1D 1S 2H 4S
Red vs. not, whatís your call holding ♠A5 ♥Q9 ♦KQ742 ♣AK103 ?
Your choice may depend on whether you believe this is a forcing-pass situation. If it is, you and partner are both bound by the agreement that the opponents cannot play 4S undoubled. This gives you the option to pass and see what partner wants to do (Rebid hearts? Show diamond support? Double?).
A forcing-pass auction allows you to describe a wide range of hand types. The standard meanings are:
An immediate bid says you donít want to defend. Itís usually based on extra playing strength, not extra high-card points.
Double is the most discouraging action. It warns partner that your hand isnít suitable for a 5-level contract, often because you have two quick losers in the opponentsí suit.
Pass encourages partner to bid and suggests at least second-round control of the enemy suit. If partner judges not to bid on, he must double.
Pass and pull Ė you pass, partner doubles and you overrule his decision by bidding Ė is the strongest auction. Itís at least a mild slam try, promising more values than if you had bid immediately.
These strategies can dramatically improve your decisions in competitive auctions, but theyíre also a frequent source of misunderstandings. By far the most difficult aspect of the forcing-pass structure is knowing when it applies. A forcing pass can be a spectacular failure if one of you thinks itís ďonĒ and the other doesnít.
Thereís no standard definition of the exact conditions that set up this force, but there are three main schools of thought. Two of the approaches are:
(1) Itís our hand. This is the most liberal interpretation, which specifies that a forcing-pass situation is ďonĒ if weíve shown at least 23 high-card points. The typical auction is one where we open and make a game invitation. It also applies if the opponents are ďobviouslyĒ sacrificing.
(2) Itís our hand for game. For a pass to be forcing, our auction must have shown game-forcing strength -- a 2C opener, a forcing raise, a 2-over-1 forcing-to-game response, a reverse by responder. A game invitation must be accepted to set up a forcing pass.
If your partnership follows the guidelines in Approach #2, it will be clear to both of you that your pass of 4S in the auction above would not be forcing. You havenít yet shown full values for game, so the only way for you to reveal extra strength is to bid or double.
If you prefer Approach #1, you can make a forcing pass if the auction meets the 23-point guideline. Using the ďbookĒ ranges for your bids, your opening showed 13+ points and partnerís competitive 2-over-1 promised 10+ points, so that may convince you that this auction qualifies.
Your focus, however, should be not on your own computation, but on partnerís. No matter how certain you are that a pass would be forcing, you always need to consider the possibility that partner will analyze the auction differently.
From partnerís perspective, you might have opened with 11 or 12 points and his freebid could be made with as few as 8-9 points and a good suit. Looking at ♠2 ♥KJ10864 ♦J9 ♣QJ6, he may believe the opponents have the balance of power and that your pass shows a dead minimum. Heíll pass, too, and youíll be +150 instead of +500.
This type of miscue is just one of the pitfalls of forcing-pass agreements. Itís impossible to discuss every situation in advance, so unless both you and partner are totally in tune with each otherís thought processes, your communication wonít always be perfect.
Thatís the reason why many experienced players have adopted Approach #3:
(3) The caddy would know this pass is forcing. This is the most conservative treatment, but it also requires the fewest mind-reading skills. More about how to make it work in the next issue.
© 2010 Karen Walker