Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



Beginner and above

Game-forcing opening bids

This category is misnamed just ever so slightly in as much as most such bids include a sequence in which the opening bid followed by a relay or negative response and a rebid of 2NT promising twenty three or twenty four points is not forcing.

Any other sequence will be forcing to game based on a good hand and will therefore indicate at least a passing interest in a slam if partner’s hand contains anything of value.

Amongst such bids are the traditional Acol 2, and the 2 bid in Bejaminised Acol (or 2 in reverse ‘Benji’).

They may also, as a partnership choice, feature in either a ‘one strong and three weak’ or a ‘one strong and a multi’ system, although as we shall see this is not my choice for most partnerships playing at ‘pairs’ scoring.

A K Q 7 6 3 2



9 5

This hand is worth ten playing tricks.

It does not qualify for the traditional Acol opening bid of 2 with only 4 quick tricks in aces and kings.

Open 2 (strong) and rebid 4.

(You would, however, open this with a game-forcing bid in most other systems.)

A K Q 7 3 2

A 8


9 5

Ten playing tricks and five quick tricks in aces and kings.

Open 2 in traditional Acol and rebid 2 (game-forcing).

This hand also justifies a game-forcing opening bid in any other system that includes one.

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


This bid certainly works perfectly well when it turns up, but its appearances are infrequent to say the least, even with the extended requirement (above).

Playing at imps scoring there is an argument to include such a bid

The priority to bid the big hands (particularly slam contracts) accurately is particularly important in this form of the game, and so you might restrict your game-forcing bid to those which satisfy the point-count requirement strictly, and you might also choose to include the quick trick requirement (above), provided that you include ways of showing other strong hands in your system, but you should be aware that the appropriate hand will be something of a rarity.

Playing at pairs scoring it is difficult to see that bids such as this justify the space they take up.

You might once in a while miss a little precision when it comes to bidding a slam, but replacing it with something else will broaden your repertoire of weak bids which is so important, particularly in the part-score battle.

Even if playing two strong bids I would prefer to include other strong game-going hands in the bid (as above) and I would do without the quick trick requirement.

But, to be honest my preference, both for pairs play and as beginner and improver method, is to play a ‘three weak and one strong’ system, which could incorporate a game-forcing option (as above), but which (in my opinion) is better when it includes a strong opening bid which covers game-forcing hands but also covers at least some sequences which are not game-forcing.

Two ways of playing such a bid will be found under ‘unlimited one-round forces’.

This page last revised 9th May 2018

Beginner only

The simplified version outlined above is correct in as much as that with twenty three or more points in an unbalanced hand you must force to game. Partner is more than likely to hold sufficient to ensure a game on the combined holding, even on a hand on which he would never dream of responding to an opening at the one-level.

But it is also wrong in that there are other hands with a lesser point-count which also have the playing strength to insist on game and on which game might be missed if you start with a non-forcing opening bid - the requirement needs to be extended beyond the simple point-count above.

Extending the requirement

Better is to extend the requirement to any strong hand on which you wish to reach game, even if partner holds a hand on which he would pass if facing a one-level opener.

Typically this would cover

any hand of twenty three or more points;

and also

any other hand of sixteen or more points worth 9½ playing tricks

The sixteen point requirement is somewhat arbitrary, but at least it ensures that your artificial opening bid will be legal according to the ‘rule for strong openings’.  By all means raise the requirement if you wish.

The requirement for 9½ playing tricks is also somewhat arbitrary - you may prefer to stipulate a minimum of 10½ playing tricks for a hand based on a minor suit.  This is a matter for partnership agreement, but bear in mind that your first thoughts when evaluating a hand based on a minor suit should include the possibility of a minor suit contract.

Note that there will be weaker hands, mostly single-suited hands, on which it will be well worth competing to game-level.

In general such hands will contain very little in the way of defence and will only rarely have any slam interest.  It will frequently be best to open such hands at game-level before your opponents find their suit.

More often than not partner will make ‘relay’ or ‘non-positive’ response of 2.

With a balanced hand you will rebid 2NT on twenty three or twenty four points (not quite forcing), 3NT with twenty five or twenty six points, and higher levels in two point ranges, unless your system includes other forcing opening bids which cover any of these ranges.

With the unbalanced hand you will rebid in a suit of at least five cards (forcing), and show the shape of your hand with your third bid (still forcing if below game-level).

Quick tricks

In traditional Acol there was a further ‘quick trick’ requirement.

The 2 route was used to carry further specific information, and this further information was that the hand should contain five quick tricks in aces and kings (KQ counted as one), thereby setting the scene for any further slam investigation.

With sufficient strength for the game-forcing bid and a hand that satisfied the quick trick requirement you would open with 2.

With a game-going strong hand in diamonds, hearts, or spades but lacking the requisite quick tricks you would open two of the suit and then make a game-forcing jump rebid.

The simplified version

A simplified version of such a bid was and is frequently taught or passed down.

In this version, if you have twenty three or more points you open 2, and if you don’t you don’t.

There is some point in teaching this as a simplified beginner approach in the first instance, but it is inferior in the grander scheme of things and should be extended (as below) sooner rather than later.

Beginner and above

Responder’s continuations