A player came up to us after a pairs session and asked, “How did everyone get to slam on that board we played against you where I opened 4H and my partner held S AKx H Jxx D AKQxx C xx? We got a bad result for playing in four. You told us something about asking bids?”

Coopers: Some people may have just blasted into the slam or possibly bid 5H asking for good trumps and hoped for the best. But common expert practice is to play that bidding a new suits at the five level over partner’s opening bid of four of a major asks partner for control of that suit. This would have been a great convention for you and your partner to be playing on this hand.
The usual responses to this “asking bid” of 5X are:

  • • 5M: no control in the suit partner asked about (with a very poor suit you might bid this even with second round control but be prepared to apologize if you are wrong)
  • • 5X+1 (if below 5M): a control in the suit partner asked about, but poor trumps (neither of the top two honors).
  • • 5N: shows the king of the suit partner asked about and a decent suit
  • • 6X: shows first round control in the suit partner asked about and a decent suit
  • • 6M: shows a singleton in the suit partner asked about and a decent suit, or first round control and a mediocre suit

A different set of responses are listed for Bridge World Standard at http://www.bridgeworld.com/default.asp?d=bw_standard&f=bwsall.html#IVC

  • step 1: no control
  • step 2: second round control
  • step 3: first round control
  • step 4: first and second round control

Because it  comes up so rarely, some people prefer not to have the memory strain of an unusual set of responses. Thus, they play the same responses that they play to an asking bid after RKC, which are:

  • step 1: no control
  • step 2: third round control - queen or doubleton (only if not past 5M)
  • step 3: second round control - king to length
  • step 4: second round control short - singleton or king doubleton
  • step 5: first round control
  • A word of warning, 4S over 4H is to play, not an asking bid and not kickback. However 5H over 4S is an asking bid.

When partner opens four of a major you expect them to have a lot of reasonable trumps and not much else. Usually you will pass and hope for the best. It is very rare to have slam ambitions, but you may have a hand with many tricks and all but one outside suit controlled. That is why it makes sense for the strong hand to ask about the one suit it does not control. Obviously if responder has all the suits are controlled he just bids 4NT, RKC, to find out about partner’s trump quality.

This is the sort of convention that can be a disaster to get wrong. Best to discuss it with your partner before trying it out at the table. So when in doubt just bid six and hope that they lead some other suit. On the hand in question, the 4H opener had a club void and an eight card heart suit with two of the top three honors so a 6C bid over 5C would be correct for any but the Bridge World responses listed above.

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