cue-bid 6 that’s what I needed to hear


New suits, once we have established a fit, are usually cue bids. They are always cue-bids when you have a major suit and the auction cannot stop below game. If your fit is in a minor, new suits below 3NT are usually tries for NT (I can stop this unbid suit, can you stop the other one?), but new suits above 3NT are cue-bids.


Exercise 4. In the following unfinished auctions is the last bid a cue-bid (Y or N)?



A. B. C. D.
1 1 1 2 1 2 1 1
3 4 ? 3 4 ? 3 4 ? 2 3 ?




1 2 1 3 1 2
3 ? 4 ? 3 3 ?



Exercise 5. What would you bid on each of the following hands:


A. B. C D.
1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2
3 ? 3 ? 3 ? 3 ?



AK8764 765 K654 A4
K3 A2 QJ43 KQJ986
A43 KQJ9865 543 32
86 3 A2 K75
____________ ____________ ____________ ____________


Exercise 6 What suit do you hope to hear your partner cue-bid on the three hands above where you cue-bid?


A. B. C. D.
____________ ____________ ____________ ____________


Exercise 7. What would you bid next if partner in the above 2 hands bid:


A. 4 ? B. 4 ? C. D. 4 ?
____________ ____________ ____________ ____________


To summarize, once you have a fit, when you need to tell partner that you have a hand that might be suitable for slam, you make a cue-bid. Often you need to know that partner has specific controls before bidding a slam, you find this out by using cue-bids rather than Blackwood. It is also possible to bid 4NT, Blackwood, after you hear partner cue-bid the suit that you were looking for a control in.


A commonly asked question is when should you use Blackwood as opposed to using cue-bidding . The answer is that that you shouldn’t use Blackwood without a first or second round control in every suit. Also, you should not use it if partner’s answer would not help you decide whether or not to bid a slam. If you have a doubleton or a tripleton with no ace or king in it, then you have no way of knowing that the opponents couldn’t cash the AK of that suit. When one suit is not controlled, that is the time to use cue-bidding rather than Blackwood.

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