# Look Before You Leap: Forcing Bids

#### By Barbara Seagram

Less experienced players are frequently distraught when their partner passes what they thought was a forcing bid. The reverse can also be true… they make an invitational bid and partner bids again without the values to do so. Newer players always feel obligated to bid again in these situations – after all, partner jumped and no one wants to be a poor sport!

Think about each of the following auctions and decide if the last bid shown is forcing or not:

1. West
East
1
1
3
2. West
East
1
1
4
3. West
East
1
1
3
4. West
East
1
1
1
3
5. West
East
1
1
1NT
3
3
6. West
East
1
1
3
7. West
East
1
1
2NT
8. West
East
1
2

We all agree that a jump sounds forcing. However, when you examine most auctions that involve jumps, you will find that the exact opposite is more often true. To differentiate between which jumps are forcing and which are not, the easiest way is to look at whether the suit has been bid before:

• A jump in a new suit is always forcing.
• If partner jumps in a suit that has been bid before by your side, you know exactly how many points she has: partner has made a limited bid stating her exact point range.
• You also always know partner’s exact point range any time that she bids notrump – notrump bids are always limited bids. The partner of the person who has made the notrump bid is the captain of the bidding and must now do the math. She must add her points to the notrump bidder’s points and decide if there is game or slam in the hand. If there is no chance of game, she must now pass.

With these things in mind, let’s go back to the auctions that we started with:
(NF = Non-Forcing F = Forcing)

1. (NF – Invitational) Opener is showing 16-18 points in support of spades, with at least four spades.
2. (NF) Opener is showing 19 or more points in support of spades, with at least four spades. However, although your side has arrived in game, this is not necessarily the end of the auction. All too often, responder passes hurriedly when he hears partner jump to game. He thinks that any jump to game is a “shut out” bid. Not so. The responder must now do the math. If responder has 13 or more points, then slam is in the air! Responder must now bid again. If responder has a weaker hand, he passes 4.
3. (NF – Invitational) Opener is showing 16-18 points with a six-card heart suit.
4. (NF – Invitational) Responder is showing 10-12 points with at least four hearts and four spades.
5. (NF – Invitational) Responder is showing 10-12 points, at least four spades, probably five diamonds and a hand that is unsuitable for notrump i.e. unbalanced.
6. (F) Opener has promised 18 or more points, at least five hearts and at least four clubs. She does not have four-card support for spades.
7. (NF) Opener has promised 18-19 H.C.P. and a balanced hand. Opener has at least four diamonds and does not have four hearts. (Note that the only time that opener will open 1 with only three ‘s is when she has exactly 4-4-3-2 shape. She has not raised  ’s, thus she has denied having four ’s. She therefore guarantees to have four or more  ‘s. ) Opener does have stoppers in all the unbid suits. (i.e. spades and clubs). If she had a balanced 15-17 H.C.P. hand, she would have opened 1 NT; if she had 20-21 H.C.P, she would have opened 2NT.
8. (F) Responder has a hand with slam interest opposite an opening bid: 19+ points. She also has at least five spades. This bid is forcing at least to game.

Photo credit: by redwood 1