Denial Cuebids form a method of showing the location of honors. The origin of the concept is somewhat clouded in that there is no substantial claim by the first developer of the concept. Mr. James (Jim) Loy states unequivocally on his website that the concept was invented by David L. Cliff. Mr. James (Jim) Loy is well represented online and has also review many of the computer bridge programs as an interactive format for the bridge player. We shall assume that this is the most preferable assumption. However, the student of the game of bridge should read the passage below.

It is also maintained that the concept was developed by Professor Roy Patrick Kerr, born May 16, 1934, co-author of the Symmetric Relay System, in association with other bridge players in New Zealand, and which was used as part of the Symmetric Relays. Mr. Richard Hills, as of December 2003, posted online a modified version of Professor Roy Patrick Kerr's Symmetric Relay System. This information has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Note: In the Bulletin of the Canberra Bridge Club, the issue of April 2006, Mr. Richard Hills presents the version as published by Mr. Alan Truscott, who was the long-time bridge columnist for The New York Times. This is in a .pdf file format and will automatically opened by your browser. This information has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Mr. David Leigh Cliff

Note: The photograph presented on this web page of Mr. David Leigh Cliff was contributed to this site by Ms. Lee Cliff Millot Ryan of San Diego, California, United States, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for sharing this rare photograph and also additional information about her brother.

Mr. David Leigh Cliff , aka Dave, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, on September 26, 1932, and died November 7, 1999, and was of Branchburg and also Basking Ridge, New Jersey, United States. He was a leading bridge theorist and developed Denial Cuebids, and also specialized responses to strong 2 Clubs opening bids.

Note: Mr. Alan Truscott, the bridge columnist for The New York Times includes details about Mr. David Leigh Cliff in his bridge column of November 22, 1985. This information has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Note: Mr. Alan Truscott, the bridge columnist for The New York Times includes details about Mr. David Leigh Cliff in his bridge column of August 19, 1988. This information has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Note: Mr. David Leigh Cliff also authored a bridge article for The Bridge World, issue October 1985, Volume 56, Number 12, titled Cliff Over One Club.


Alternative Designations

This concept has achieved several interpretations over the years and has been designated by different authors with different names such as Spiral Scan Cuebids (or Spiral), designated by Mr. George Rosenkranz of Mexico, and the book The Ultimate Club, written by Mr. Michael (Mike) Becker, Mr. Matthew (Matt) Ginsberg, Mr. Matthew (Matt) Granovetter and Mr. Ronnie Rubin, uses the designation Variable Cuebids.

Parameters of the Concept

The method is based on the assumption that one partner has in some manner informed his partner of his holding, his distribution, his strength, and possibly certain Keycards.

In order to locate the Keycards not yet shown, both partners use the method of Denial Cuebids. This is accomplished by relay bids and steps. Bidding one step denies a high honor in his primary suit. Bidding two steps denies a high honor in his secondary suit. This bidding process is continued until all high honors have been located. In the case that two suits could be equal in strength, then the higher-ranking suit is shown first. The following example may clarify the process of relay bids and bidding in steps.

The bidding sequence is based on a Flannery 2 Diamonds opening, which was developed by Mr. William Flannery and which shows a holding of 11 to 15/16 high card points, and a distribution of 5 Hearts and 4 Spades.

North South
North South
2 = 1 2 NT = 2
3 = 3 3 = 4
3 NT = 5 4 = 6
4 = 7 5 = 8

The explanations of the bids are as follows:

1. This is a Flannery opening showing 5 Hearts, 4 Spades, and anywhere from 11 to 15/16 high card points.
2. A bid of 2 No Trump is the normal inquiry as to strength and distribution, but also functions as a relay bid.
3. The inquiry is answered by North in the form of 3 Clubs, showing a distribution of 4-5-1-3.
4. The bid of 3 Diamonds is a relay bid asking for controls, first-round controls, and Keycards.
5. A bid of 3 No Trump shows 4 controls, however, 2 controls are assumed from the opening 2 Diamond bid.
6. Another relay bid of 4 Clubs is asking for Denial Cuebids.
7. 4 Spades is actually the third step and promises a high Heart, a high Spade, but no high Clubs. In this sequence, South could conceivably continue with a relay bid, asking specifically about the Heart suit. In general, this bidding process suits known to be a singleton, which in the above example is information already known, and the presence of voids are not included.
8. South signs off with 5 Clubs with the full knowledge that the Ace and King of Clubs are missing, two Key Cards which do not warrant slam.

The concept of the Denial Cuebids has been incorporated into many partnership agreements, and this concept can very well be applied to discover the number and location of Keycards in order to better assess the possibility of a slam contract. This concept may also be used together with the Roman Key Card Blackwood convention in arriving at a safe contract.

Definition per Mr. James (Jim) Loy

As with many bridge treatments and bridge methods definitions have been given to the same concept. Presented below is the definition provided by Mr. Jim Loy, and which is included as information to the reader and student of the game of bridge.

Denial Cuebids
Copyright 2000, Jim Loy

This article requires some previous knowledge of cuebidding of controls.

Denial Cuebids (invented by David Cliff) are an efficient way to cuebid controls. George Rosenkranz calls them Spiral Scan Cuebids (or just Spiral). The book on the Ultimate Club calls them Variable Cuebids. Denial Cuebids are used after relays (See Intro to Relays - A 2D Relay Stayman) have been used to show responder's (relayer's partner) exact (complete) distribution. Denial may also work well when responder has not shown his/her exact distribution, and in non-relay bidding systems (see the end of this article). Also, Amalya Kearse's Bridge Conventions Complete shows a completely different convention which is also called Denial Cuebids.

With some relays for other purposes (depending on the system), responder has shown his/her exact distribution (2-5-3-3 perhaps). Relayer then relays repeatedly (or just once or twice) and responder cuebids controls. The relay bid is the cheapest possible bid, except 3NT, 4H, or 4S which are natural signoffs. If one of these bids is cheapest, then the next cheapest bid is the relay. With each response, responder shows or denies control in one or more suits. And these suits are shown with longest first, second longest second, etc. If there is a tie, then the higher ranked suit is shown first. In our example distribution (2-5-3-3), hearts are shown first, then diamonds, then clubs, then spades.

Let's say that we are beginning to cuebid controls. Relayer bids the cheapest bid (perhaps 4C was last bid; so 4D is cheapest), which is a relay, and shows nothing about his/her hand, except a desire to cuebid controls. The relay asks about aces (or maybe aces and kings or even any high honor depending on your cuebidding style). In our example, responder's distribution was 2-5-3-3, so he/she shows hearts first, diamonds second, etc. He/she bids the cheapest bid (4H) to deny a control in hearts. With a control in hearts, and no control in diamonds, he/she skips a bid and bids 4S. With controls in hearts and diamonds, and with no control in clubs, he/she skips two bids and bids 4NT (denies the third control). Responder can show all four controls. If there are still controls left to be shown or denied in this round (if there are still suits not shown) then the next relay asks about further controls of that round. After a round of controls has been shown, the relayer can then ask about the next round of controls. Third and fourth round controls can be shown or denied, if there is bidding room.

In the above example (2-5-3-3) we can ignore spades (which has only two cards) after two rounds of controls have been shown or denied. In other situations, we can ignore singletons after one round of controls. And of course, there is no need to show or deny a void. To summarize:

Step 1 = denies control in first (longest) suit.
Step 2 = shows control in first suit, and denies control in second suit.
Step 3 = shows control in first two suits, and denies control in third suit.

An alternative to Denial Cuebids is to relay while responder cuebids controls normally, as in non-relay bidding. This is more efficient than normal cuebidding (as relays conserve bidding space), but less efficient than Denial (usually).

It would seem that Denial Cuebids can be used in non-relay systems, when responder's exact distribution is unknown. However, a few changes must be made to the idea. The suit order is still from longest to shortest. If responder has shown a long heart suit (and not any other suit, so relayer does not know which suit is second longest), then the order is hearts, spades, diamonds, clubs. Voids and singletons should probably be shown as controls. In a non-relay auction, the first cuebid would not necessarily be a relay. If one of the players is obviously the captain, then the first cuebid by the other hand should probably be a Denial Cuebid, even without partner's relay.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.