Squeezing The Dummy

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Forcing 2N bids

In recent years there has been a movement towards defining a lot of 2N bids as forcing in uncontested auctions. Bidding lots of suits with a strong, balanced hand leads either to convoluted auctions where you never reveal the true nature of your hand or requires you to jump to 3N killing an enormous amount of bidding space. In general with balanced hands you always want to describe that feature as early and cheaply as possible.

In an auction like 1-(p)-1-(p)-2 if responder happens to have 4324 or 4333 with 16 points he has to bid either 2 or 3 and later guess whether to go past 3N in order to raise diamonds. This leads to silly things like bidding THREE suits with a balanced hand and possibly never bidding NT. If you are willing to give up on an invitational 2N you can use 2N here as forcing, solving these issue and leading to much smoother auctions. Of course this leaves you stuck with a balanced 10 or 11 points, but some of those hands can game force and several can bid 3. It's unlikely that 2N will be a much better spot than 3 anyways.

Auctions like 1m-(p)-2N and even 1M-(p)-2N can be played as forcing for similar reasons. The biggest advantage, though, is that the integrity of your other sequences is preserved as you no longer need to create auctions to handle the balanced hand type. Of course, barring artificiality, with 11 or 12 and a balanced hand you will need to either game force or make a non forcing bid. That may seem like a significant loss but keep in mind how narrow that range is. Much more often you will hold a balanced game force, and on those hands you will now be well positioned to reach an intelligent contract.

It occurred to me yesterday that this principle could be extended to times when the opponents overcall over a minor suit opening. In fact, it is much easier to do so after an overcall.

After 1m-(1M) experts will not bid 1N freely with something like a 7 count. This is mainly because it is now more dangerous to bid and you don't need to keep the auction open for partner. So the range of a 1N bid is something like 8-10 when bid freely, but I have certainly seen people bid 1N with a bad 11 (usually when they don't have a double stopper in RHO's suit). I have also seen people bid 3N with 11 if they had something like AQTx in RHO's suit because their honors are well placed.

This would seem to beg the question, what use does an invitational 2N have? If you just increase the range of 1N by a point and game force with 12 you can once again use 2N as forcing.

2N forcing is especially useful after an overcall because sometimes you will only have 1 stopper. For instance with Q832 KQ3 K32 AT2 after 1-1 you would hate to bid 3N as it could easily be a terrible contract opposite short spades. You have no good options though; a cuebid shows diamond support and doubling shows 4 hearts. Bidding 2N forcing allows partner room to describe his hand below 3N, and you can show some doubt about NT and perhaps get to 5 of a minor. The forcing 2N also aids your slam bidding significantly by giving you an extra level, and gives you a way to bid a hand like 18 or 19 balanced without having to invent a ridiculous auction and then guess what to do.

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