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Expanding Confined Space
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Confined bidding space increases the challenge of locating a trump fit after opening bids above the one level, whether they are weak, intermediate or strong. Similarly, locating controls in slam investigations can sometimes carry a partnership beyond the safety zone due to confined space. However, it is possible for a bid to describe holdings in multiple suits simultaneously, and thus expand confined bidding space.

A Query is a form of asking bid whose responses simultaneously convey information about both the suit of the Query and the suit in which the answer occurs. There are three distinct types of Queries described in this article that can be used by a partnership: Distributional Queries, Control Queries, and Stopper Queries.

Consider these three cases.

Case I: Intermediate Two Bid - Your partner opens a Precision 2C showing 6 clubs or 5 clubs and a 4 card side suit in an 11-15 point hand. You hold AQxx xxx KQxxx x. When opener’s rebid shows 3145 distribution, you immediately know that 3NT is precarious, and 5D should have a good play. Opener’s rebid simultaneously clarified the distribution of all FOUR suits.

Case 2: Strong Two Clubs - You open 2C with AQJx AKQxxx x Ax and hear 2D waiting. Over your 2H bid partner raises. Even though responder may have few points, his next bid shows controls in spades and clubs and denies a diamond control. The auction is still below game and you know 6H is odds on and 7H is out of the question. You have revealed nothing about your hand other than possession of a heart suit. Partner showed his controls in THREE suits with one response.

Case 3: Inverted Minor - You hold AKxx J10x x KQJxx and hear an inverted raise from 1C to 2C. When partner’s rebid shows stoppers in the majors with no stopper in diamonds, you know 3NT is doomed, but 5C is a near laydown due to the exceptional fit. Partner clarified his stoppers in THREE suits with a single bid.


Case 1 is an example of a Distributional Query over an intermediate two bid that may be one suited or include a side suit. The Query promises 4 or more cards in the suit bid and asks opener to describe support for the suit of the Query. The responses to the Query are:

Responses to a Distributional Query Over an Intermediate Two Bid

Raise – shows 4 card support

New Suit – Shows exactly 3 card support and a fragment (3 or 4 cards) in the suit bid, with shortness, a singleton or void, in the remaining suit.

Rebid Suit – 6 card suit, any minimum 6322 pattern

NT – A singleton in the queried suit, with 5 cards in the suit opened

Jump to 3NT – Provided a 2NT response was available to show a singleton, 3NT shows a 6 card suit and maximum hand with a 6332 pattern


If the Query can be made at the two level, asking in the 4 card suit usually works best when also holding a 5 card suit.. Either a raise or new suit will then immediately confirm or eliminate potential fits in both suits. Even if opener rebids 2NT showing shortness in the suit of the Query, holding an un-bid 5 card suit, responder knows a fit there is almost certain.

Kxx         AQxx.           2C (1)    2S (2)

x             J10x             3D (3)    5D (4)

Axxx        KQJxx

KQxxx      x

(1) Precision 2 Clubs: 11-15 HCP, 6 clubs or 5 clubs and a side suit; (2) Distributional Query in spades; (3) Exactly 3 spades and a diamond fragment, short hearts; (4) 3NT has no play, but it’s hard to construct an opening hand that doesn’t have a good play for 5 diamonds.

If opener’s red suits are reversed, you still find the best spot.

Kxx      AQxx                2C         2S (1) 

Axxx     J10x                3H (2).   3N (3)

x          KQJxx

KQxxx   x

(1) Distributional Query in spades; (2) Exactly 3 spades and a heart fragment, short diamonds; (3) Should be the best spot. Won’t mind a diamond lead.

Distributional Query over a Weak Two Bid - With 5-5 in the minors, for example, over a weak 2S opening by partner, a 3C inquiry that elicits 3D tells responder that opener has a fit in both minors with short hearts.

AJ10xxx       x              2S (1)       3C (2)

x                 xx              3D (3)       5C

Kxx             AQxxx

xxx.            AKJxx

(1) Weak Two Bid; (2) Distributional Query in clubs; (3) 3 clubs and a diamond fragment

Had opener rebid 3H instead of 3D, it would have revealed a club fit with a singleton diamond. A 3NT response would uncover a diamond fit with short clubs. All of these responses immediately identify the location of the fit and tell the responder where the partnership may be vulnerable, while camouflaging his own hand.  This is true of weak two bids and intermediate two bids.  If partner opens a two heart bid, for example, that shows intermediate values and could have any side suit, holding either 4 or 5 spades you can immediately identify a fit with a 2S response.  With slight modifications the Distributional Query can also be used over higher level preempts to clarify opener’s hand.  

The 2NT Distributional Query – When playing Distributional Queries over an intermediate or weak two bid, 2NT is a Distributional Query asking about the denomination immediately below the opening bid. Over 2S it asks about hearts, over 2H it asks about diamonds, and over 2D, it asks about clubs. This treatment allows all possible responses to be completed without bypassing 3NT. The bid of the Queried suit at the 3 level is available to show 4 card support.

AQxxxx         x                   2S (1)     2N (2)

xxx              AKJx              3D (3)     5D (4)

Kxx              AQJxxx

x                  xx

(1) Weak two bid; (2) Distributional Query in Hearts; (3) Exactly 3 hearts and a diamond fragment, short clubs; (4) The direct approach. If opener had held a fourth heart the fit would have been found.

Invitational+ Raises – In all of these auctions, a bid of the denomination immediately under opener’s suit is available as an invitational+ raise. Opener is asked to repeat his suit with a minimum or make his cheapest cue bid with a maximum in case responder is interested in slam.

These Distributional Queries provide an efficient means of exploring many one suited and two suited hand combinations.


A second type of Query that can be employed is a Control Query. Control Queries are particularly valuable when a fit and a game force have been established below game level and one partner is limited while the other is strong enough to make a slam try. Control Queries do not promise a specific holding in the suit Queried, but the responses follow a similar pattern.

Responses to a Control Query When the Strong Hand Initiates the Query

Raise: Shows a control (A, K, Singleton, Void) in the suit of the Query and in both side suits. Like the distributional Query, the raise is the best holding.

New Suit: Shows a control in the suit of the Query and the suit of the response, with no control in the remaining suit

NT or Trumps: Bid the cheaper of the two with no control in the suit of the Query. This creates extra room when more investigation may be required.

NT or Trumps: Bid the higher of the two with control only in the suit of the Query. Less room is needed as all controls have been shown


These are some of the circumstances where a Control Query might be employed.

1. You are in a 2C auction where responder raises - In Case 2 you opened 2C and partner subsequently raised hearts. The next bid is a Control Query.

AQJx       Kxx               2C          2D (1)

AKQxxx   xxxx             2H (2)     3H (3)

x             J10xxx          3S (4)     4C (5)

Ax           x                   6H (6)

(1) Waiting; (2) Natural; (3) Raise; (4) Control Query in spades; (5) Controls in spades and clubs, no control in diamonds; (6) Without the ace of diamonds, six is the limit.

Note the ability to efficiently pinpoint secondary controls. Had responder denied a spade control by bidding 3NT, opener still had room to check on minors at the 4 level.

2. One partner initiates a slam try after a limit raise.

AKxxxx     Qxxx         1S            3C (1)

x              xxxx           4C (2)      4D (3)

AQJx        Kx             4N (4)      5D (5)

xx            Axx            6S

(1) Bergen Raise; (2) Control Queryl; (3) Controls in Clubs and Diamonds, No Heart Control (Just what opener hoped for – no wasted heart values); (4) Key Card Blackwood; (5) One Key Card

3. One partner limits their hand after a two over one - One of the benefits of a Control Query in an auction with a strong hand opposite a limited hand is that the stronger hand can locate controls at an economical level even when their partner has no reason to encourage a slam investigation.

x               Axxx            1H         2C (1)

KQxxxx      Axx            2H (2)    3S (3)

Jxx            x                 4C (4)    4N (5)

AJx           KQxxx         5S (6)    6H

(1) Game forcing; (2) Natural, minimum; (3) Jump after a game force agrees the last bid suit and is a Control Query in spades; (4) Spade control and club control, no diamond control; (5) Key Card Blackwood; (6) 2 Key Cards and the Queen of trumps


A third type of Query is a Stopper Query. A typical use would be responding to an inverted minor raise, or responding to a weak two bid at the two level in lieu of showing a “feature”. Opener’s responses are similar to Control Queries, but the 2NT response shows a stopper rather than a singleton.

Responses to a Stopper Query

Raise: Shows a stopper in the suit of the Query and in both side suits (similar to a control query)

New Suit: Shows a stopper in the suit of the Query and the suit of the response, with no stopper in the remaining suit

NT: Shows a stopper in the suit of the Query but no other stoppers.

Rebid Suit: Denies a stopper in the suit of the Query.


Stopper Queries do not promise a specific holding in the suit Queried. However, with two vulnerable suits, one of which is a singleton or void, a query in the longer suit will usually produce information of greater value in getting to the right contract. It will also conceal the greatest potential weakness in the two hands.

In Case 3 you hold AKxx J10x x KQJxx and partner makes an inverted raise from 1C to 2C.

QJx        AKxx             --           1C

KQx       J10x              2C (1)     2H (2)

xx         x                   2S (3)      5C (4)

Axxxx    KQJxx

(1) Inverted raise, game forcing; (2) Stopper Query in hearts; (3) Stoppers in hearts and spades, no diamond stopper; (4) With no diamond stopper, partner should have one of the missing aces to open the bidding

Had opener instead bid 3D showing red suit stoppers or 3H showing all suits stopped you could consider 3NT.

Summary - A Query is a form of asking bid that can be used in certain auctions to expand confined bidding space by conveying information about both the suit of the Query as well as the suit of the response. Queries are particularly effective when used by a strong hand opposite one known to contain limited values. All Queries described in this article are permitted under provisions of the ACBL Basic+ Chart and Open Charts

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