Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



Beginner and above

Almost game-forcing

When playing just one game-forcing opening bid as in ‘three weak and one strong’ it can be difficult to distinguish between the various strengths of strong single-suited hands.

Hands worth 9½ playing tricks are ideal for the game-forcing opening bid, and hands worth no more than 8½ playing ticks are perfectly adequately catered for with an opening bid of one of a suit (partner will normally have a response if he has enough to make game possible), but hands worth 9 playing tricks present a problem.

If you include them in the game-forcing bid then you will on occasion fall short, and if you start at the one-level you will sometimes find the auction passed out when partner has just that one trick you need.

Alternatively you can start by opening at game-level, but in this case partner will not be able to distinguish between the present strong hand and a much weaker preemptive effort.

Of course, such minor disasters will be rare events and quite possibly not worth the effort of meddling with your system to try to take account of the various possibilities.

(Note that in a ‘one strong’ system hands with at least 5-4 shape should be opened with the strong bid when worth 9½ playing tricks, or at least twenty two points but it will in general be correct to open with one of a suit on anything less than this as you search for the best (or any) fit  - it will be far from unknown to open with one of a suit with as many as twenty or twenty one points on such hands.)

My solution, and not quite standard, is to include one unbalanced non-game-forcing sequence into the (almost) game-forcing bid.

In this method, following the forcing opening bid and a relay (or negative) response, then a lowest-level bid in a suit will be game-forcing, but a jump in a suit will promise precisely 9 playing tricks (stretch it to 8½ if you wish) in a strong single-suited hand, and will be non-forcing.  You might like to refine this to 9 tricks in a major or 10 tricks in a minor, but many will reserve this option for the major suit.

Of course, it will be rare that the bidding will stop at this point, and if the opponents choose to interfere you are likely to land in a game contract with your partner none the wiser, but this leaves you no worse off than if you had just included the nine playing-trick option in the original game-forcing strong bid.

Does this work? - yes.

Is it worth it? - quite possibly not,

but if you like playing around with details then this one is at least easy to remember and creates no obvious problems.

You can count a likely 9½ playing tricks.

Open 2.

You will rebid 2 (forcing to game), and then bid hearts again at your next opportunity to show the single-suited nature of the hand.

K 3

A K Q 7 4 2

A K 4


Twenty points and nine playing tricks in a single-suited hand.

Open 2, and rebid 3 (non-forcing) to show precisely such a hand.


A K Q 8 6 5

A 9 3

A K 4

Responder’s continuations

This page last revised 8th Jul 2019

Context  -  Opening two of a suit in first or second seat - artificial strong twos.