The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (February 2011)

   9.  They analyze the auction from partner’s point of view.  (Part 14) 

In the previous issue, we looked at the disasters that result from unintentional use of the Auction-Ending Cuebid – a bid that you believe is artificial and forcing, but partner interprets as natural and passable.

The most spectacular failures occur when you’re trying for slam, but low-level cuebids – even those in the opponent’s suit -- can be dangerous, too. Here are some situations where you’ll want to think twice before you make an ostensibly forcing cuebid: 

        LHO       Partner     RHO      You

 (1)    1C          DBL          1H          2H

 (2)    1C          DBL         1H          DBL
         2C          Pass          Pass        2H   

 (3)    1C          Pass          1H          2H

If you and partner haven’t discussed the meaning of 2H, don’t try using it as an artificial force.

You can spot the potential pitfalls if you’re aware of how other players treat these sequences. Many experts recommend that 2H should be a natural, limited bid in all three auctions. If partner has read their books or played with other partners who share that idea, he may assume the natural meaning is “expert standard”. In (1), his picture of your hand will be
  ♠K62   QJ1092   1093   ♣54

In (2), your double is a frequent source of misunderstandings. If you intended the double as responsive (showing length in the unbid suits) and your 2H rebid as a force, it’s possible that partner has missed both messages.

The conventional wisdom is that responsive doubles are “on” only when the opponents bid and raise the same suit. If that’s partner’s view, he’ll take your double as penalty, showing heart strength, and your 2H rebid as natural with extra length. This auction is similar to (1), but by starting with the penalty double, you show more strength and invite game. In (2), the hand partner might expect is
   ♠KQ2   KJ1082   J6   ♣543

In (3), your 2H is popularly played as a natural overcall, showing a long, strong suit and good, but not forcing, values. Since responder often has a weak 4-card holding, it’s possible that his suit is your best contract and you need a way to get it into the auction. Unless you’ve previously agreed that 2H is a Michaels-type cuebid, partner may believe you’re showing a hand such as
   ♠J64   AKJ1065   KQ3   ♣8

Even if you discuss these auctions in advance, there will always be new variations you haven’t covered. When those happen, it’s helpful to have broader “default” agreements that can be applied to ambiguous bids. Here’s a recommended when-in-doubt guideline for auctions where your opponents have bid two suits:

   A bid of your RHO’s suit is natural. A bid of LHO’s suit is artificial and forcing.

Another way to think of this is that the “cuebid” is natural if you’re sitting over the opponent who bid the suit (most of the outstanding trumps will be onside). It’s artificial if you’re under the bidder.

If you apply that guideline to the auctions above, your 2H shows hearts and 2C would be the artificial force. In auctions (1) and (2), your other option – and the one that will be easiest for partner to understand -- is to just make a value bid in your own suit.

Like most bridge “rules”, there are exceptions, and you’ll sometimes have to trust partner’s bridge logic to work them out. How would you expect partner to interpret your 2C bid in this auction?

    LHO    Partner    RHO     You   
     1C          Pass         1S         Pass
    1NT        DBL         Pass       2C

More about this and other cuebid dilemmas in the next issue.

   ©  2011   Karen Walker