One of my all-time favorite bids is the cuebid, which is an artificial forcing bid in a suit one cannot possibly wish to play.

I know that sounds like balderdash, but the cuebid’s meaning will become clear as we study its many different uses.

First, let’s be clear about the labels of the four players at the bridge table. The person who makes the first bid is the opener; the person who names a suit after the opening bid is the overcaller; the partner of the opener is called the responder; and finally, the partner of the overcaller is called the advancer.

Let’s say the opener bids 1 club; the overcaller, 1 heart, and the responder, 1 spade. If the advancer now bids 2 clubs (the opener’s suit), he is making a cuebid. He just made a bid that he cannot possibly wish to play.

The cuebid in the above situation means several things:

  • It asks partner, “How good is your overcall?” Since overcalls in modern bridge are wide-range (8 to 17), the advancer uses a cuebid of the opponent’s suit to inquire about the size of partner’s overcall.
  • It promises at least 10 “dummy points” in support of partner’s suit.
  • It does not promise any control of the cuebid suit.
  • If partner’s overcall is in a minor suit, the cuebid is often a search for No Trump.

Now the overcaller must bid because he cannot leave the contract in two of the opponent’s suit.

A rebid of the same suit shows a minimum overcall and does not show extra length.

A jump rebid of the same suit shows a sound overcall; a rebid of game in the same suit shows an opening bid, plus.

A rebid of No Trump shows an opening bid, plus a stopper in the opponent’s suit.

Since the cuebid is the only forcing bid the advancer can make, the bid has a high frequency of occurrence. Remember it does not promise any control of the cuebid suit.

Let’s say the bidding proceeds like this: 1 club by opener; 1 spade by overcaller; pass by responder; 2 clubs by advancer. The advancer’s hand might look like this: QJ5 K987 AJ9 643. Or like this: A876 KQ98 A85 63.

If the spade overcaller has AKQ96 32 964 763, he will simply rebid 2S after the cuebid; if he holds AKJ98 A54 K87 98, he rebids 4S.

The cuebid is also used by the advancer after doubles, by the responder after overcalls, by the advancer for a trump search, as Stayman, and conventionally (as in Michaels cuebids).

One need not be an expert to use a cuebid, but to advance as a bridge player, the cuebid and its uses is a vital component of a winning player’s arsenal.

Join us on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Club, Port Royal Plaza, this winter for our study of “cuebids in a nutshell.”

Dr. Kathie Walsh, an ABTA teacher of the year, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club. kbwalsh@road