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Post 13. Feature Showing Bid, Cue Bid, Ace Showing Bid, Asking Bid, Austrian Asking Bid, Directional Asking Bid, DAB.

Hello everyone,

This posting, although in response to another posting still on screen, deserves its own little entry (I hope you will agree).  To save space, I also hope you can envisage the hands that are referred to from what follows, apologies if not.

This is very much in the way of a working document, please feel free to add anything significant, especially if it can be assigned to a particular date.  

1. Pre 1929. Feature showing bids.

When Bridge started there was no obvious need to have any procedure for detecting aces.   Although declarer “contracted” to make his declaration, say 4 Clubs, the slam bonus was gained if he happened to make 12 or 13 tricks.  The slam reward, therefore, was not that great. In the 1st March 1928 Laws for Auction Bridge, the Little Slam bonus was 50 & the Grand Slam bonus was 100.  These values were first set in the May 1914 Laws. The situation changed with the advent of Contract Bridge.

2. 1929. Cue bidding.

At first, bidding the opponents’ suit meant you had no losers in that suit.  It was a slam try. It was used in conjunction with the word “slam”, i.e. to say “partner, I give you a cue for the possibility that we have a slam”.  This is what “Browning on Bridge” said in his weekly influential column in the “The Sketch, Wednesday, 23rd October 1929, page 90” :

                                           BROWNING ON BRIDGE- CCCXXIII - SLAMS.

Note very carefully that only aces count (not king-queen suits) in giving slam cues ; you must be able to win the first trick in the suit named - so when bidding for a slam on opponents' suits, you may do so when blouse in the suit, since you can ruff the first round.

*the text  reads “blouse”, but I’m not quite sure what that term means - maybe urban for “loose” or void.  This is, to my knowledge, one of the first uses of the word “cue” in Bridge to mean a type of bid, rather than its dictionary or urban meaning in everyday use.

3. 1932 September. Game try.

The bid very quickly developed to mean a general game try.   Here’s what Mr. A. E. Manning Foster had to say in his column in the “Western Morning News , Saturday, 3rd September 1932, page 13”:

                                            BRIDGE TACTICS BIDDING OPPONENTS' SUIT.

The device of bidding opponents' suit to show command or absence of it is often extremely useful.   It is, of course, a convention, and an arbitrary convention, although the upholders of so-called ''natural bidding” use it and attempt to argue that it is not a convention.  The bid is not, however, used in this fashion. It betokens a strong hand and ability to take care of the adverse suit because the bidder can win the first trick in it or ruff it.   It is of the nature of a forcing bid, and is made, or should be made, only when the Declarer sees almost certain game or more.    But, like aIl conventions, it may go wrong, it may act as a boomerang to the detriment of the declarer.

4. 1933 February. Ace showing.

The important newspaper correspondent Mr. R. E. Kemp described the “cue bid” in his regular column in “The Scotsman, Tuesday 14th February 1933, page 11” :

                                                    CUE OR FEATURE V. SUIT BIDDING.

Fashion enters into Contract Bridge just as it does into most other games. Just now it is a return of what used to be known as "ace showing”.    Ace showing, now more correctly called feature showing or cue bidding, is, like all conventional bids, an effort to test or suggest the possibilities of a slam.   It was one of the earliest conventions in the game of Contract, which, owing to the generality of players not realising how and when to use it, soon lost favour.    In using cue “bidding" it is essential first to decide on the suit in which the hand is to be played.

5. 1933 November. Unsporting.

England disapproved of all conventions like this as “unsporting”.   The “Aberdeen Press, Friday, 10th November 1933, Page 6” commented thus :

                                                       ACE SHOWING BIDS.

Mr. Walter Leon Hess, the Boston bridge expert, states that he does not share the disapproval with which American players have- greeted the ban imposed by the Portland Club on ace showing bids.   "Such bids are unnecessary in a sound bidding system”, he says, and to prove it ; he challenges all-comers to a match against his "Universal System”, without stakes, and for any number of rubbers.    “If the Portland Club”, said Mr Hess, "regards ace showing as unsporting, such an attitude, by its prohibition of that convention, should not affect slam bidding in a sound system.

6. 1936 February. Asking Bids.

I believe Ely Culbertson coined this term when he realised his 4/5 No-trump convention was not fully satisfactory ( hope that’s right, sorry if not, because I know that the “Crane” system used something very similar - but I can’t at the moment be bothered to plough through all the books, including the “Four Aces”, to track it down).

He wrote two Articles in “The Bridge Magazine” :  "Asking Bids February 1936" & "Asking Bids In Opponents’ Suit. April 1936".

Mr. George Nelson picked this idea up immediately.   Here’s what he said in his column in the “Yorkshire Evening Post, Saturday, 29th February 1936, page 4” :

        According to Culbertson's new method of slam bidding, by the use of what he calls “Asking" bids, this is how the bidding would go :

                                            NORTH                              South

                                         1 Diamond                     (1) 3 Diamonds       

                                    (2) 4 Diamonds.                     (3) 4 Spades     

                                    (4) 5 Hearts.                        (5) 7 Diamonds.

(1) South agrees the suit.     (2) After South's force, North shows length in the suit.     (3) An “asking" bid, which South makes because, according to the convention, if North holds King or Singleton Spade and Ace, he will show both by bidding the Ace suit.       (4) North shows secondary control of Spades and the Ace of Hearts.      ( 5) There is no need for further Information, so South bids the Grand Slam.      Of "systematic" ways of bidding these hands, Culbertson's comes out easy first.      Its accuracy in obtaining the necessary information for the slam Is 100 per cent.    This new "Asking" bid is to be part of the 4-5 No-Trump convention Culbertson has invented in the hope of filling up the gap there In the present No-Trump convention.     It is not yet complete, but looks good to me

7. 1936 December. Bidding opponents’ suit.

By the end of the year the bid had been developed further, actually into 10 different kinds.   Here’s what Mr. R. E. Kemp had to say in “The Scotsman, Tuesday, 1st December 1936, page 13” : 

                                                    BIDDING OPPONENT'S SUIT.

          One of the most interesting developments in Contract is the extension in the number of the uses of the bid of a suit already mentioned by the opponents.    At first this bid, whenever made, had but one meaning : no losers in the suit. It was usually made late in the bidding, generally as a slam suggestion or as acceptance of partner's slam suggestion.     By the time the first "Blue Book" was published it had become a signal that the bidder could take the "first trick in the suit either by ruffing or with the ace, and some good players with an understanding partner would use the bid even with a singleton. Mr Culbertson in this book gave the bid a definite place in his system of bidding.     He used it as a stronger forcing bid than the take-out double, and made it forcing to game ; actually it was equal to an opening two of a suit.    in the "Gold Book" this bid is made to function in several different ways and perhaps its uses are now exhausted ; but time and the ingenuity of players will decide.    Below I give ten different sets of circumstances in which the bid can be made although in some cases the meaning does not alter.

This was, as it happens, Mr. Kemp’s final article in that newspaper.   A truly magnificent Bridge columnist, now long forgotten, who should be in someone’s “Hall of Fame”.

8. 1939 April. Austrian Asking Bid.

The famous Miss Alice Mackenzie talked about “Asking Bids” and their development in her regular column in “The Scotsman, Tuesday 11th April 1939, page 13” (again, to save space, I hope you can envisage the hand from what follows):

         The hand is particularly suitable for Asking Bids, and the Grand Slam can be readily reached if the Austrian variation of the Cue bid is being played, thus : -                                  South        West          North           East 

                                               —              —               —              1D 

                                               1S            3D                —              3S ? 

                                                —            4H               —               4S ? 

                                                —            5H                —               7D

        Whenever West bids Three Diamonds, which promises good trump support and at least two Honour Tricks on the side, East is interested in slams and can bid Six Diamonds direct.    Before he can bid Seven, however, he must find out if his partner can control the second round of Spades, and also, if possible, find a parking-place for his losing Club.

          In the Austrian system Three Spades is an Asking Bid because the trump suit has already been agreed by a direct raise.   Four Hearts confirms second-round control in Spades and shows the Ace of Hearts.   Four Spades "asks" about third-round control in Spades, while Five Hearts confirms this control and at the same time announces second-round control in Hearts,   in this case the King. East has thus found his partner's two outside tricks and knows he can discard his losing Club on the King of Hearts while he can ruff his Spade losers.    He therefore contracts for the Grand Slam. Without the Austrian variation, Seven is more difficult to reach as East requires to jump the bidding in order to "ask" in Spades.

9. 1945 September. Directional Asking Bid.

She returned to the “Asking Bid” topic several times - here’s her article in the “The Scotsman, Tuesday 18 September 1945, page 6” :

                                        MORE USES FOR THE CUE-BID.     A New Variation.

          Another and newer variation of the cue bid is used by leading American experts when the opponents have only bid one suit, and we want to force partner to bid Three No Trump if he can stop that suit.    In this case we make the bid on hands where we can't stop the suit ourselves, but know there must be a game in the hand, but we cannot find any other bid which is forcing and at the same time does not shut out Three No Trump - which may be the best final contract.     For example, partner deals and bids One Heart, which is overcalled by One Spade, and we ( South ) bid Two Clubs, holding :

                                             xx Kx xx AKQJxxx

           West passes and partner rebids Two Hearts, which East overcalls with Two Spades, and now it's up to us. Game in No Trump looks easy if partner can stop Spades. … the answer to the problem is that we bid three Spades.    An intelligent partner cannot imagine that we are looking for a slam, because in that case we would have bid two Spades or three Clubs on the previous round.    We must therefore be looking for for a game in No trump if he holds a Spade stopper.

I cannot be sure but I suspect this is the first discussion of what became known as a “Directional Asking Bid” or DAB in Britain.   I haven’t got the energy to scan American books to discover who it was who invented it - perhaps someone over on that side of the Pond knows ?

That’s enough I think.

BW, Ken in B..

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