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Bridge 6/20

Cue-bid their suit to ask for a stop

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    This week, we are looking at deals where the side with the balance of power does not have an eight-card or better major-suit fit. Then we usually end in three no-trump, but we are studying ways to find out if that contract is doomed because of a weak suit.
    The last two days, in uncontested auctions, after North and South had found a minor-suit fit, they showed stoppers at the three-level to determine whether three no-trump was playable. But when an opponent bids your weak suit, how do you find out if partner has a stopper there?
    After East's weak two-bid is followed by two passes, North makes a takeout double, and South advances with two spades. Now North assumes South has six or seven points. If so, North wishes to be in game — but which game? Spades might be a 4-3 fit, and North does not have a heart stopper for three no-trump.
    North solves the problem by cue-bidding his opponent's suit. If North had hearts stopped, he would have bid no-trump himself. By bidding three hearts, he asks his partner if he can guard hearts. (If South does not have a heart stopper, he tries to do something intelligent!)
    Against three no-trump, West leads the heart five.
    Suppose South takes the first trick. If East has an ace, South must play on East's ace-suit first. If he attacks the wrong suit, West can win and lead his second heart, establishing East's suit while he, East, still has his ace as an entry. But if South does not win trick one, he is safe for sure.
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