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Retro Edition

Matchpoints. None vulnerable.
♠A 3   A Q 3 2   Q 6 3  ♣A K 7 4

West North East South
1♣
3 3♠ Pass ?

What’s your call?

3NT
4♣ 4 4 4♠ 4NT
5♣ 5 5 5♠ 5NT
6♣ 6 6 6♠ 6NT
7♣ 7 7 7♠ 7NT
Redbl Pass
Click to reveal awards
Bid Award
3NT 100
4 70
4NT 50
5♠ 40
Panelists
August Boehm, Larry Cohen, Mel Colchamiro, The Coopers, Allan Falk, The Gordons, The Joyces, Betty Ann Kennedy, Mike Lawrence, Jeff Meckstroth, Jill Meyers, Barry Rigal, Steve Robinson, Kerri Sanborn, Don Stack, The Sutherlins, Karen Walker, Bridge Baron
The old ambiguous cuebid

Remember when a cuebid of opponent’s suit meant something? Maybe support for partner’s suit? Maybe a control? Maybe asking about control on the way to 3NT? Nowadays, we have the “ambiguous cuebid” (that should be its official conventional designation — add it to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge right now); it might show support; it might be a control; it might be both, or it might mean absolutely nothing except that partner can’t come up with a more creative bid; you’re a level higher and you can’t pass. What it means for sure is that you’re going to lose the postmortem if you interpret the cuebid in any way other than as partner intended. And yet sometimes, a cuebid is all you’ve got to find out if partner has anything more to say.

Here, an annoying preempt interrupts what would undoubtedly have been a more reasonable conversation between North and South had the auction stayed on the ground. A freely bidding 3♠ partner can’t be all bad. What’s your move?

The majority of panelists choose to underbid 3NT. And they aren’t happy about it.

“Ugh,” says Falk. “I hate to underbid by this much and I’m sure that at the table, North–South played 3NT down three when West led a diamond from K–J–10–x–x–x–x and found his partner with A–x, and slam was cold in spades. But I’ve also seen North bid 3♠ on Q–x–x–x–x and worse, so I just don’t see how I can do anything else”

Boehm takes a cautious approach on this hand. “3NT is ultraconservative, but I have no descriptive slam try unless 4NT is natural, and I’m not holding my breath. Maybe bad splits will scuttle a slam.”

“Great hand, but what to bid?” wonders Stack as he, too, pulls the 3NT card from the box. “To cuebid without a diamond control and trump support does not appeal, so we will take the low road.”

Colchamiro says he is taking the low road by bidding 3NT “because the only high road is 4, which isn’t that appealing. Partner is sure to follow that with 4♠ and now what? I’ve missed slams before. I’m sort of relegating us to a possible 30% board to avoid a 0% board. And some days, this strategy leads to a 70% board.”

“Hardest hand of the set,” says Lawrence. “My guess? 3NT. Raising spades is probably better in terms of getting us to a game, but 3NT leaves partner room to make a second bid, which may be helpful to us.”

Sanborn: “3NT. Preempts work. Use them more often.”

Then we have the 4 bidders:

Robinson, with the ambiguous cuebid: “4. With 19 points I have to do something and since I can’t figure out what else to do, I will cuebid, which puts partner in the driver’s seat.”

Meyers: “4. My hand is too good not to cuebid.”

The Gordons call the convention by its rightful name. “4. We need to tell partner our hand has potential without getting to the five level. The only way to do this is 4, the old ambiguous cuebid. If partner signs off, we will give up. We are not concerned about spades. Partner must have great strength there since he doesn’t have much in the other suits.”

Meckstroth expresses some concern about where 4 will take them, but feels it’s “important to show the big hand despite the questionable fit.”

Kennedy cuebids 4 because the hand is too good for a 4♠ raise and her Q may not be a stopper for notrump. “Plus I have way too many high-card points to sign off at 3NT.”

Rigal and Cohen bid 4NT and immediately go on the defensive.

Rigal: “4NT. This is quantitative — with spade support, one starts with 4. Yes, I know this may not be popular, but even those who disagree on paper will know in their hearts it is the right way to play.”

Cohen: “4NT. Yes, many would take this as Blackwood, but it shouldn’t be. If I wanted to Blackwood, I could start with 4 then bid 4NT. So this should be quantitative — even if I don’t get a lot of support in the scoring from my peers on the panel. How else can I show 18–19 balanced?”

The Coopers and the Sutherlins choose to bid 5♠.

“We have too good a hand to settle for game, not good enough to insist on slam and the wrong diamond holding to RKC,” say the Sutherlins. “So we invite slam. 5♠ is very straight forward.”

The Coopers agree. “5♠. We will get to slam if partner has a diamond control. Hope he has good spades!”

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