Theory and Conventions

Home

M J Bridge

Bidding

Hands

Creating forcing situations


This is something of a revision page, pulling together various themes from elsewhere.


One of the earliest lessons after moving on from the ranks of the beginners is not to jump to game too quickly.  This is particularly the case if either the optimum strain is not obvious, or if there is still the possibility of bigger and better things.


Equally you will have become aware of those occasions when it is of paramount importance that you bid rapidly to dizzy heights before the opponents find their contract.  This will be most likely when a suit-fit has come to light, linked with poor defence against some other denomination.


Sometimes it is not clear in which of these categories a given hand belongs - such is the magic of the game.

On many more hands, you will have to take it slowly as you do not yet know how far you wish to go, but you aren’t ready just yet to shut up shop and go quietly.


It is to cover some of these situations that certain bids or certain sequences are described as forcing, so that you may remain confident that partner will not leave you stranded.  It is vital that you understand which bids constitute your ‘forcing’ armoury, and also that you and your partner are agreed on just how forcing these bids are (in particular - one-round force or game-force).


If you or your partner opened with 1NT, 2NT or an artificial 2NT sequence


then these forcing situations are created initially by responder’s use of either Stayman or a transfer bid.  The continuations are to be found in the appropriate sections.


If you opened with a strong two-level bid


then that is in itself forcing for at least one round.  There will be various options for maintaining a forcing situation in the subsequent auction.


You or your partner opened one of a suit


Fit auctions


The most important situations here are when you locate an immediate major-suit fit (at least 4-4 or 5-3).

On these hands we have agreed that various direct raises are either weak or invitational but are always non-forcing.

If you need to make enquiries then there are a number of ‘support’ options which can be found in the sections on responder’s first bid and on opener’s rebid.  Each of these will be associated with a number of trial bids, cue-bids, or something similar - all of which maintain a forcing situation.


I play the 2NT bid by advancer (facing partner’s overcall) as a support bid in a similar manner, except that it is only forcing ‘to the three-level or higher’ .

This is common but not universal, and should be agreed specifically with partner if you wish to go down this route. The unassuming cue-bid can be used either in place of the 2NT bid or alongside it.  The options are to be found in the section on advancer’s first bid.


Non-fit auctions


I am only referring at this point to those auctions in which the final denomination is either not clear to responder, or is in any case not that already agreed by partner.  It is possible that a good suit fit is still there, waiting to come to light.

Responder’s first bid constitutes the first opportunity to make a wait-and-see forcing move, and that waiting move, facing partner’s opening one of a suit in first or second seat, will usually be a change of suit at the lowest level.  Frequently he will do no more than pass or show simple preference with his next bid, but on other occasions there might be a big hand just waiting to learn more.  Notice that it is never necessary to make a jump bid in a new suit or in no trumps as a first response just to keep the bidding alive.  Such bids will be reserved for more specific hand-types, usually with a fit and showing either a shortage or a strong side-suit.


Forcing on opener’s rebid


Jump in a new suit


This bid is usually used by opener on his rebid.  It is unconditionally forcing to game.  Typically it shows a hand of about nineteen points.

This bid can also be used at any point later in the auction, provided that it does not qualify as a splinter bid because the simple bid of the suit would have been forcing.  Note however that if you have adopted fit-jumps as I recommend, then it cannot be used in response to the opening bid nor in response to partner’s immediate overcall.


New suit (third suit)


With up to about eighteen points opener will not be quite strong enough to force to game when responder changes suit at the one-level with possibly no more than six points.


If the hand is balanced or single-suited then it will be easy for him to give some indication of the strength with his rebid.

It is with two-suited and semi-two-suited hands that there is a potential difficulty.


The problem is solved by moving the onus to responder.

Opener’s non-reverse rebid in a third suit covers hands of anything from about eleven to eighteen points.


If his first response was at the one-level then responder should treat opener’s rebid in a new suit as ‘all but forcing’.

That is to say, he can pass with six points (or a miserable seven) but with anything more than this he must find a further bid facing a possible eighteen points.

Frequently this will involve a ‘false preference’ as a means of keeping the bidding alive.

Even if the partnership finishes in two of opener’s first suit on eleven points facing eight and a 5-2 fit it might not be the end of the world.


If the first response was at the two-level then opener’s rebid in a new suit should be played as forcing for one round.

Beginner and above


Reverse bid


If opener’s rebid constituted a reverse then how forcing it is will depend upon the partnership agreement.


Playing a traditional strong reverse (minimum sixteen points or so), such a bid following a first response at the one-level will be a one-round force and following a response at the two-level it will create a game-forcing situation.

Playing the alternative non-strong style of reverse, a reverse bid following a one-level first response will be ‘all but forcing’ as above, and following a first response at the two level it will be forcing for one round.

K J T 2

K

A K T 9 5

K Q 4

Bid 2.

You have sixteen points, even if you choose to discount the singleton K.

Playing a non-strong reverse this is forcing for one round facing a two-level response.

Playing a strong reverse the auction is now game-forcing.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

2

-

?








8 4

Q J 7 5 3

A K

K Q T 2

Bid 3.

Enough for game.

Give partner the opportunity to support hearts, show a spade stop, support clubs, or rebid his diamonds.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

2

-

?









Very occasionally, such bids will have to be made on a non-genuine suit.


When opener holds seventeen or eighteen points in a hand unsuitable for a jump in his first suit, a rebid in no trumps, or a strong reverse then he might not be strong enough for game facing a one-level response.


The solution is to make one further bid.  If it is in no trumps or in a previously bid suit it will not be forcing but it will be highly encouraging and responder will usually accept the invitation with eight or more points.

A K T 9 5

K J T 2

K

K Q 4

Bid 2.

Following a first response at the two-level this rebid is forcing for one round.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

2

-

?








8 4

Q J 7 5 3

A K T

K Q 2

Assuming that you chose not to open with 1NT you now have a choice.

3NT and 4 are your target contracts.

My choice is 2NT (forcing facing the two-level response), or you could improvise with 3.

If partner is so inconsiderate as to raise your clubs then you will have to retreat to diamonds.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

2

-

?









The Opponents join in


Once the opponents have joined in then space has been lost, but alternative bids have been created.

A simple change of suit by responder is still available as a forcing bid.

2NT is still available as a good raise if partner’s suit was a major, or if the opponents doubled.  However, this bid is now usually played as ‘forcing to three of partner’s suit or higher’ in the contested auction rather than game-forcing.  Without this agreement you will find yourself short of bidding space and alternative bids.

A jump in the opponents’ suit is available as a splinter bid.

Double will frequently be available as a constructive though not quite forcing option.

As a simple method, a lowest-level bid in the opponent’s suit can be used as an all-purpose force.

However, it should be noted that when used as a first response, or by advancer at his first opportunity, it is more useful to keep this as some kind of support bid for partner.

Note that it is no longer mandatory to make a first response with only six points.  Partner will have the opportunity to bid again.  In this situation, if you don’t have anything to say then don’t say it.


The auction continues


In general, by the time we reach this point we will frequently be searching for a slam and the continuations will be specific to that situation.


New suit following suit agreement


Once a suit has been agreed then any bid in a new suit will be at least a one-round force.

It might be played as natural, or as any type of trial-bid according to the partnership agreement and the auction to date.


Fourth suit forcing


If a fit has not been established then three suits will have been bid and the fourth suit will be available as a forcing option.


The most common option will be to play it as a request to partner to bid in no trumps if holding a stop (or perhaps a partial stop) in the fourth suit.


But it is potentially a far more powerful weapon than this.

In particular, a bid in the fourth suit followed by a further bid either in responder’s suit or in one of opener’s suits will be forcing and stronger than any form of direct raise in that suit.

Frequently this will be the means of setting a suit as a precursor to a slam-try.

Q 4

Q J 7 5 3

A K T 2

A Q

Bid 2NT, promising seventeen or eighteen points and suggesting a hand as balanced as it could be for the bidding to date.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

1

-

2

-

?






This page last updated 11th Nov 2017

T 5

A K Q 8 6 3

8 5 2

A K

You want to investigate a slam - you probably want to play in hearts - and not one of 2, 3 or 4 would be forcing.

Bid 2 (fourth suit).  If partner rebids 2NT then revert to hearts thereby setting the suit for the slam-try.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO



1

-

1

-

1

-