Forcing Bids – Persuasive bidding
for the strong silent type!
When we make a call, our partner must determine if the bid is
forcing, invitational, or a signoff request. When either partner
bids or rebids Notrump at the lowest available level, it’s a
signoff attempt. Ditto when either partner rebids either their
own suit or partner’s suit at the lowest level – there’s another
common instance of a signoff attempt. However, when we open the
bidding and partner responds with a new suit, it’s clear that the
bid is forcing (unless partner already passed the bidding). How
about when opener rebids a new suit? Sometimes it’s forcing,
sometimes it’s not – hmm. And what about jump bids? How about
cuebids? Inquiring minds must know so let’s explore the world of
First off, let’s establish some basic thoughts on how to be a good
1. Learn the basics of what bids are forcing, invitational, and
2. Be aware of who is the “captain” (in control) on a given
auction. The partner of the
bidder limiting their hand is the captain and as any good
sailor knows, the captain steers
the ship (contract) to safe harbor.
3. Avoid making confusing bids that will torture partner – don’t
“get creative” at the table.
4. Consider all strange bids as forcing.
5. When a bid could be interpreted as natural, take that
6. Never mastermind the bidding. Bid your values and respect
7. New bids should show new values – suit rebids should show
(don’t repeat yourself).
8. Never pass a known forcing bid by partner. Even if you think
you know the bid as right,
your partner may not trust you again. For instance, if your
partner opens 2C and you pass
with a Club bust, partner will not be happy missing a major
suit game or even a slam!
9. When an opponent makes an intervening bid after a forcing bid
by partner, you may
temporarily pass, knowing partner will not pass an open
10. When partner makes a forcing bid and you are forced to make a
difficult bid, consider
making the cheapest available non-conventional suit bid (not
11. For mortal partners, avoid psyches - false bids without
appropriate length or strength.
Your partner may not understand or appreciate the “joke.” If
you elect to psyche, take full
responsibility for the false bid and apologize to partner.
12. Do not make bids that punish your partner (balancing bids).
The bidding used in this newsletter is based on the modern
Standard American system, including
preemptive weak two opening bids.
Categorically, opener and responder hand strengths come in three
minimum, medium, maximum. According to partner’s bid and our hand
strength, partner’s bid solicits one of three actions: signoff,
invitational, or forcing.
The general strength ranges are:
Opener: 12-15 minimum, 16-18 medium, 19-21 maximum (22+ super
Responder: 6-9/10 minimum, 10-12 medium, 12/13+ maximum.
In our early Bridge days, we learned the point requirements for
Less than 25 playing points: part score.
4 major or 3 Notrump game: 25/26 playing points.
5 minor: 29 playing points.
6 level slam: 33+ points with Aces.
7 level slam: 37+ points with Aces and Kings.
Okay, let’s jump into a wide range of bids and their meanings:
Opening bids are not forcing, except for conventional bids such as
a strong 2C opener.
1H - ? 12-21 points, responder may pass with less than 6
1N - ? 15-17 (or 16-18 points), responder may pass with less
than 8 (7) points.
2N - ? 20-21 points, responder may pass with less than 5
2C - ? 22+ points artificial, responder must bid.
2S - ? Less than 12 points, responder may pass without 4+
controls (Aces, Kings)
or long trump.
(P) – P – (P) – 2S;
However, fourth seat 2 level opening a major suit
shows a good suit and hand,
inviting partner to consider game with reasonable
3N - ? Game values, unless partnership plays conventional
Gambling 3 Notrump, etc.
Opening bids above 3 Notrump as: 4C, 4N, 5N
Discuss with partner, some play conventional
Responding in partner’s suit or bidding Notrump at the lowest
level is non-forcing, showing minimum values. These bids are an
attempt to signoff, relinquishing control (captaincy) to partner
who will then steer the auction with a signoff, invitational, or
1C – 2C; Signoff.
1S – 2S; Signoff.
1H – 1N; Signoff.
2S – 3S; Playing preemptive weak two bids, 3S increases the
preempt (not invitational),
again a signoff non-forcing bid. The opener must
1H – 4H; Usually 5+ trump and minimum values (0-9 points)
intended as a shutout bid.
With 10+ points and good trump support, responder
can first bid
1S with 4 Spades or “temporize” the bidding with a
Responder’s bid in a new suit is forcing:
1H – 1S; Responder has 6+ points, forcing but is not promising a
rebid unless forced.
1S – 2C; Responder promises 10+points. Bid is one round
promises at least one rebid.
1H – 2N; Game forcing - some use conventional agreements here
(Jacoby 2 Notrump).
1D – 2N; Classically forcing game, however the modern treatment
is to play this auction
as inviting 3 Notrump.
P – 1H; Since responder was a passed hand, opener may pass
non-jump bids, unless
2C - ?; playing conventional methods as the Drury convention.
P – 1H; Hopefully partner knows jump bids after passing shows
a fit in partner’s major and
3C - ?; a nice secondary suit, forcing to at least the 3
level in opener’s suit. Now then,
don’t you wish you discussed this with partner?
Rebidding your own suit or Notrump at the lowest level is
non-forcing, showing minimum values.
1D – 1S; Opener wishes to signoff unless responder makes a
forcing call; opener is most likely
2D rebidding a 6 card suit.
1H – 1N; Ditto here.
1H – 1S; This time it’s responder who belatedly signs off in
2D – 2H
2S – 2N; Playing preemptive weak two bids,
2N is forcing asking opener to show a
(A-K). Rebidding the preempt suit is a signoff attempt,
denying a control.
Bidding Notrump at the lowest level by either partner is
1N – ?;
1C – 1N;
1C – 1H;
1H – 1S;
2D – 2N;
Depending on the auction, invitational bids come in various
flavors. See responder’s rebids in next section for more
1N – 2N; Responder invites straight away.
1C – 3C; Responder is probably hopeful opener can bid 3
Notrump with stoppers.
1S – 3S; Modern treatment is a “limit raise” – validate
with your partner
(legacy style was game forcing).
1C – 1N; Opener invites 3 Notrump.
1C – 1H; Opener invites 4 Heart game.
1D – 1S; Opener’s 2N jump rebid is highly invitational
with values above
2N opener’s 1 Notrump opening range (e.g. 18-19
1H – 2C; Opener’s jump rebid is game forcing after
responder promises 10+ points.
1D – 1H; While highly invitational, opener’s 1S rebid is
not absolutely forcing.
1S With a bad 6 points, no fit, and 4-3-3-3 shape
responder might pass.
After opener attempts a signoff with minimum values, responder
must rebid carefully to ensure the rebid is interpreted correctly
as signoff, invitational, forcing one round, or game forcing.
1C – 1S; Signoff bid, lacking partnership fit but showing a
good 6 card suit.
2C – 2S;
1C – 1S; Goodness, this couple both love to get the last
2C – 2S; Nothing like taking a swim in the proverbial
3C – 3S; Since 2C and 2S were signoffs showing misfits, why
keep bidding higher?
1D – 1H; Signoff attempt in opener’s second bid suit,
showing 4 trump with
1S – 2S; a minimum hand.
1D – 1H; Signoff with a minimum hand. Responder generally
promises 2 Spades or at
1S – 1N; least a stiff Ace or King.
1D – 1H; Inviting 3 Notrump game with a balanced hand.
1S – 2N;
1D – 1H; Inviting 4 Spade game.
1S – 3S;
1C – 1S; With a known major fit, opener is exploring game
with a double-fit,
2S – 3C; one round forcing. It stands to reason that since
get a higher score in a major, bidding a higher
level in a minor must
be an invitational bid even if responder rebids
1D – 1S; By definition, when opener rebids 1 Notrump,
responder’s bid is non-forcing.
2D – 2H; However when opener rebids a suit, responder’s new
suit is forcing one round.
1C - 1S; Contrast this with auction above. Here responder’s
bid is not forcing since opener
1N – 2H; rebid 1 Notrump. Warning – these bids can be
confusing to casual players so
adjust your bidding accordingly and be sure to
discuss these bids with partner.
1C – 1D; Natural bidding, highly invitational.
1H – 1S;
1C – 1D; Responder’s 2S bid is played as artificial and game
forcing by most players.
1H – 2S;
1C – 1H; When responder “breaks the one level barrier” by
bidding a new suit in a higher
1N – 2S; rank at the two level, the “reverse”
is game forcing by responder.
1H – 1S; Most play this auction as game forcing after
opener’s jump invitational bid.
3H – 3S;
1C – 1S; Partnership agreement here on this tough auction.
Classically, this was forcing;
2C – 3S; some strong players also like this style while
others prefer the fundamental
game inviting approach when responder jumps in
own suit without a fit.
1H – 1S; Similar to above auction, partnership agreements
are required for these
2C – 3S; challenging auctions. When in doubt, consider
playing these bids as forcing.
Recall Rule #4 above: consider all strange bids
1H – 2D; Many play responder’s belated 3 level support as
2N – 3H; after responder’s 2 level bid (showing 10+ points)
and delayed support.
1C – 1S; Inviting game, probably 3 Notrump.
1N – 3C;
1H – 1S; Inviting Notrump game with a balanced hand.
2C – 2N;
1H – 1S; Inviting game, possibly in 3 Notrump or 5 Clubs.
2C – 3C;
1H – 1S; Inviting a 4 Heart game.
2C – 3H;
1N – 2C; After responder makes a 2C
Stayman bid asking opener for a major,
2D – 2N; responder invites a 3 Notrump game.
1N – 2C; Responder is inviting opener to bid a 4 Heart game.
2H – 3H;
1D – 1H; Invitational Notrump bid.
1N – 2N;
1D – 2C; Invitational Notrump bid.
2D – 2N;
Some additional responder rebids are included in a subsequent
With extra values, opener can make a forcing rebid:
1C – 1H: Opener “breaks the 1 level barrier” when making
2D Reverse bids can be confusing to Bridge players so
let’s be sure we all have
a sound grasp of the concept. When a player
rebids a new suit, that
suit is never longer than the first
suit. Here the opener begins bidding 1C
and responder’s bid at the 1 level does not
promise more than 6 points.
So when opener breaks the 2 level barrier and
bids a higher ranking
(and shorter) suit than the first bid, the
responder is forced to bid at the
3 level to bid to support opener’s suits. Even
if we were to assume a fit
(often not likely), the partnership should have
about 23 points to make a
3 level contract. Subtracting 23 from
responder’s 6+ points, the opener should
have 17+ points to make a reverse bid. So a
reverse bid by opener must show
a very powerful hand and is generally one round
forcing - some play reverses as
game forcing. Responder note: don’t panic since
opener promises 17+ points.
With 6-7 points, attempt to signoff by bidding
the lowest unbid suit (artificial)
or Notrump – whichever suit is lower. If opener
persists to game, at least you have
a clear conscience.
1H – 1S; When opener jumps to the 3 level in a new suit, the
strong jump shift
3C is game forcing showing 19+ points. With extras,
responder considers slam.
1H – 1S; Opener shows 19+ points and a great suit. With
extras, responder can seek slam.
Are you ready to test your skills on forcing bids?
Take a 20 question quiz here. Good luck!
In Part II of forcing bids, we will explore bidding in competitive
auctions, balancing bidding and other challenging auctions.