The Amorphous Cue Bid
from Section E of 100
Bridge Problems, New
Mike Cappelletti (2004)
upon a time during the olden days of bridge, there came to pass a rule
that a cue bid of the opponent's suit promised first round control of
that suit. Charles Goren declared in The Fundamentals of Contract
Bridge (1950), “When either partner makes a
bid in the
opponent’s suit, it indicates the ability to win the first trick of
that suit, either with the ace or by trumping.” When
this hand was presented to an expert panel, twice as many experts voted
for the 3 cue bid as
the 3 bid, which was my choice. Although the
cue bid does show a good hand, I think that the cue bid is very
inappropriate here. It only works out if partner then bids one of your
suits (spades or diamonds) which is unlikely. If partner makes the the
rather likely 3 bid over 3, you must bid 3, which will probably lead to
playing 3NT or 4.
time passed and bridge evolved, it became clear that on
too many hands, especially in preemptive competition, there wasn’t a
satisfactory bid available to show a strong hand, which did not have
first-round control of the opponent’s suit.
first step, circa early 50s, was to lessen the stringent first round
control requirement of the cue bid to second round control. Thus the
cue bid of the opponent’s
suit then either promised either the king of the opponent’s
suit—or the ace as before—or
a singleton in opponent’s
The final stage in the evolution (some would
say deterioration) of the cue bid came about logically. Since a cue bid
no longer promised first round control, why must it promise at least
second round control? Why not use the cue bid as an all-purpose
flexible strength showing bid? In fact, sometimes the cue bid need not
even show extra strength. Sometimes, it might simply be used as a
catch-all bid of convenience when there is nothing else to bid.
example, you opened a minor with a minimum hand. One or both opponents
have bid spades. Your partner has made a forcing 3 bid. Now it is your bid and
you have no heart fit, no spade stopper and no reason to bid
four-of-a-minor, which you would have been forced to bid in
old-fashioned bridge. In modern bridge, since you have nothing
else to bid and since you do not want to by pass 3NT—your partner may
have a stopper—you simply cue bid 3. Partner realizes that you
probably would have bid 3NT with a spade stopper.
the following examples you will find a number of instances of the
modern flexible amorphous cue bid. In many of these examples, there
is simply nothing better to bid.
A Classic Cue Bid
K J x x x
K Q J x
A J 10 x
is certainly a 2 cue bid by
everyone's standards. Anticipating that hearts will be trumps, this
hand not only has first round control of spades, it has excellent trump
support and strong holdings in each of the side suits.
A Western Cue Bid? Maybe.
A Q x
A Q J 10 x x x
above hand, your two-level 2 in competition promised at
least 10 points and at least five diamonds. On your next bid, you
would like very much to make a forcing 3 bid, but in standard bridge,
a 3 rebid would not be forcing.
You hand is much too strong to make a non-forcing bid.
do not want to raise your partner with a singleton spade, and you
certainly do not want to bid no trump without a stopper. You could jump
to four diamonds but that would take you beyond 3NT which might be the
best, and only makable, game. In the old days of bridge, a 3 cue bid here would promise
first round control of clubs. Fortunately, in modern bridge, the 3 cue bid here would merely
say, “I have a strong hand partner, please do
something helpful.” The
cue bidder might have a strong hand and may be looking for a club
stopper in order to play in no trump—as is the
case in this hand. Playing game in no trump instead of five of a minor
is particularly important at match point scoring.
modern interpretation of the 3 cue bid here has fully
evolved from showing a stopper to looking for a stopper. It is often
officially called a Western
Cue Bid, defined as looking for a stopper
in the opponent's suit. Of course, if partner dutifully bids 3NT
showing a stopper and then the cue bidder bids on, then perhaps it wasn’t
a Western Cue Bid after all?
If it was not Western,
then what did the cue bid show? Only the bidder knows.
K x x
K Q 10 9 x
above hand at IMPs scoring, Vul vs
non Vul opponents, is yet another fascinating solution
to a tough problem. You did not have quite enough to bid 2 over the 1 overcall. If it had gone,
pass, pass, reopening double by your partner, you would then have a
textbook jump to 3, showing a
good suit and 8 or 9 points; you are limited to less than 10 points
since you did not bid over 1.
bad news was that your nasty left hand opponent jacked it up to 2, which took up all your
jumping space and changed everything. The good news is that your
partner's free bid double over 2 shows a good hand, usually
16 points or more—but
sometimes shaded with good shape.
Since you are
forced to bid in this situation, a 3 bid could be very weak. You
have an absolute maximum for your pass of 1, and indeed, some very
aggressive players might have stretched a 2 bid. A mere 3 bid here would be woefully
inadequate, since you might easily make a game with this hand.
could jump to 4, but that
would get you past 3NT; you would strongly prefer not to play game on
the five level. If partner had something like queen-fifth of hearts and
three aces (only fourteen points—he
should have more), then you will probably make 3NT, but not 5.
should you bid? If you bid 3 here, your partner will
probably interpret is as Western (see above) and bid 3NT with a spade
stopper. If partner bids 4. well at least you have two
hearts and some kings for him. If partner bids 4 you will have to bid 5, and search for a new
partner. It might even make, especially if partner has a stiff spade.
a situation where no bid is perfect, you essentially have to gamble one
way or the other. Since this bidding problem was given as vulnerable at
IMPs, where there is a large premium for bidding games, the amorphous
cue bid is clearly the percentage action.
Cue Bid -- What Else?
Both Vul (Bridge World, March 1977)
is another example of why modern bridge evolved so that a cue bid no
longer promises first round control, or anything at all of that suit. In the olden days of bridge when it would have been unthinkable to bid 3 with two
small hearts, you would probably be forced to bid four or five diamonds
with this hand. But 4 is higher than 3NT. You
would strongly prefer to have a way to get your partner to bid 3NT
rather than play for eleven tricks in a minor.
| A x
|| x x || 1||P||1||P|
| A Q J x x ||3||P||3||P|
| A K J 9
reason to keep the bidding conveniently low at 3 is if your partner's hand is
still unlimited. Since your 3 bid was ostensibly forcing
to game, his 3 preference,
which might be a false preference, could even have slam potential. So
now over 3, your partner
has much more room to complete his bidding than over 4.
example, with a heart stopper he will usually bid 3NT. If he bids 3, then you can bid 4, which probably shows a
doubleton honor. Over 4, if he has no heart stopper,
he can choose between 4 and 5 with some accuracy.
good news is that whatever partner does over 3, you are well placed and
should have no further problems. The 3 bid is clearly best,
whatever it means.
When One Cue Bid Deserves Another
IMPs Vul vs
non Vul (Bridge World, May 1999)
A Q x x x x
A J x x x
going on with partner? What does his 3 cue bid show after he originally passed?
He might have a penalty pass of hearts. Since a double of one heart would be negative, if he had a heart stack, he would check hoping that
partner (you) would reopen with a double. But now that you have
reopened with a jump, he is showing something good. But what?
his hand must fall into one of two categories. Either he has a penalty
pass of the one heart overcall, in which case he is virtually
or he has a hand too weak to bid over 1 but which has been
in light of your bidding. In this latter case, he either has a nice fit
with one or both of your suits, or perhaps has some useful values in
diamonds or clubs. There probably is some remote chance that he had an
awkward hand that had no good bid over 1, and now he is trying to get
you to bid 3NT with a heart stopper (Western style).
do you find out what he has?
Answer: One dubious
bid deserves another. Try bidding 3. What does it mean? It means
you have first round control of spades, as in the old days of bridge.
Your main objective here is to see what partner will bid to shed light
on his previous actions.
Another Western Cue Bid
A x x x
Q x x
Q x x
partner has jumped to 3 showing a healthy opening
bid and a longish diamond suit. If partner had merely the AK seventh of
diamonds and a spade stopper, you might make 3NT. Partner actually has
more strength than that, but he might not have a spade stopper.
Although you have only eight points, that might well be enough to make
a 3NT game if your partner has a spade stopper. How can you find out?
do you do when you think your side has enough strength to play game in
no trump but you do not have a stopper in the opponent's bid suit?
There is a slight variation of the Western Cue Bid theme which has
become a standard solution to this kind of problem.
many game going auctions where you lack a stopper in the opponent's bid
suit, you can make a convenient cue bid and hope that your partner has
a stopper and can bid 3NT. In modern bridge, in this type of situation,
your cue bid does not show a stopper. Nor does it necessarily show any
extra values. All you need is enough strength (points) to make a game
possible in light of your partner's bidding. And partner knows that if
you had a stopper, then you might well have bid the 3NT yourself.
The All Purpose Cue Bid
When the hand below was presented to
an expert panel, a
great majority of experts voted for the cue bid which normally shows
three card or more trump support.
both Vul (Bridge World, December 2001)
A Q x x
A x x x
x x x
a 2 cue bid here
normally shows a limit raise or better in partner's suit,
here diamonds; because you have such an excellent passed hand, you are
willing to promote your jack-doubleton of diamonds. Your eleven points
are all prime quality points, 2 1/2 honor tricks. Even
though you only have two diamonds, as opposed to the usual requisite
three or more, partner will definitely not complain about your hand
when you put it down as dummy. And if, on a good day, partner happens
to bid two-of-a-major, you have a delightful raise to three.
cue bid does it all. It tells your partner that you have 10 or 11
points—you cannot have
more since you are a passed hand. It also shows
that you have support for both unbid suits and you even have some
support for your partner's suit. This is a bid that has practically no
Do Something Cue Bid
Points Vul vs
non-Vul (Bridge World, December 2001)
9 8 x x
K J 10 9
A x x x x
great majority of the expert panel chose the 4
cue bid on this hand.
you only have eight high card points, in view of the fact that the
three heart bidder probably has most of the heart high cards, your
partner's strong no trump probably contains mostly working or useful
cards for you. If your partner has something like
Axx Jxx AQxx KQx (16 hcp)
might make twelve tricks in diamonds by ruffing two hearts.
though you might make a slam if partner has the right hand for you, you
should not even think about bidding a slam with such a minimum point
count. You should be perfectly content to get to a comfortable game.
Since you have some shape, it is quite possible that other suits are
The bottom line here is that the
for making any bid is that it will allow partner to get to a good
contract. If you bid 4
on this hand, partner will have to bid his best suit. And lo and
behold, that will probably be your best contract. This is clearly one
of the hands where your point count is secondary to your distribution.
The Least of Evils Cue Bid
None Vul (Bridge World, April 2000)
A Q x x
Q x x
A K x x
this hand was presented to an expert bidding panel, the vast majority
chose the 4 cue bid,
notwithstanding that the hand lacks first or
second round control of diamonds.
problem here is that all other bids describe the hand worse. Three no
trump will probably make, but your hand is too strong to sign off in
game. If your partner has six good spades and a short diamond you
should have good play for a slam. If you bid 4. partner should play
you for hearts and clubs, and might even pass.
hand is a prime example of the amorphous cue bid, in that it
exemplifies how the cue bid has deteriorated (in the eyes of some of
the older Culbertson era players) from first round control to second
round control to no control at all. In modern bridge we now acknowledge
the concept of the all-purpose cue bid, for truly, that is what it has
Bid Showing Specifically Two Suits
None Vul (Washington Bridge League Bulletin,
A K 10 x x
A K x x x
?You have a huge
hand which you can not adequately describe to partner. If you double,
partner will probably bid spades and then nothing you do will show your
two long suits and shortness in spades. If you follow up your double
with a new suit, partner will play you for a one-suiter and will pass
or revert to spades hoping you have tolerance. Thus, you should not
start with a double.
Although most of the hands in
this section have demonstrated the flexibility, if not outright
ambiguous nature of the modern cue bid, there is at least one situation
in modern bridge where the meaning of the cue bid does not vary.
experts play that an immediate cue bid over a preempt, especially if
the cue bid is higher than 3NT, shows a two-suited hand. Normally the
auctions, 3 4 or 3 4 show five-five or bertter in
the majors—hence the cue
bidder's partner usually bids his better major. But if over responder's
major suit bid, the cue bidder now bids the other minor, then that
shows the remaining two suits and responder should pass or correct.
Make Most Descriptive Bid
Both Vul (ACBL Bulletin, June 2002)
| A Q 9 8 x x
|| - - -|| 1||2||Dbl||P|
| A J x x||?|
| A x x
partner has good diamond
support, for example, xx QJxxx KQxxx x,
you might be cold for 6 and yet find yourself going
down in 4! I
theoretical flaws in a 3 bid. If the hand is a great
misfit and partner passes 3, it is probably your best
contract—you only have 15
If partner bids 3, certainly a likely
possibility, your 3 rebid describes your hand
accurately. If partner raises 3 to 4 or 5, there is much to be said
for shooting out 6. Note that
partner's raise to 4 bypasses 3NT, which he would
be unlikely to do with more values in hearts than diamonds—he
might bid 3 to stay under
It seems the jump to 3 is a do-everything bid and
describes your hand very well. I would avoid making the ambiguous
amorphous cue bid in this situation.
the general rule is that you make the most descriptive cue bid when you
are looking for no trump or you have no better descriptive bid. Here 3 is a vastly superior bid
both when partner is strong or with a weak misfit.