Forcing and Non-Forcing Bids

When looking at bids as either forcing or non-forcing it is important look at the various options in how to bid strong hands. Opener’s initial options in choosing how best to approach bidding a strong hand are surprising because the opener has very limited choices.

The only forcing bid that Opener can make is 2C. This strong 2C bid lets Responder know that Opener is so strong that they want to have a constructive auction even if responder has a dismal hand with 0-4 HCP’s.

If Opener is not strong enough to open 2C, then Opener has three options:
1) Showing a big Balanced hand
2) Opening on the 1-level and making a Strong Jump Shift (Forcing to game)
3) Opening on the 1-level and making a Structured Reverse (Forcing for one round)

Notice how an Opener only has two ways to force responder to rebid when making an opening bid on the 1-level: A Strong Jump Shift Or Structure Reverse. It is amazing when one thinks of it that an Opener only has two tools to force responder, which makes it really important to fully understand the characteristics of both reverses and strong jumpshifts.

Balanced Hands

When the strong hand is balanced, bidding is basically dictated by the bidding structure.

18-19: Open 1of a suit. Rebid 2NT if responder’s bid doesn’t reveal an 8-card major suit fit. If Responder bids a major which opener has 4-card support for, then Opener jumps to game in that Major.

20-21: Open 2NT

22-24: Open 2C and then rebid 2NT

25-27: Open 3NT

28-29: Open 2C and then rebid 3NT.

Strong Jump Shift

A strong jump shift by Opener guarantees 5-4 in the two suits, and a hand that is strong enough to force to game after Responder makes a simple response on the 1-level.

Some examples of a strong jump shift by opener.

1D-1H    1H-1S   1S-1NT
3C            3D         3H

Since a strong jump shift by Opener is forcing to game the partnership must reach 4 of a major, 5 of a minor, 3NT, or a slam contract. The recognition that all non-game bids are forcing defines all other bids as forcing. The partnership should use the flexibility achieved by all these forcing bids to explore for the best strain and level.

“Good auctions happen when both parties are aligned in thinking and are trying to attain the same goals.”

One of the problems that many upcoming players have is that their partnerships do not play that jump shifts by Opener are 100% forcing to game, instead playing that this bidding sequence “shows a good hand.” The reason for this common error is that Opener frequently holds a good hand, but not be good enough to force to game opposite a minimum Responder. With Opener holds these good hands Opener’s best strategy is to underbid these and hands and show belated strength should they get another chance. This is not an intuitive sequence to choose, but is clearly best and standard.

For example North may have to make a rebid with the following hands in the auction:

North South
1H- 1S

Hand A           Hand B          Hand C

♠K                    ♠AQ                 ♠8
♥KQ1093       ♥KQ1093        ♥AKJ876
♦QJ1093        ♦8                     ♦AKJ74
♣A5                 ♣KQ654          ♣5

Hand A and Hand B are both good hands that have 16HCP but neither are good enough to make a strong jump shift, and both have the wrong shape for a reverse. Hand A should rebid 2D and Hand B should rebid 2C. Game is uncertain against many minimum Responders, and if the auction stops here the result should be reasonable. If the respond makes a rebid, even a simple preference, then the Opener can show belated strength on their third bid and give an accurate description of the strength and shape of their hand.

Below are a few reasonable auctions stemming from Hand A:

Opener Responder
1H 1S
2C Pass

Opener Responder
1H 1S
2D 2H
3D* *showing extras and at least 5/5

Now to discuss Hand C:

Hand C has 15HCP’s which is less than the other two example Opener’s,, but Hand C is clearly worth a strong jump shift. The reason is that Hand C has great trick taking potential opposite only a modest fit, and has direction. Direction is when a player has reasonable expectations to reach target contract(s).Hand C has direction in a safe and reasonable expectation that this hand could make a 4H game or 5D game opposite a spectrum of minimum hands.

For example if responder has:

♠A654 Opener could easily take 11 or 12 tricks in either Diamonds or Hearts.

♠K873 This hand is not good enough to respond. Yet 4H or 5D could easily make.

♠96543 Opposite this 6 HCP hand it is odds on to make 6D or even 6H.