The Forcing Notrump convention is an integral part of every 2-over-1 forcing-to-game system. It's used by responder to describe a wide range of hands that have less than game-forcing values (5-11 points). For guidelines that apply to other parts of this bidding system, see The 2-over-1 Bidding System.
If partner opens 1H or 1S and RHO passes, make your natural raise or 1-level response if available. With other hands, you can bid the Forcing 1NT to show:
5-11 points and
No 4-card suit you can show at the 1-level (a 1S response to partner’s 1H opening) and
A hand without 3+-card support for partner’s major.
Exception: Bid 1NT first to describe a 3-card limit raise (10-11 points and 3 trumps).
If you play constructive raises (1H-2H promises 8-10 support points), you can also use Forcing Notrump auctions to show weaker 3-card raises. In the auction 1H-1NT-2C-2H, responder is showing either a doubleton heart or 3 hearts with bare-minimum values (fewer than 8 support points).
After you open 1H or 1S and partner responds 1NT, you must bid again to allow him to complete the description of his hand. Your rebid will show your strength and tell partner something about your hand pattern. If you have extra length in your major or you hold a 4+-card side suit, you'll be making a natural, descriptive rebid. With many other types of hands, though, you may have to bid a 3-card minor. Here are your options for your rebid:
Rebid your major if you hold 6+ cards in the suit.
Bid 2H (if you opened 1S and hold a 4+-card heart suit).
Rebid 3 of your major if you have a strong 6+-card suit -- invitational (partner can pass).
With 17-18 points (or a very strong
Raise to 2NT if your hand is balanced or semi-balanced -- invitational to 3NT.
Make a reverse rebid of to 2S (if you opened 1H and hold a 4-card spade suit) – forcing.
18 or more points:
Raise to 3NT if your hand is semi-balanced and you have 19+ points (or a very strong 18 points).
Make a reverse to 2S (if you opened 1H and hold a 4-card spade suit) -- forcing.
Make a strong jump-shift to 3 of a new suit (shows a 4+-card suit) – forcing.
When you rebid your major or raise notrump, you pinpoint your high-card strength. Bids of new suits have a much wider range. After 1S-1NT, your rebid of 2C, 2D or 2H could be made with as many as 16-17 high-card points. Partner can pass these rebids, but if he has a good responding hand (9+ points), he'll often stretch to bid again to keep the auction open for you. This will allow you to show your extra strength if you have it.
Note that all the ranges and recommendations above are subject to your judgment of your hand's actual playing strength. You'll often want to evaluate a hand "up" if it has very strong suits and distributional values.
If opener holds a 6-4 hand:
After 1S-1NT, you have a dilemma when you hold a hand such as KJ10854 K4 AJ83 3. Do you show your extra length in spades or do you bid the diamond suit?
If you have a bare minimum, you'll usually want to rebid your 6-card major, especially if your 4-card suit is a minor. This limits your point-count right away and simplifies the auction. If you have 6 spades and 4 hearts, though, it may be important to get the other major into the auction, so you can base your decision on suit quality. With weak spades and decent hearts -- a hand such as K108654 KQ93 42 A -- rebid 2H.
With a powerhouse hand (18-19+ points), you can make a jump-shift into your second suit to force responder to bid again. The problem hand is one with moderate extra values (15-17 points). To show this strength, bid 2 of your 4-card suit and hope partner can bid again. If he does, you can then show your extra values by making a game-try bid.
For example, after 1S-1NT, rebid just 2S with AQ10864 74 2 AJ82. If you instead hold AQ10864 A7 2 AJ82, rebid 2C. If partner takes a preference to 2S, you can invite game by bidding 3S. If he bids 2D or 2H, you'll then bid 2S to show your extra length and strength (partner will know you have extra values because if you held 6 spades and minimum point-count, you would have rebid 2S over 1NT).
After opener’s rebid, you’ll clarify your strength. You have several ways to describe hands in two different point ranges.
With a weak hand (5-9 points):
Pass = Shows a clear preference for that suit. If partner's rebid was 2C or 2D, you should have at least 4-card support to pass. If partner's rebid was 2H (after opening 1S), you can pass with 3-card support.
Retreat to 2 of partner’s major (1S – 1NT – 2C – 2S) = Preference with doubleton support.
Make a non-jump bid in a new suit (1S - 1NT - 2D - 2H or 3C) = Long suit (6+-cards at the 3-level; strong 5+ cards at the 2-level).
With an invitational hand (10-11 points):
Bid 2NT = Stoppers in unbid suits, no fit for partner’s major.
Jump in partner’s major (1S – 1NT – 2C – 3S) = 3-card support.
Raise partner’s major rebid (1S – 1NT – 2S – 3S) or (1S – 1NT – 2H – 3H) = Support.
Raise partner’s minor rebid (1S – 1NT – 2C – 3C) = 5+-card support, unbalanced distribution (lack of stoppers for a notrump rebid).
Bid the “Impossible 2S" (1H – 1NT – 2C/2D – 2S) = Similar to a 2NT rebid, but with good support for partner’s minor. The bid is "impossible" (and therefore artificial) because you would have responded 1S if you held 4+ cards in that suit.
Jump in a new suit (1S - 1NT - 2C - 3D or 3H) = Strong 6+-card suit, invitational (could be as few as 8 points, depending on your suit strength).
The Forcing NT is used only after partner opens 1H or 1S. If partner opens a minor and you respond 1NT (1C-1NT or 1D-1NT), your bid has the standard meaning (not forcing, 6-10 points).
The Forcing NT is “off” in competition. If your RHO bids or doubles, your 1NT response reverts to its standard, non-forcing meaning (7-10 points with stoppers in the opponent's suit).
This summary recommends that a 1NT response is forcing for one round and denies forcing-to-game values. Some pairs choose to play the 1NT response as unlimited by an unpassed hand. Others play it as semi-forcing (opener can pass with a balanced 12 or 13 points). These are areas for partnership discussion.
You cannot force to game. Opener is allowed to pass any response.
A 1NT response is treated as “semi-forcing”. Opener will bid again if he has extra values or a distributional hand, but he's allowed to pass 1NT if he has a balanced minimum.
If you've previously passed and then make a 2-over-1 in a new suit, it should always be a 5+-card suit, as partner may pass with a doubleton.
A 1NT response by a passed hand always denies support for partner’s major. If you have 3-card support, make a raise (5-9 points) or use the Drury Convention (10-11 points) to show support.
© Karen Walker