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Forcing Pass - In a competitive auction, a pass that allows partner to choose the most profitable option between a rebid in agreed suit, doubling opponents' for penalty, allowing partner to redouble a makeable contract, showing a stronger hand than a simple competitive overcall, providing partner a conventional response and the like. 

As a background, partnerships should decide on one of these methods:


Bid shows a good offensive hand

Bid shows good offensive hand

Double shows good defensive hand

Pass shows a fairly good offensive hand

Pass implies neither of these hands

Double implies neither of the above

While many players embrace METHOD 1, some partnerships (notably Mechkstroth-Rodwell) prefer METHOD 2.

Fundamentally, we find partnership agreements fall in two camps:

Industrialists and the Scientists.  

While Industrialist methods vary, a typical agreement might include:

After we open, responder bids at the 2 level and opponents bid 3 Notrump or above, either partner’s pass is forcing. Additionally, the Forcing Pass is the strongest action showing slam interest and at least a second round control.

Grand Life Master Gene Simpson frequents the NABC playing circuit with his “for hire” clients, always placing in the Top 50 annual Masterpoint ranking. Gene enjoys successes as an Industrialist, generously sharing his Forcing Pass approach here (contact Gene at 415-250-2488,


Forcing passes apply when your side bids a game or higher and the other side sacrifices


1. You bid a vulnerable game


2. You bid a non vulnerable game voluntarily


3. The opponents have preempted



There are five options at the 5 level:


1. Cuebid is a slam try - strongest action


2. Pass and pull partners double - also a slam try


3. Bid 5 level - extra values but no slam interest


4. Pass – offers partner to bid five with extra values


5. Double - worst hand based on auction




Cuebid with an outstanding hand, showing first round control and interest in slam.




“Pass and pull” is uncommon. Be aware when you pass, partner doubles, you need to pass unless you have slam interest

On the side of the Scientists, in the Okbridge “Spectator” Marc Smith featured a series of Forcing Pass articles (6/01, 12/01, 1/02). Another Scientist, Eddie Kantar authored the definitive Forcing Pass book and wrote a series of articles for Bridge Today (2/05, 3/05, 5/05)

Naturally, Scientists methods for Forcing Pass bids vary considerably, possibly including:


Opponents have made an obvious sacrifice bid


Your side has voluntarily bid game based on strength, not merely distributional values. This is particularly true when partner's pass allows you to evaluate the tradeoffs of doubling for penalty, especially when opponents are vulnerable, as opposed to bidding at a higher level - perhaps exploring slam


After 3 or 4 level opening preempt by Left Hand Opponent in first or second seat, double by partner, game raise by Right Hand Opponent, our pass is forcing except when opponents are vulnerable (assuming a sane RHO has values)


Your side has established a baseline contract level exploring game or slam, but not yet reached that threshold and opponents have interceded in the auction


A pass over opponents' high level obstructive bid typically shows a first round control (Ace or void). The threshold for “high level” may be the 5 or 6 level, depending on agreements


Opponents have doubled a cuebid on your side


Opponents are retreating by bidding multiple suits (usually up the line), where your partnership has repeatedly doubled


Pulling partner's penalty double shows strong interest in slam

Scientists have more scenarios (and memory work) with less catch-all guidelines such as a universal “whenever opponents bid above our 3 Spade call and our bids are constructive, our subsequent pass is forcing.” Regardless of your approach, consider Environmental Factors – particularly vulnerability, freak distribution, and offensive/defensive tricks.

Here are several common situations:

2C – (any) – P – (any);

When opener has near-game values such as a strong 2 Club opener showing 22+ points, many play a subsequent pass is a Forcing Bid; lacking a better bid, responder can double to keep the auction alive. However, when opener begins with a 2 Notrump bid showing 20-21 point, subsequent passes are not forcing.

1S – (P) – 2N – (3D)

Responder’s 2 Notrump bid is game-forcing so opener's pass is forcing. Note – see Jacoby 2 Notrump to review alternative methods after interference

1D – (1H) – 1S – (P);
3D – (3H) – 3S – (4H);

Assuming you recognize responder’s 3S rebid as establishing a game force (opener jumps, responder rebids own suit), opener is making a Forcing Pass inviting responder to double or bid 4S with great Spades.

1D – (1S) – 2D – (2S);

1H – (2D) – 2H – (3D);

Here, opener can make a forcing bid by cuebidding opponents’ suit or calling a new suit. When opener (the stronger hand) bids a new suit at the 3 level, the call is invitational. Jumping in a new suit at the 4 level subsequently establishes a Forcing Pass if necessary. Opener’s jump to game has the same effect. Note: some play this treatment only with adverse vulnerability based on the risk-reward differential. At any rate, if opener takes another path, as rebidding at the 3 level, belated opener passes are not forcing. Note: many also play Maximal Doubles at the 3 level.

Yet rules like this one should not be thought of as iron-clad. Contrast these bids:

 W       N        E        S

1H – (1S) – 2H – (2S);
4H –   (P) –  P 

1H – (2C) – 2H – (3C);
4H -   (P)  –   P – (5C);

It is unlikely South is “walking the dog” with extra values on the above auctions. Apparently South is making a sacrifice bid so opener’s pass is definitely a Forcing Bid in these auctions. However, South may indeed be walking the dog on this auction:

W       N       E       S

1H – (P) – 2H – (2S);
3D – (P) – 4H – (4S);

The responder may be bidding game based on an anticipated double fit in the red suits after opener's Help Suit Game Try. Realizing this, opponent South may upgrade a two-suited black hand and solely bid game. Thus, the meaning of opener’s pass will vary by partnership agreement (again, some play forcing only with adverse vulnerability). As an aside, when your side bids a lower suit rank as Hearts over their Spades, it may not be wise to “advertise” a possible double fit – smart opponents certainly enjoy such useful information.

In some situations, the Scientists liberalize their conventional gadgets to replace the meaning of the Forcing Pass or even the double. Consider this auction:

  W       N       E       S

  --       --       (P) -  P
(1D) - 1H - (2H) -  P
(3C) - 4H -   (P)  - P
(5D) -  ?

Should a double be purely for penalty here, or is it a cooperative (optional) double asking partner to consider a 5H sacrifice with an offensive hand? Scientists point out the 1H overcall shows defensive values, not immediately making a preemptive jump to 4H. So a common treatment is “DSI”, asking partner to Do Something Intelligent! That is, “Partner, with defensive values of your own, let the double ride, otherwise think strongly about supporting my suit.”

So we've seen the Forcing Pass agreements can have many subtleties, particularly for the Scientists. Regardless of your approach, be sure your partnerships have clear agreements.

Finally, here's what the Bridge World Standard says about the Forcing Pass:


If a two-club opening is overcalled, responder’s pass is forcing at every level - responder’s double shows double-negative strength


When a forcing bid is doubled and there is no contrary explicit system agreement or logic from the auction, a pass is forcing and a redouble is to play (suggests a contract)


After a negative response to two clubs and an overcall, opener’s pass is forcing


After 1any - (X) - XX - (bid); opener’s (or responder’s) pass is forcing everywhere

Also see Forcing Bids and the book Forcing Pass in Contract Bridge; Forcing Pass methods are also discussed in 25 Ways to Compete in the Bidding, Bridge Conventions in Depth (alternative recommendation using Forcing Pass to show a weaker hand).

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