reverse bid

Cue bid

In contract bridge, a cue bid (also, cuebid or cue-bid, pronounced queue-bid) is a term that applies to two types of bid:

  • A bid of a suit that has already been bid by opponents.
  • A slam-investigating bid made during an auction's later rounds that shows control of a suit. This is a traditional use of the term, but in the early 21st century the usage appears to be giving way to control bid.

Bid of the opponents' suit

After the opponents have bid a suit, a cue bid of that suit is normally intended as a forcing bid. It shows interest in contesting the contract and asks partner to describe his hand.

Immediate cue bid

An immediate cue bid is made directly over opponent's opening bid. Traditionally, it denotes a hand unsuited for a takeout double. For example, after RHO opens 1, a hand such as would prefer not to double for takeout, because partner might make a penalty pass. A cue bid of 2, as traditionally used, would be appropriate: it tends to show great high card strength, probably with a hand pattern unsuited to defense. Partner is expected to respond in his longest suit, and the subsequent bidding proceeds naturally.

However, those very strong hands are rare enough that the traditional meaning has been largely abandoned, and other meanings assigned to the immediate cue bid. The most common treatment is now the Michaels cuebid, which shows a weakish or moderate hand with at least 5-5 in two unbid suits.

The jump cue bid

The immediate jump cue bid of opener's suit has a specific meaning. It is typically a long totally solid minor with stoppers in the other two suits. Partner is asked to bid 3NT with a stop in the suit opened or else to bid four or five clubs (pass or correct).

Cue bidding in the later rounds

Generally, after the opponents have bid a suit, a cue bid of that suit shows strength, and forces the bidding to continue for at least one round. The following are common situations:

  • After partner's takeout double or overcall, the cue bid shows a hand with at least the strength of an opening bid:

West North East South
1 Dbl Pass 2
West North East South
1 1 Pass 2

  • If the pair does not play strong immediate cuebids, the takeout double followed by a cue bid shows a very strong hand:

West North East South
1 Dbl Pass 1
Pass 2

  • Immediately after RHO's overcall, it shows a strong hand, probably fitting partner's suit, and is usually regarded as game-forcing:

West North East South
1 1♠ 2♠

  • After RHO's overcall, in a later round but below 3NT, it often shows a stopper in the opponents' suit, so that partner can bid notrump and thus place the contract advantageously (see Antipositional). This situation calls for prior partnership discussion. For example, the cue bid in this context can be used to ask for a stopper, rather than to show one. In the US, the asking approach is known as a "Western cue bid". Sometimes, the delayed cue bid can be used as an advance cue bid (see below).

West North East South
1 1 Dbl
Pass 2 Pass 2

Slam seeking

Once a trump suit has been agreed and the bidding cannot die below the game level (e.g. 1–3, or ... 2–3, or 1–1; 3, any subsequent bid of a suit other than the trump suit is a cue bid showing first round control of that suit, i.e. the ace or a void.

Passing a suit that could be bid tends to deny holding first-round control in that suit. Bids of suits already bid show second-round control. Returning to the trump suit shows a lack of interest in slam or not having anything else to bid. For example:

South West North East
1 pass 1 pass
3 pass 4 pass
4 pass 4 pass
4 pass 4NT pass
South has shown 16-18 total points, while North's hand is largely unknown. North's bid of 4 is a cue-bid showing first-round control of clubs and an interest in slam. After South's bid of 4 North bids 4, an apparent signoff. It may well be that North wants to bid a slam, but has two fast losers in the spade suit. After South bids 4 showing control of the spade suit, North employs the Blackwood convention to proceed further.

The main disadvantage of both Blackwood and Gerber is that they give little information about voids, which can be as powerful as aces under certain circumstances. Cue bidding is designed to pass information on "first round control" i.e. an ace or a void.

In the "Italian" system of slam cue-bidding, the cheapest suit is always bid first. Thus, in the example above North's bid of 4 would deny control of spades, and therefore South would only proceed if he had control of spades, which in this case his continuation of 4 instead of a signoff of 4 would promise. Often, Italian cue bids only promise 2nd round control (a king or a singleton).

Basic cue bidding

In "basic cue bidding", after the trump suit has been agreed (implicitly or explicitly), the first bid of a side suit by either partner shows a control. The most common approach is that first-round controls are bid first, and second-round controls are bid in later rounds of bidding. Some players, though, bid both first and second-round controls in the first round, and confirm first-round controls only later. Accurate cue bidding therefore requires perfect partnership understanding.

Advanced cue bidding

An "advanced" cue bid is made before the trump suit is implicitly agreed; the partner is not aware yet whether the trump fit was found and if the suit bid is real or presents a cue bid.

West East
1 2
2NT 3
3 3
In the example, 3 bid is an advanced cue bid; East's subsequent raise in hearts preceded by "high reverse" in minors makes it clear that he had the primary heart support from the start. The auction can now proceed by normal cue bids, reaching comfortable 6 in the end.

However, advanced cue bid is a subtle tool, prone to misunderstanding if the partnership is not sufficiently well coordinated and on the same wavelength. The following disaster struck world champion Paul Chemla, playing with Catherine d'Ovidio in 7th European Mixed Championships in 2002:

West East
2 2
2 2NT
3NT 4
[1] Strong and artificial
[2] Waiting
[3] Ambiguous but forcing
D'Ovidio wanted to "refine" the bidding with an advance cue bid of 4 before supporting spades, but Chemla took another view and passed, imagining partner with a weak distributive hand with long diamonds. 4 went down three, while 6 and 6NT were on, as the spade finesse was working.


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