The Curse of the Forcing Bid - 13

 Hi All,

I've had several questions this week which illustrate this curse. Obviously some forcing bids come in handy. The most useful is the unlimited bid by responder to force opener to describe his hand. Another good force enables the Take-out Double. We used to have a lot of bids that forced to game, but most of these have been changed to be invitational, because they didn't do what we wanted. Jump rebids by opener or responder, jump-shifts by responder, jump overcalls, immediate cue bids have all become invitational or weak. The reason for this is that they didn't let partner tell us what we wanted to know.

My first illustration of this is the board shown below.                   


                     ª A J 10 8 2

                     © A

                     ¨ K 10 6 4 3

                     § A K

West                                  East

ª 9 4 3                               ª K Q 7 6 5

© Q J 7 4 2                          © K 9 5 3

¨ 9 2                                  ¨ Q J

§ 10 7 5                              § Q 6



                     © 10 8 6

                     ¨ A 8 7 5

                     § J 9 8 4 3 2

East opens a marginal 1 Spade, South passes, West raises to 2 Spades and North doubles (Big) for takeout. East raises a silly 3 Spades to try to obstruct and South passes. North doubles again and now South is forced to advance 4 Clubs. South has denied having enough for a free advance and may have nothing. North must pass, but when both minors run, they take 13 tricks.

If East had instead passed after North's double, South would have to advance 3 Clubs. He doesn't have enough for a jump advance and might have nothing. North's helpful bid however gives South a chance for a free advance showing 5-8 points and a decent suit. They surely get to game and DSS would find slam.

Another illustration of the curse is seen in this board.                    


                     ª J 9 8 6

                     © J 9 4 2

                     ¨ A 8 6

                     § A 3

West                                  East

ª A K Q                               ª 10 4 3 2

© A K 10 8 6                        © 7

¨ K 10 7 4 3                        ¨ 9 5

§                                       § 10 9 7 5 4 2


                     ª 7 5

                     © Q 5 3

                     ¨ Q.J 2

                     § K Q J 8 6

West really likes his hand and wants to force to game. He wants to open 2 Clubs to make an "in your face bid" that partner will know is a force to game (which is what the cool kids do). Partner responds 2 Diamonds, waiting, and West rebids 2 Hearts. East knows that he's forced to game, but isn't sure about the Hearts. He bids 3 Clubs to ask partner if he's sure about the Hearts and suggest a possible alternative. West rebids 3 Diamonds and East bids something, maybe 3 No Trump. West isn't sure, but may pass, rebid Diamonds or rebid Hearts. He's in a jam regardless. What went wrong?

To start with, his 2 heart bid should not be forcing. He needs help for game and the last thing he wants is for partner to raise to game with nothing. West must be free to pass when he has no help. Do you remember the razor's edge criteria from our lesson?

Next, West's hand doesn't qualify for a 2-Club bid anyway. He doesn't have the points to do that with a 5-card suit, nor is he only one trick short of game, nor does he even have 22 HCPs.

West should open 1 Heart. If partner can respond, he can jump-shift to force to game if he desires. If partner passes, he'll breathe a sigh of relief when dummy comes down. Don't curse yourself with uncalled-for forcing bids.

Multiple Questions on Strong Openings - 12

 Hi All,

I've had at least three recent questions concerning the Forcing Two-Club Opening. This has caused me to sit back and reminisce about my experience with strong openings. I have a childhood memory of opening 1 No Trump with a good hand, but missing stoppers. I was decidedly taught a lesson that day. Later I became an adherent to the teaching of Alfred Sheinwold which included the Strong Two Bid, which at that time was "25 or more points with a very strong suit. (may be reduced with a longer suit or two-suiter)".

In the sixties and seventies, Jean and I played the Neopolitan Club. All strong hands were opened 1 Club and it featured weak-twos, weak 1 No Trump and a host of other neat stuff. For a while I was too busy to play, but when I retired I started over. A lot of things had changed over the years, particularly the American Standard 5- Card Majors, Transfers, Weak Two Bids and the Forcing 2 Club.

At that time, the Forcing Two Club just replaced the Strong Suit Two Bids and was roughly the same, being generally described as a 6-card suit with 23 or more points, which could also be 21 points with a 7-card suit or 25 with a 5-card suit. It still required a very strong suit. This worked well since both partners knew that adequate support for the suit would normally be enough for game.

No Trump openings hadn't changed in all those years with 16-18 for 1 No Trump, 22-24 for 2 No Trump and 25-27 for 3 No Trump. Soon, however, a brilliant change took over to fold No Trump into the 2 Club system. This meant that 1 No Trump became a more useful 15-17, 2 No Trump became 20-21 and with more you would open 2 Clubs and rebid 2 No Trump or more with big hands.

As with all major developments, this sent ripples all through the game. Some players still have trouble with transfers, Florida may never recover from occasionally opening with only 3 Clubs or Diamonds and we are still a long way from deciding how to handle the expanded Forcing Two Club Opening. Many experts have decided that all hands with 22 HCPs or more should be opened 2 Clubs. Of these, many have hawked all sorts of ways for the responder to describe his hand and take over the auction. I think they are trying to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick. 

I haven't seen anything yet that justifies evaluating a hand with a very strong 6 or 7-card suit as if it was the same as a balanced hand. When a player has a strong hand, he must first decide whether it is a No Trump or a suit opening and evaluate it appropriately.  If he has a very strong suit, he should evaluate his total points, including distribution, and open as described in paragraph three. If he has a balanced hand, he should count his HCPs and open as described in paragraph four. In almost all situations, responder should respond a waiting 2 Diamonds and not interfere until opener has described his hand.

The call to open 2 Clubs with all hands with 22 HCPs ignores a third type of hand that doesn't meet either of the above criteria. I wouldn't open 2 Clubs with 22 HCPs and a 4-1-4-4 distribution if you held a gun to my head. We need a different system for these kind of hands that allows us to bid back and forth to find the best contract. Fortunately, we have it described in detail in Lesson 2. I would open 1 Diamond. I would figure that we probably don't have game if partner can't respond and, if he can, I can force to game.

I intend to stick to the simple, consistent procedures that work, until the next brilliant idea revolutionizes the game. I certainly haven't seen it yet.

Stay well, Dave

No Questions This Week

 Hi All,

Way to go! Like anyone who aspires to teach, I'm happy to help, but even happier when you can work it out yourself. Keep up the good work.


Question of the Week - 11

Hi All,

I was sent the below board asking me how to use the Forcing 2 Club bid to get to slam. There is some disagreement as to what really happened, but they got to 4 No Trump and made 13 tricks.                                        


                     ª A 10 5 3

                     © A Q J 3

                     ¨ 10 4

                     § 10 5 2

West                                  East

ª 8                                    ª Q J 4 2

© 10 9 8 7 4                        © 6 5 2

¨ J 9                                  ¨ 7 5 3 2

§ J 8 7 6 4                          § Q 9


                     ª K 9 7 6

                     © K

                     ¨ A K Q 8 6

                     § A K 3


Let's suppose North passes and South opens 2 Clubs as the writer suggested. North responds 2 Diamonds, waiting, and South rebids 3 Diamonds. North stops to think. He knows that partner has 7 Diamonds with 21 points, 6 Diamonds with 23 points or 5 Diamonds with 25 points. He has adequate support in the first or second instance, but not in the third. 

North hesitates to rebid one of his 4-card majors or 3 No Trump lacking a Club stopper. He'll probably decide to bid 4 Diamonds, hoping that partner has a 6- or 7-card suit. He will probably figure that even a 5-2 fit is better than a possible 4-3 fit or worse in a major or No Trump lacking a stopper.

South figures partner for adequate support and extra values since he didn't go straight to game. He might use Blackwood and get to 6 Diamonds, but he may be cautious with his minimum values and uncertain singleton King. A difficult sequence to navigate.

Let's suppose that South instead opens 1 Diamond. If North can't respond, they probably don't have game anyway. In this case, North will respond 1 Heart and South will jump-shift to 2 Spades showing two suits, 19 or more points and forcing to game. North will stop to think. He sees a good fit, at least 30 points and his support may make partner stronger. He figures that if South has extra values the Aces will take care of themselves, so he jumps to 5 Spades to invite slam. 

South promised 19 points and now reevaluates to about 24 with the good fit, Heart support to bolster his singleton King and a good 5-card side suit. He goes happily to 6 Spades or maybe 6 No Trump. He needs careful play for 6 Spades, but takes them all in No Trump.

Some players like to open 2 Clubs any time they see 22 HCPs, but that is often unwise. In this case, I would call it misleading and awkward.

Keep playing and sending those questions. I can guarantee that I'll always do my best, but I can't guarantee that I'll always tell you what you want to hear. Stay well,  Dave