Friday, August 09, 2002 1:25 PM

Tactics - Forcing Passes




            In my opinion , the best weapon ever invented in Bridge to handle the opponents tactical bids is the forcing pass . Why ?  Forcing passes bring in the partnership element of Bridge and allow a joint decision instead of a single handed decision which usually leads to disaster . We have had multi E-mails on forcing passes before,  but due to their importance,  it does not hurt to discuss them again .


            Forcing passes are defined as assigning a meaning to the pass when it is "your auction" in order to give partner information to assist in making a decision . Forcing passes are most frequent in sacrificing auctions by the opponents and  penalty double auctions .


          O.K. the hardest concept to grasp with forcing passes is to know when they apply I.e. when do you own the hand ? Here are some guidelines


    1. Obvious that you own the auction – 2♣ opener , 2/1 , Jacoby 2NT or similar strong bids like Q bidding and systemic doubles


     2. Any systemic auctions that show limit raise or better and game is reached by either side


     3. Penalty doubles and systemic bids that encourage penalty doubles  ( 1NT doubled etc )


     4. Vulnerability considerations i.e. contracting for a vulnerable game



            O.K.  what are some auctions that forcing passes do not apply . Just because you bid game does not mean forcing passes are on . The infamous leap to 4 of a major in competitive auctions does not "turn on forcing passes" especially with vulnerability taken into consideration. To turn on forcing passes , a Q bid or new suit or double must have been bid previously.


              "Limit raise or better" . The key word is the better . A straight limit raise auction does not turn on forcing passes until game is reached and accepted by your side. If the limit raise hand can be “better” , forcing passes apply if either side bids game.


                                    2 4

The auction  1                        2 ( limit raise or better )      pass is forcing





There are three classes of forcing passes . One type is that the partnership is just "getting out of the way" for partner to make a penalty double  when you own the auction. This pass has implications also . This pass means that you have the values that partner can reasonably expect you to have given the auction . If you bid in front of partner , you are showing weakness and distribution that you would not have stood for the penalty double anyway ( 6-5 etc ) . If you pass and then pull the double you are giving partner the information that you are interested in more than the penalty double is going to bring in ( vul game or slam ) . A special case of these type of penalty double forcing passes is over weak NT's . Partner doubles 1NT and the opponents are running . Partners pass is forcing thru the 2 level as there are assumed values. Partner is not obligated to bid just because she has values. The pass gives that information and partner can make a penalty double if warranted.


The next class of forcing passes is that you have a fit and the opponents are sacrificing or  otherwise in your auction .  In these types of auctions , the pass is geared to "playability" . If you want to encourage partner to bid again due to shortness in the opponents suits or another reason you pass the decision to her .


A double gives the information that from your side lets take our plus as I have duplication in their suit or a real dog . A direct bid says that you feel that the contract is going to make and a pass and pull is a slam try . At high levels the pass has strict suit requirements in the opponents suit . A pass at the 6 level shows 2nd round control or better and a pass at the 7 level shows 1st round control .


The last class of forcing passes are those defined by vulnerability  or what the opponents are doing in your auction. Quoting Mr.. Cabay


"Good partnerships (especially those that extensively use pressure bids) play the
vulnerability. So, when they bounce around with favorable vulnerability, you can be
sure they have nothing; and, when they bounce with unfavorable vulnerability, you
can be sure they expect to make. The difficult cases are the equal vulnerability,
especially both nonvul (Meckwell have a name for both nonvul, something like
the "sewer vul").

  So, I strongly agree with your treatment when unfavorably vul (assume the
opponents have nothing, so the pass over their preempt is forcing), and strongly
disagree when favorable (they have the goods). The other two cases are tough.
When both are vul, the opponents are still likely to have the goods, so I prefer
to play non-forcing passes. With both non-vul, I throw up (i.e., I have no preference),
but there should be a partnership agreement.

Stan "

These forcing passes are when the other guidelines to forcing passes are not present . For example ,

1♣              1


Let the vulnerability be your guide                                                                                                                                                                     

Intelligent use of forcing passes is the best counter defense to double game/slam swings . I will give two hands from the same Swiss match where the forcing pass prevents double game swings  

xx AJx A109x Axxx                Bob C


void KQ10x Kxxxx KJxx         Mr. Jones


First seat Mr. Jones opened 1 and LHO bid 2 Michaels and I bid 2 which shows a limit raise or better in diamonds . RHO bid 2 , Peter passed and LHO bid 4. I deduced that partner could have spade shortness as the opponents are certainly not bidding on HCP's !! Therefore I made a forcing pass which says that I would rather play the hand than defend . Peter and I have an understanding that once we have opened and the other hand has a limit raise or better we "own the hand" and forcing passes are on if either side bids game. Note on this hand , if the minors behave , 7 Diamonds makes . In reality , the diamonds were 3-1 and the clubs were 4-1 so only 5 diamonds made . Actually our partners were in 4 spades doubled making on this hand !!


Another hand which shows the forcing pass principle comes from Ms. Lambert & Lloyda playing together ..


KQJ10 Qx KQJ10xx x Anita


Anita opens 1 and LHO overcalls 1 and Lloyda bids one spade . 2 Hearts by RHO and Anita bids 2. 3 and Lloyda bids her vulnerable game 4 . The auction does not end here ( LHO was Steve Willard ) who bid 5  Is Lloyda's pass forcing and if so what does it mean ? First of all Lloyda contracted for a vulnerable game . It should NOT be an advance sacrifice against 4 ( if it were , she would back in 4 after they bid 4 ) to make it an obvious sacrifice.


Anyway , her pass is forcing and shows heart shortness and a willingness to play 5 . With the diamond fit , 2 Aces , heart shortage and the 5th spade all lead toward a forcing pass. Why make a single handed decision for the partnership when you can pass information to partner ?  Lloyda passes and Anita with her offensive hand happily bids 5 . Note 5 doubled makes on this hand !!  5 spades makes ..


A9xxx x Axxx Q109 Lloyda


In my opinion , the ultimate in a good partnership is how they handle forcing passes . All aspects of forcing passes and competitive auctions should be ironed out .



O.K. now an example of a different type of forcing pass .




1                            DBL    ( one or both minors , HCP's and sets up forcing passes )




Unless the opponents are suicidal you must give them the club suit . Partner probably wanted to double diamonds , short in spades and now it appears has hearts.


AJ10xx KQxxx void Jxx 


        With this hand I would bid in front of partner to show the weak distributional hand .


AKQxx xxx Kx Jxx    I would double to show my values are in spades and to discourage her bidding



AJxxx Axxx Kx xx          I would pass and respect partners decision


AJxxx AKxxx Kx x         I would pass and pull the double to 5 as a slam try ...



            Eddie  Kantar wrote an entire book on forcing pass theory. There are some twists and turns in forcing pass theory . The main one is when in the auction does forcing pass theory  get turned on   1-P-3-3  P-P-P    with 3 being a limit raise is an auction that can happen as game has not been bid by the opening side.   1-P-3-3  4-4-?   . This pass is forcing as game has been accepted by partner. The opponents are deemed to be in a sacrificing situation.