The purpose of the bidding is to answer two questions: “How high?” and “Where?”

The basic bidding principle that allows you to get the answers to these two questions is that some bids are forcing.

When you make a forcing bid, you are certain to get another turn to bid; partner cannot pass – that is, as long as partner understands that your bid is forcing.

Other bids are game-forcing; partner cannot pass any bid below game. An example of a game-forcing bid is 1D by you; 1S by partner; 3C by you. The 3C is a game-forcing bid and partner cannot pass until game is reached.

Less-experienced players are frequently distraught when their partner passes what they thought was a forcing bid. The reverse can also be true – they make an invitational bid and partner bids again without the values to do so.

For example, you open 1C and partner bids 1S; now you jump to 3S (which is not forcing), and partner says 4S with this hand: J985 K76 Q765 87.

Newer players always feel obligated to bid again in these situations. After all, partner jumped the bidding and no one wants to be a poor sport.

It is important for students to be able to distinguish between forcing and non-forcing bids. You want to make sure that you and your partner have the same understanding about what is forcing and what is not.

Reverses, jump shifts, cue bids and help suit game tries are forcing, for example; limit raises and simple suit raises are not forcing.

Let’s look at some auctions and you decide if the last bid shown is forcing or not forcing:

  1. 1C-1S; 3S
  2. 1H-1S; 2C
  3. 1C-1H; 1S-3S
  4. 1H-2H; 3C
  5. 1H-1S; 3C
  6. 1D-1S; 2H
  7. 1D-1S

Dr. Kathie Walsh, an ABTA teacher of the year, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club. kbwalsh@roadrunner.com