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Cue bidding for Controls First round controls first?

#1 User is offline   Liversidge 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 00:33

My partner and I (both novices) are just getting into cue bidding for slams. Depending on which resource (internet/book) we look at, the advice varies. Some (e.g. Sandra Landy, Larry Cohen) say your first cue bid in a suit can show first or second round control. Landy says that this is'far and away the best method'! Others (Klinger et al) say you should always bid first round controls first and if you bid the suit again you are showing second round control (that's what we are starting to learn, but it's very early days and we could switch).

What are the pro's and cons of each method, and does it vary depending on whether you are cue bidding for controls below/beyond game?


We play RKCB, but cue bid with potential voids, such as when the bidding goes 1 4 (splinter), or when we are worried about a small doubleton and need to know if partner has a control. Sometimes we use a combination of cue bidding and RKCB if we get the control answers we need below 4NT. We also use non-control showing cue bids below game for other reasons (UCB, trial bids, Michaels etc)
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#2 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 03:09

Control bidding has a number of functions:

1) To make sure that we don't have two immediate losers in any side suit. If you then afterwards use RKC to check that you don't miss two keycards, you know that you won't have two "fast" losers.

2) To make sure that you don't have an immediate loser in a particular suit. This is mostly useful if you know that you don't have any losers in the trump suit and you have plenty of tricks - now if you don't have any immediate losers in any suits you can bid grand, and if you have an immediate loser in just one suit you can bid small slam, provided that you don't have two immediate losers in any suit.

3) To help partner evaluate his hand. Showing and ace or a king (or sometimes even a queen) in a suit helps him appreciate his honours in that suit. Showing shortness in a particular suit helps him not to worry about his lack of honours in that suit.

4) To show that you have slam interest, i.e. you are too strong just to bid game but not strong enough to punt slam (or bid RKC directly).

For 1) you should be treating ace, void or singleton as a control. Usually also the king but it can of course happen that the lead goes throguh your king towards AQ so if the auction suggests that this is likely to be the case, maybe you shouldn't bid a king.

For 2) you should bid an ace or a void primarily. You can bid a king or a singleton in the second round.

For 3) you should bid an ace or usually also a king, unless you have the understanding that in certain situations it shows specifically shortness.

For 4) it doesn't matter so much what kind of control it shows but you need to have an understanding about in which situations you must show a control if you have it, and in which situations you should only do so if your hand has better slam potential than you already showed. This is the most difficult part of control bidding.

Conclusion: Since 1) and 3) are needed much more often than 2), you should probably forget about first round controls. Mixed controls (ace, king, void, singleton) is probably the simplest.

There are situations where 3) is needed so on those situation you need to have an understanding of whether it shows and honour or shortness - that it can be either is not helpful if you want to use it to help partner reevaluate. It is complicated to distinguish between situations in which it must be shortness, in which it must be an honour, and in which it can be either. So I would recomend just to say that it can always be either. You can maybe make the exception that you don't show shortness in partner's suit and that you don't show a king in which partner is known to have shortness.

First round controls go back to the time before Blackwood was invented. In that time, control bids were used to making sure that you don't miss two aces. Nowadays, first round controls are still usefull in grand slam auctions, but it is complicated to distinguish between grand slam auctions and small slam auctions.
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#3 User is offline   mikestar13 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 03:34

View Posthelene_t, on 2016-February-09, 03:09, said:

Control bidding has a number of functions:

1) To make sure that we don't have two immediate losers in any side suit. If you then afterwards use RKC to check that you don't miss two keycards, you know that you won't have two "fast" losers.

2) To make sure that you don't have an immediate loser in a particular suit. This is mostly useful if you know that you don't have any losers in the trump suit and you have plenty of tricks - now if you don't have any immediate losers in any suits you can bid grand, and if you have an immediate loser in just one suit you can bid small slam, provided that you don't have two immediate losers in any suit.

3) To help partner evaluate his hand. Showing and ace or a king (or sometimes even a queen) in a suit helps him appreciate his honours in that suit. Showing shortness in a particular suit helps him not to worry about his lack of honours in that suit.

4) To show that you have slam interest, i.e. you are too strong just to bid game but not strong enough to punt slam (or bid RKC directly).

For 1) you should be treating ace, void or singleton as a control. Usually also the king but it can of course happen that the lead goes throguh your king towards AQ so if the auction suggests that this is likely to be the case, maybe you shouldn't bid a king.

For 2) you should bid an ace or a void primarily. You can bid a king or a singleton in the second round.

For 3) you should bid an ace or usually also a king, unless you have the understanding that in certain situations it shows specifically shortness.

For 4) it doesn't matter so much what kind of control it shows but you need to have an understanding about in which situations you must show a control if you have it, and in which situations you should only do so if your hand has better slam potential than you already showed. This is the most difficult part of control bidding.

Conclusion: Since 1) and 3) are needed much more often than 2), you should probably forget about first round controls. Mixed controls (ace, king, void, singleton) is probably the simplest.

There are situations where 3) is needed so on those situation you need to have an understanding of whether it shows and honour or shortness - that it can be either is not helpful if you want to use it to help partner reevaluate. It is complicated to distinguish between situations in which it must be shortness, in which it must be an honour, and in which it can be either. So I would recomend just to say that it can always be either. You can maybe make the exception that you don't show shortness in partner's suit and that you don't show a king in which partner is known to have shortness.

First round controls go back to the time before Blackwood was invented. In that time, control bids were used to making sure that you don't miss two aces. Nowadays, first round controls are still usefull in grand slam auctions, but it is complicated to distinguish between grand slam auctions and small slam auctions.


This is an excellent summary and I definitely agree mixed cues (also known as Italian-style cues) are the best method.

Some useful understandings:

For the sake of example, let's assume that we have agreed spades as trump and partner's last bid was 3 and its your bid.

1) Cue bid up the line--cheapest control first:. 4 would show a control; 4 would show a control but deny a control; 4 would show a control but deny a control in either minor,

2) When cuebidding an enemy suit or an unbid suit, treat all controls equally: show an Ace, King, singleton, or void.

3) In partner's bid suit other than trumps (bid naturally, not 2=artificial and forcing opening, for example), do not show shortness, but show the ace, king or queen.

4) In you own naturally bid side suit, a cuebid should show two of the top three honors.





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#4 User is offline   NickRW 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 06:17

Wot Helene said.
"Pass is your friend" - my brother in law - who likes to bid a lot.
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#5 User is offline   Liversidge 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 06:43

View Posthelene_t, on 2016-February-09, 03:09, said:



Conclusion: Since 1) and 3) are needed much more often than 2), you should probably forget about first round controls. Mixed controls (ace, king, void, singleton) is probably the simplest.



We had a hand like this last week. Showing only first round controls I think (if I have got it right!)it would quickly have become apparent that there were two losers and the contract would have stopped in 5. But using mixed controls then East would have been in a quandry after West bids 5 not knowing if West had A or K.
Should East have splintered? Should have just bid 4 instead of cue bidding?

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#6 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 07:03

View Postmikestar13, on 2016-February-09, 03:34, said:

This is an excellent summary and I definitely agree mixed cues (also known as Italian-style cues) are the best method.

Some useful understandings:

For the sake of example, let's assume that we have agreed spades as trump and partner's last bid was 3 and its your bid.

1) Cue bid up the line--cheapest control first:. 4 would show a control; 4 would show a control but deny a control; 4 would show a control but deny a control in either minor,

2) When cuebidding an enemy suit or an unbid suit, treat all controls equally: show an Ace, King, singleton, or void.

3) In partner's bid suit other than trumps (bid naturally, not 2=artificial and forcing opening, for example), do not show shortness, but show the ace, king or queen.

4) In you own naturally bid side suit, a cuebid should show two of the top three honors.


Discuss what 3N means in a cue bidding sequence. (most experts use either serious/non serious so suggesting a mild/serious slam try depending on which version you use, we actually use it as a cue in the most expensive suit)

Cue bidding in partner's suit, don't cue a shortage first time, a subsequent cue having missed out a cue in that suit you had room to make earlier is a shortage.

I don't like the cue of Q in partner's suit, my partner always seems to hold Axxxx when this happens and whether I have Kx or Qx is critical.

Not sure about 4, partner may merely have to know that his xx is not 2 losers.
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#7 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 07:27

View PostLiversidge, on 2016-February-09, 06:43, said:

We had a hand like this last week. Showing only first round controls I think (if I have got it right!)it would quickly have become apparent that there were two losers and the contract would have stopped in 5. But using mixed controls then East would have been in a quandry after West bids 5 not knowing if West had A or K.

Cue bidding at the 5 level is a little different, partly because we are no longer checking to make sure that the 5 level is safe. There are pairs that play Italian cues at the 4 level but traditional cues at the 5 level for example.

In your specific example, if West had A or A in addition they would have used RKCB. Even with A instead of K, many would prefer RKCB to 5 and a more typical hand is probably AK and 2 small diamonds. Hence it is obvious for East to pass because the slam is almost always going to be <50% here.

The more interesting question to ask yourself is what 5 over 5 would mean. Is that showing the A or a general slam try (aka Last Train)? There are lots of situations like this where more than one meaning for a call is possible so it is important as a pair to make some general rules.
(-: Zel :-)
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#8 User is offline   Caitlynne 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 07:59

First, congratulations on recognizing the importance of learning how to bid naturally rather than relying on devices like Blackwood. You already are way ahead of the curve relative to most bridge players.

I am going to go out on a limb and tell you that I think that it is best to learn the standard approach first. First round controls before second round controls. Why? Because it is less complex. In my experience, cue bidding first or second round controls indiscriminately leads to misunderstandings and "accidents;" it is a method for experienced partnerships consisting of two experienced players.

Here is the principle that guides: It is better to play simpler methods well than more sophisticated methods unreliably.
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#9 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 08:18

View PostLiversidge, on 2016-February-09, 06:43, said:

We had a hand like this last week. Showing only first round controls I think (if I have got it right!)it would quickly have become apparent that there were two losers and the contract would have stopped in 5. But using mixed controls then East would have been in a quandry after West bids 5 not knowing if West had A or K.
Should East have splintered? Should have just bid 4 instead of cue bidding?


In this auction I think that W should only bid 5 if a diamond control is all he needs for slam. AKxxxx-Axxx-Qxx-void for example.

With the given hand it is better to ask for keycards. It is one of those hands where W wants to be in slam if and only if you have four keycards together.
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#10 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 08:35

View Posthelene_t, on 2016-February-09, 08:18, said:

In this auction I think that W should only bid 5 if a diamond control is all he needs for slam. AKxxxx-Axxx-Qxx-void for example.

The problem with this is that it makes the given auction - 5 followed by 5 over 5 - impossible. So West must need something else in addition to a diamond control for slam. This is why I think the prototypical hand is one with 3 red suit losers (xx and no A). Of course others are possible too (A instead of A for example) but I do not see the hand that wants to be in slam opposite any diamond control as a valid one for this auction.
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#11 User is offline   NickRW 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 08:53

View PostLiversidge, on 2016-February-09, 06:43, said:


...But using mixed controls then East would have been in a quandry after West bids 5 not knowing if West had A or K.


I think you're giving mixed cue's a hard time. One hand proves nothing very much and there are always hands that are difficult for one method that would have been easier using a different one. IMO their first and foremost use is to establish below 4NT whether there is a suit with two quick losers or not. You see so many people (many who should know better) employing a Blackwood variant with two quick losers in a suit, find that they've got all controls bar one and still be none the wiser whether they can punt 6 or not.

Quote

Should East have splintered?


I think so.

Quote

Should have just bid 4 instead of cue bidding?


Hard question I think.

One way of playing splinters is to restrict the hands to minimal game raises as here, or hands that are strong enough to take another bid even if partner signs off (and putting the intermediate category through another avenue such as 2NT or whatever). So opener rebids assuming the weaker option. In which case opener is looking at minimal wastage in hearts (good), some extras in hand (good), but where are responders high cards? There can only be a maximum of 9 in the blacks leaving it highly that there are high cards in diamonds opposite the ace singleton (not so good). So it is more borderline than immediately apparent to cue 5.

Another point is that Blackwood *is*, at least, a reasonable tool on this hand (there are no suits with two quick losers after the splinter.

The final point is that opener has offered to sign off in 5 and responder has little extra to show apart from the quality of trump support. Some might say that respecting the sign off is clear. (Though others will no doubt argue that after the slam try (5) and hearing about the most encouraging thing opener could have heard (5), then 5 is querying the trump quality. Which is I suppose a matter for partnership discussion - just what does the 5-5-5 sequence imply (as opposed to Blackwood or whatever)).

Finally don't beat yourself up about a missed slam or one that fails. It is a set back it is true, but as long as these events are minimal you'll be doing better than most.
"Pass is your friend" - my brother in law - who likes to bid a lot.
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#12 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 08:59

View PostLiversidge, on 2016-February-09, 06:43, said:

We had a hand like this last week. Showing only first round controls I think (if I have got it right!)it would quickly have become apparent that there were two losers and the contract would have stopped in 5. But using mixed controls then East would have been in a quandry after West bids 5 not knowing if West had A or K.
Should East have splintered? Should have just bid 4 instead of cue bidding?



From my perspective, this is a good hand for Blackwood.

Partner has splintered in a suit where you hold no wasted values.
All you really care about is how many Aces partner has an whether he holds the King of Spades.
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#13 User is online   rmnka447 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 13:22

Neither method of cueing is foolproof. Both methods have some advantages and disadvantages. Both methods will miss some slams that the other method can find.

For the first round controls first approach, there may be some hands where it is difficult to ascertain all the required controls for slam are available because of the order in which controls need to be bid. Then again, there will be hands where knowing the controls shown are 1st round controls are sufficient to allow bidding slam.

For the bid any mixed control approach, be aware that you'll often have to use RKCB to verify that you have sufficient 1st round controls to bid slam. That requirement sometimes makes it difficult to find some slams. OTOH, being able to cheaply show a 2nd round control may allow initiating slam exploration with certain hands that you couldn't with a first round controls first approach. It also seems that there are more nuances to what each control bid may mean when using this approach.
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#14 User is offline   lrussell 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 14:10

View PostCaitlynne, on 2016-February-09, 07:59, said:

First, congratulations on recognizing the importance of learning how to bid naturally rather than relying on devices like Blackwood. You already are way ahead of the curve relative to most bridge players.

I am going to go out on a limb and tell you that I think that it is best to learn the standard approach first. First round controls before second round controls. Why? Because it is less complex. In my experience, cue bidding first or second round controls indiscriminately leads to misunderstandings and "accidents;" it is a method for experienced partnerships consisting of two experienced players.

Here is the principle that guides: It is better to play simpler methods well than more sophisticated methods unreliably.



Very sound advise.
Lorne Russell
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#15 User is offline   Liversidge 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 14:17

View Posthrothgar, on 2016-February-09, 08:59, said:

From my perspective, this is a good hand for Blackwood.

Partner has splintered in a suit where you hold no wasted values.
All you really care about is how many Aces partner has an whether he holds the King of Spades.


Change 4 to 4.



By my reckoning (which may be suspect!) now 6 will make, though RKCB would reveal that responder has only one key card. With two key cards missing, West will sign off in 5
Mixed control bids will not identify the heart void and again West will sign off in 5.
Using first round controls won't West take a punt at 6?

As quite a few responders have pointed out, each system has its pros and cons, and you can produce hands like this one that support the argument for any one system. Plenty of good explanations here, which are much appreciated.
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#16 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 14:39

There are more advanced responses to blackwood which would show say an odd number of aces and a void, although you're taking a risk of getting too high.

The other way around this would be unpopular with these forums, but is to do what we do, and use the 4 splinter to show a void, using either 3 as a singleton splinter or going via a 2N raise with the singleton.
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#17 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 17:03

In addition to what CY writes about void-showing responses and singleton/void splinters, the hand with a void is too strong for a 4 splinter. The "one-under" splinter needs to have a fairly tight range and if you allow this hand as well as a minimum game force with a singleton, it makes for impossible problems for Opener. This is where another concept, sometimes known as maxi-splinters, comes in; but there I suspect we are getting into areas of system probably best left out of an N/B discussion.
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#18 User is offline   mikestar13 

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Posted 2016-February-09, 17:26

View PostCyberyeti, on 2016-February-09, 07:03, said:

Discuss what 3N means in a cue bidding sequence. (most experts use either serious/non serious so suggesting a mild/serious slam try depending on which version you use, we actually use it as a cue in the most expensive suit)

Cue bidding in partner's suit, don't cue a shortage first time, a subsequent cue having missed out a cue in that suit you had room to make earlier is a shortage.

I don't like the cue of Q in partner's suit, my partner always seems to hold Axxxx when this happens and whether I have Kx or Qx is critical.

Not sure about 4, partner may merely have to know that his xx is not 2 losers.


My notes are derived from Richard Pavlicek, but I do agree that a simpler style will also work well. My liking for RP's method as is due to the fact it helps us judge whether the side suit is a trick source.
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#19 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-February-10, 00:59

View PostLiversidge, on 2016-February-09, 14:17, said:

Change 4 to 4.



By my reckoning (which may be suspect!) now 6 will make, though RKCB would reveal that responder has only one key card. With two key cards missing, West will sign off in 5
Mixed control bids will not identify the heart void and again West will sign off in 5.
Using first round controls won't West take a punt at 6?

As quite a few responders have pointed out, each system has its pros and cons, and you can produce hands like this one that support the argument for any one system. Plenty of good explanations here, which are much appreciated.

Mixed controls will get you there - a splinter followed by 5 shows first round control. More generally, cuein a suit twice shows first round control.
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#20 User is offline   zewzew 

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Posted 2016-February-10, 01:21

My partner and l have reached two agreements:-

a) Bid second round controls first; first round controls will later be "understood" with blackwood.

b) Bid shortness with singleton not void, to see how far partner 's points are useful in auction.

We found these useful.
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