Partnerships 1: Forcing or Not?


Here are the six hands for this week, to practise bidding with (or without) your partner. They are the same hands as I've given you to play, and which I've reviewed above.  If you’re working with your partner, print out one set by clicking on the button on the right (Person A Hands OR Person B Hands), and ask your partner to print out the other set. There’s nothing to enter into your computer, but  get together with your partner, in person or via phone, Skype, email, or even on a walk! to bid the hands.

It’s not essential to see all 52 cards. Just reach the best contract with the two hands you and partner have. On some, you're the dealer, and on others, partner is. Vulnerability is not important. After you’ve practised the bidding, you (and partner) could do the lesson, play these hands and then watch the reviews.   


 Forcing or Not? 

Bridge is all about your relationship with your partner. It doesn't matter how good you are (or you think you are), it will come to nought if you and partner are not on the same page. This means not only in the bidding but the defence as well, and when you're dummy too, you need to be a very careful not to show any (negative) emotion!  Yes, really! It's hard to find a good bridge partner - a bit the same as finding a good life partner - it takes effort and chemistry. takes hard work too!  The partnerships which have endured through the years are the product of a lot of work on system, and more importantly,  they are two people who are really supportive of each other. We all have bad times at the bridge table, and we make the wrong decisions, and unless your partner is staunchly "there" for you, your game will go to pieces. I think the psychology of partnerships is an area which requires more consideration. 

The times which severely test any partnership are when you're not sure whether partner will read your bid as forcing or not. You might have made what you thought was a strong (and forcing) bid, and partner looks at it, thinks about it, considers it again, and then (agonisingly) ...PASSES it!!! Oh dear, instead of playing a slam, you play at the two level! This is not good for partnership harmony!

So, one area to study is what bids are forcing and what are not. (“Forcing” = you must bid again, as your side is still looking for either a fit, or the correct level to play the hand.) A summary is that "new" suits are forcing and "old" suits are not. And the bid of no trumps is not forcing. Any time one partner limits the point range of their hand, they can't be forced to bid again.  And, nothing is forcing by a passed hand. Jumps in new suits are forcing e.g. 1♥ p 1♠ p 3♣ is a "jump-shift" and shows 18+ points, and almost any other bid is not.

Not Forcing

  • If partner bids a new, lower-ranking suit (e.g. 1♥ p 1♠, p 2♣) It shows a hand of 13-17pts, but is not technically forcing. Responder will try to bid, but doesn’t have to

  • a raise or rebid of an “old” suit (e.g. 1♦ p 1♥ p 2♦ or 1♣ p 1♠ p 2♠, or even 1♣ p 1♥ p 3♣)

  • ·a bid of no trumps (e.g. 1♥ p 1♠ p 1NT, or even 1♦ p 1♠ p 2NT)

As responder, if you, as an unpassed hand, bid a new suit, this shows 6+ points and is forcing for at least one round, until you find out what partner has. Generally no trump responses, and raises of partner's suits are not forcing because they limit the hand in terms of points.

A tip from me: If you're not sure whether partner's bid is forcing or not, assume it is, and BID SOMETHING!!

Another tip, this time from one of the world's best teachers, Audrey Grant
"Look across the table at your partner, and think of something you LOVE about the way they play!"  

Audrey grant & Joan butts (JULY 2018)

Audrey grant & Joan butts (JULY 2018)