Main   Study 5M81 by Richard Pavlicek  

Forcing vs. Limit Style

A controversial argument in bidding theory is whether a second-round jump bid by responder is forcing or limited. Traditionally, a la Goren, all jumps are game forcing; but the majority of contemporary players have changed to a limit style. I’m not sure how this modernization came about, but I’ve got news for you: Goren was right. As a system designer I have considered this treatment in-depth, and the choice is clear. Forcing is the way to go.

A corollary to the forcing vs. limit decision is the treatment of “fourth suit forcing.” If responder’s jumps are forcing, FSF is used to invite game. Playing limit jumps, FSF is generally a game force.

A similar change occurs for “new minor forcing” (NMF) when opener rebids 1 NT. Bidding an unbid minor is a required prelude to all suit invitations.

Invite and Stop Lower

One advantage of the forcing style is the ability to stop at the two level after inviting game. Why risk going down in three when you can stop in two? This is not always possible, but many times the partnership can get out a level lower than those who must jump to invite.

1.
S K Q 8 4
H 2
D A Q J 7 2
C 10 3 2
Table S 5 2
H A K 10 9 8 4
D K 3
C 8 7 6

1 D
1 S
2 D
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 H
2 C
2 H
Pass
Pass
Pass

East invites game with FSF, and the partnership stops comfortably at the two level when West rejects. Limit bidders would be obliged to rebid 3 H (over 1 S) which is likely to fail.

2.
S A Q 10 2
H 9 8 3
D 3 2
C K Q J 4
Table S K J 7 4
H Q 10 6 5
D A J 4
C 7 3

1 C
1 S
2 H
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 H
2 D
2 S
Pass
Pass
Pass

When West luckily shows a heart preference, East conveys his limit raise with a simple bid of 2 S, allowing a safe partscore compared to those in 3 S. Had West instead bid 2 NT over 2 D, East would bid 3 S (nonforcing) — no gain versus limit bidders, but no loss either.

3.
S A 8 2
H Q J 4
D K Q 9 4
C J 8 2
Table S K 10 7 6 5
H K 7 2
D A J 2
C 4 3

1 D
1 NT
2 S
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 S
2 C
Pass
Pass
Pass

When West rebids 1 NT, East promises invitational values with NMF, and West rejects by bidding only 2 S. If West had a maximum or liked his hand, he should bid 3 S (with three spades).

4.
S 8 2
H K Q 10 6 4
D Q J 3
C A 4 2
Table S A K 7 6 3
H 8 3
D A 8 4 2
C 9 7

1 H
1 NT
2 H
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 S
2 D
Pass
Pass
Pass

East invites game with NMF, which is semi-natural with a choice of minors. West rejects, but rather than risk 2 NT with a single club stopper, he wisely rebids his meaty suit (can’t be six after a 1 NT rebid). This obviously denies a spade fit, so East is content.

The rule for opener’s third bid is that two in a previously shown suit or 2 NT is nonforcing and explicitly rejects the invitation. Jump bids explicitly accept (game forcing). Bidding an unbid suit or three of a suit without jumping is noncommittal (forcing) but opener can pass responder’s next (nonjump) bid.

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Slam Auction Clarity

Another problem with a limit style is that responder must take a roundabout path when slam is in the picture, often creating ambiguity about his intention. Slam auctions need clarity, and the forcing style allows this directly. All jumps are forcing to game; neat and simple.

5.
S A Q 8 2
H 7 6
D 3
C A K 8 7 6 4
Table S K J 7 5
H A 2
D A Q J 9 6
C 3 2

1 C
1 S
Pass
Pass
1 D
3 S
Pass
...

…and off to the races. Accurate bidding should reach 6 S after the firm foothold of the forcing raise. Limit bidders would be uncomfortable, as East must bid 2 H (FSF) over 1 S; West bids 3 C, then 3 S is ambiguous. Does East have a true spade fit? Or is he groping because he lacks a heart stopper for 3 NT (perhaps S K-x-x H x-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C J-x)?

6.
S 2
H K Q 9 7 5
D A 3
C A J 10 6 2
Table S A K Q 7 3
H A J 10
D 8 7 4
C 4 3

1 H
2 C
Pass
Pass
1 S
3 H
Pass
...

West would continue with 4 D (control) and the good slam should be reached. Conversely, if East had to bid 2 D to force, West would rebid 3 C; then 3 H would sound like a reluctant preference rather than a withheld raise.

7.
S K 5 3
H K 8 3
D K 2
C A 10 8 4 3
Table S A Q 7 6
H 2
D A 8 3
C K J 9 7 6

1 C
1 NT
Pass
Pass
1 S
3 C
Pass
...

The auction might continue 3 S 4 D; 6 C, as West can appreciate his hand with the known 9+ card club fit. If 3 C were a limit bid, East would have to bid 2 D (NMF); then over 2 S, 3 C would be unclear; East might be aiming for spades with C K-x-x on the side.

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Directionless Invitations

The classic defect with limit jump rebids (and FSF to game) occurs when responder holds invitational strength but no clear direction as to strain. If you bid the fourth suit, you can’t stop; or if you jump to invite, you must guess the strain. Accurate bidding is impossible. The forcing style, however, is in command.

8.
S A Q 6 2
H 4 3
D K 10 3
C K 9 7 4
Table S K 7 3
H A 9 8 6 2
D 7 4 2
C A 3

1 C
1 S
2 NT
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 H
2 D
Pass
Pass
Pass

Over 1 S East does not know where the hands should play, but the forcing style allows him to pass the buck with FSF, routine on invitational values. West picks the strain and rejects the invitation (change diamonds to K-Q-x and he’d bid 3 NT).

I’d like to invite you to my house for dinner.

Great! But I’ll need directions.

Not a chance! Can’t you read?

9.
S A 3
H 5 2
D A K J 6 5
C K 10 9 6
Table S K Q 9 5 2
H 7 4 3
D Q 3
C A 4 3

1 D
2 C
3 S
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 S
2 H
4 S
Pass
Pass

Over 2 C East is unsure of the best strain but with 11 HCP is worth an invitation, hence FSF. West has no clear third call, but a spade preference is surely best, and he jumps to show the extra values needed for game. (Change West’s spades to J-x and he’d bid 2 S, which East would pass.)

10.
S 2
H A K 10 9 7
D J 6 3
C K J 8 2
Table S A K Q 7 3
H 3
D 7 5 4 2
C A Q 3

1 H
2 C
2 H
3 NT
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 S
2 D
3 S
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

Even though FSF only promises invitational values, responder can still use it with game-going hands lacking clear direction. Just be careful that your third bid is a jump or completes game; hence 3 S. If East bid only 2 S over 2 H, West should pass.

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In Competition

If either opponent bids (note that double is not a bid), FSF and NMF are off, and the structure reverts to a limit style. To force, responder must bid a new suit (natural, at least invitational strength) or cue-bid the enemy suit (game force).

11.
S 2
H K 7 3
D A K J 8 7 6
C 10 3 2
Table S K Q J 10 8 4
H 9 2
D 10 2
C A J 9

1 D
2 D
Pass
1 H
Pass
1 S
3 S
Pass
Pass

Because of the 1 H overcall, East’s jump rebid is invitational, and West has a clear pass. If East wanted force in spades, he must cue-bid 2 H (all-purpose game force) then bid 3 S next.

12.
S A J 8 2
H 4
D Q J 10 7 4
C A 7 3
Table S 4 3
H K J 10 9 7
D A K 6 3 2
C 2

1 D
Pass
3 S
5 C
Dbl
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 H
3 C
4 D
5 D
2 C
Pass
Pass

East cannot bid 3 D (forcing) because of the 2 C bid (North’s double alone changes nothing) so he cue-bids first. West already has implied a minimum with his second-round pass, so he cooperates fully in case East had slam aspirations.

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As a Passed Hand

If responder is a passed hand, the structure is unaffected except that all bids that are normally forcing become invitational. This is only common sense as responder could hardly have the values for a game force after passing. Note that FSF and NMF still apply (assuming no opposing bid). Effectively, being a passed hand just gives you more ways to invite.

13.
S 5 4
H K 10 8 5 3
D A 7 4
C K J 2
Table S A Q 10 2
H 2
D Q 8 3
C A Q 10 7 6

Pass
1 H
2 D
Pass
Pass
Pass
1 C
1 S
3 NT
Pass
Pass

West’s 2 D is FSF promising invitational strength, and East jumps to the obvious game with his sound opening. As a passed hand, West could also invite game with a second-round jump (e.g., 2 NT) but 2 D is far superior, not only to keep hearts in the picture but to right-side the contract.

Frequency

Another advantage of the forcing style is frequency. Responder will have more hands of game-forcing strength (wide range) than invitational strength (narrow range) so descriptive jumps will occur more often. This will benefit your slam bidding, an area where IMPs can flow faster than water.

Examples presented in this study were chosen to support my case, and I’d be naive to claim that a forcing style will always be better. Certainly there are cases where the limit style is superior, but I firmly believe they are dwarfed in comparison. If I haven’t convinced you, that’s OK too, as I’d lose my advantage if everyone switched. Oops! Time to return to my Jedi base. May the Force be with you!

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek