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H. Anthony Medley is an Attorney, an MPAA-accredited film critic, and author of Learn to Play Bridge Like A Boss,Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, and UCLA Basketball: The Real Story. He is a Silver Life Master and an ACBL-accredited Director and the author of a bridge column for a Los Angeles newspaper.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Western Cue Bid

Some time ago a pair of players had a hand much like this one:

West          East
K2           53
AK974     32
KJ98        AQT742
96          AJ4

West            North            East            South
1H                1S                  2D               2S
3D                Pass               4C               Pass
4D                Pass               5D               Pass
Pass              Pass 

East played in 5 Diamonds and went down one after a Spade lead. North took two Spade winners, and the defense later got a Club trick when the Heart suit did not divide well.

This is a disaster for East-West because West can make 3 No Trump. There is no defense to it. How do you think the bidding should have gone? Some players thought that West should bid No Trump instead of raising Diamonds, but that seems like a biased view. For all West knew, slam in Diamonds was available.

There is a convention that would have gotten West to 3 No Trump. It has many names, but the most popular is the Western Cue bid.

The way it works is simple. The opponents have bid a suit but your side is marked with most of the HCP. If your side has not found a major suit fit and if it is clear that your side does not have a major suit contract available, a cue-bid of the opponents’ suit does not show a control, as do many cue-bids. It instead says, “I think we can make 3 No Trump if you have a stopper in their suit.” In other words, it's "asking" and not "telling."

On this hand, East could have bid 3 Spades instead of 4 Clubs, asking, "Do you have a spade stopper?" West does have a Spade stopper and bids 3 No Trump. West is not worried about Clubs because East has suggested that the hand be played in no trump, so East must not be worried about Clubs. Further, no one has bid them and East rates to have something in Clubs given he has shown a good hand. In any event, West must trust his partner that Clubs won't be a problem and answer East's question, "Do you have a Spade stopper?" by bidding 3N.

Here is another example.

West          East
AQ          874
87           QJ92
AKJ875    Q942
JT8         A9
West            North            East   South
2D                P                  3D      P
3H*               P                  3N      P
P                  P
* Western Cue

South opens 1 Heart and West bids 2 Diamonds. West does not have enough to double first and so is obliged to overcall. East makes a good raise to 3 Diamonds. Do not forget to raise your partner’s overcalls when you have support. A raise does a lot of good. West can see six likely Diamond tricks, and with South opening the bidding it is pretty sure that if a Spade finesse is needed, it will work. So West bids 3 Hearts, asking if East has a Heart stopper. He does and he bids 3 No Trump as requested because 3 No Trump will make almost all the time. It would take extremely bad luck to go down.

One big advantage to the Western Cue bid is that the person with the stopper is declarer, so the lead will be by her LHO and thus into her stopper. If the person without the stopper is playing the hand, the lead will go through the person with the stopper, which often means that it's not a stopper after all.

Western Cue only applies when you do not have a major suit fit. If you do have a major suit fit, cue bidding opponents' suit generally means you have first round control, either a void or the ace of that suit.

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