The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (November 2010)

   9.  They analyze the auction from partner’s point of view.  (Part 11) 

  Partner   RHO      You     LHO        
   1C           Pass       1S         2H
   3S           Pass       4H        Pass
   5C           Pass       5D        Pass
   5H           Pass        ?

You hold  ♠Q108653   AK3  2   ♣KQ4 .

Are you wishing you could back up the bidding? It started downhill with the 4H bid, which seemed harmless enough, but created a bloated auction that has left you guessing. After two rounds of cuebidding, the only values you’ve located in partner’s hand are the club ace and presumably a singleton heart. You still don’t know about the ace-king of trumps and diamond ace.

It’s not always clear who’s the captain in a cuebidding auction, but partner will believe it’s you if he holds a minimum such as  ♠K942   AQ6   ♣AJ752.  If you bid 5S now, he’ll pass and you’ve missed your slam. With a better hand -- ♠AK42   A843  ♣A752 – he’ll bid 6D, but neither of you will know you have a laydown grand slam.

This is one variety of the Tortured Cuebid Auction (TCA), where you show an ace, partner cuebids back to you, and you’re at the five-level before you realize you can’t get the information you need. On this deal, choosing keycard Blackwood at your second turn would have created a much easier, more accurate auction for both of you.

The auto-cuebid

Another type of TCA can develop after a below-game raise in the two-over-one bidding system.

  You       Partner
    1S          2C
    2H         3H

You hold  ♠KJ1083   QJ76  AJ7  ♣3 .

Partner’s 2C forced to game, and his 3H promised at least moderate extra values  (14+ pts.). A common misconception is that this space-saving raise invites you to make a “free” cuebid on the way to game. Some may assume that it actually demands a cuebid, no matter how ugly your opening bid.

An experienced partner, however, probably won’t share that view. A 4D bid here will sound like a serious move toward slam and get him caught up in the cuebidding. He’ll bid 4S or 5C and you’ll land in 5H – if you can stop there – with what may be an ordinary fit and only 26 high-card points.  

Opener’s cuebid in this auction should promise something extra (a strong 14+ points). With a dead minimum, just raise to game and let partner decide if his hand warrants a slam try. If he has enough to make 6H opposite your hand, he’ll bid again over 4H.

The futile cuebid

  You     LHO   Partner   RHO
   1H       3D        3H           4D

You hold  ♠AJ92  AK98763   A4   ♣Void?

Science often has to take a back seat to instinct when the opponents jam your auction. You could try showing your power with a 4S cuebid here, but what will it accomplish? It won’t be enough to talk partner into bidding 6H, and even if he can cuebid the club ace, that’s not a critical card for slam.

With or without the club ace, 6H – even 7H -- should have a play if dummy has a singleton diamond and/or a spade honor or shortness. No cuebidding sequence will locate those values nor convince partner they’re what you need. He surely won’t bid past 5H with  ♠K3  10542  53   ♣Q7654  or   ♠Q743  Q42  5   ♣QJ865.

Realists will accept that partner can’t make the decision, so they’ll make their best guess -- 5H for pessimists, a practical jump to 6H for others. Miracle seekers will cuebid 4S and realize later that they still have no idea if partner has the right cards. At best, the cuebid just delays the inevitable. At worst, it gives the opponents room to keep bidding, and could even talk LHO out of a potentially helpful lead of his singleton spade.

In the next issue: “Mark-time” cuebids and other TCA’s

   ©  2010   Karen Walker