by Kitty and Steve Cooper

At a recent tournament, a player stated that “You bid a cold grand against us after a 2C opener by using asking bids and finding the needed third round control in a side suit. Can you please explain how those work?”

Coopers: Our theory is that a very strong hand will often prefer to ask questions rather than have a conversation. In other words, that hand will prefer to use asking bids rather than cuebids. Frequently a 2C opener will have all the aces, so Blackwood is not useful. So we wanted a way to go straight to asking bids without Blackwood.

We finally decided that whenever the strong hand’s suit becomes the agreed trump suit, all new suits by opener should be asking bids. We call them SSAs, which stands for “Specific Suit Asks.” Any new suit bid is a SSA rather than a cuebid in an auction where responder raises opener’s suit, e.g. 2C-2D-2H-3H - as well as in an auction where opener jumps in a suit to set that suit as trump, e.g. 2C-2D-4D.

We use the same response structure for our asking bids as we use after RKC. The first step is no control, the second step is third round control (doubleton or the queen or both), the third step is king to length, the fourth step is a singleton or a doubleton or singleton king, and the fifth step is the “happy marriage” of the king and the queen. When we haven’t bid Blackwood there is a sixth step for the ace; otherwise we treat the ace as a small card since partner already knows about it.

If opener reasks in a suit in which responder showed something that needs further clarifying (the second and fourth steps), then the first step response to the new ask is the distributional control, the second step is the high card, and the third step is both. For example, after showing third round control the responses would show in order: xx, Qxx(x), and Qx.

On the rare occasions when we want to hear a cuebid from partner we use Serious 3NT to demand one. So for example, 2C-2D-2H-3H-3N asks for the cuebid of an outside ace. Also, when opener jumps to set his suit as trump it demands that responder cuebid an ace or bid notrump with a king or the trump ace. Over responder’s 3N or 4N bid, opener bids the next step, 4C or 5C, to ask for the lowest king or the trump ace and other new suits are asking bids as always. Without any ace or king responder just raises opener’s suit.

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