Bridge World Extra! Newsletter


Jeff Rubens, director

Matchpoints, North-South vulnerable. You, South, hold:

S A K 5 H A Q 10 7 4 D K 4 C K 10 3

1 H3 D3 S5 D

What call do you make?

5 S808
6 S603
6 NT602
5 NT601

This problem is largely about when a high-level pass is forcing, and whether to use the forcing pass if it is available.

ED MANFIELD: "Double. Unfortunately, a pass would not be forcing. So I must guess. I expect something like:

S Q J x x x H K x D x C Q x x x x

from partner. In this case, five spades might not make, and five diamonds might go for 700. With two ways to win, I choose defense.

"Granted, I'd like to be able to make a forcing pass. In general, however, I think the high-level forcing pass is overrated. Partner will often make the wrong choice; frequently, the right decision depends less on what partner holds than on how the opponents' cards are divided. In other cases, the forcing pass just forces us to choose between -750 and -800. In such cases, partner is reasonably well positioned if double shows cards and pass shows weakness. Then, you can sell out when it's not your deal. And if partner pulls your card-showing double, he is not bidding for a minus. Therefore, you can make an intelligent slam decision over his pull."

I agree with most of that. Forcing passes are overrated, overagreed and overused. The less defined the hands, the less efficient the forcing pass. For example, if LHO opens four hearts, partner bids four spades, RHO raises to five hearts, up to you, I see no reason why your pass as advancer should be forcing. Partner has no reason to place you with any strength (preemptor's partner may have it all). In other sequences, where both partners have shown strength, a forcing pass is playable, perhaps best. Here, for example, the North-South players aren't going to sell out to five diamonds undoubled when both have shown significant values. If they don't want to bid any farther, they will double. But if a pass to five diamonds is forcing, would a pass to four diamonds be forcing? There is no reason to believe that South wanted to bid over three spades, which may already be minus. Must he double four diamonds just because North-South can't make anything? These are questions not easily answered, and a lot more theoretical work needs to be done in this area. In the current problem, there was no question that most panelists thought a pass would be forcing.

EDDIE KANTAR: "Pass--forcing, of course."

RALPH KATZ: "Pass--must be forcing."

JIMMY CAYNE: "Pass. 100 percent forcing."

IRA RUBIN: "Pass--must be played as forcing even though you've opened in third seat."

EDGAR KAPLAN: "Yes, the pass is forcing even though I opened in third seat--East is patently sacrificing."

Does that mean that if East weren't a passed hand, so that he was not patently sacrificing, then a pass would not be forcing? Only Eisenberg joined Manfield in suggesting that a pass is nonforcing here. The rest of the discussion takes place under the assumption that a pass by South would be forcing. But should South use a forcing pass?

KIT WOOLSEY: " cannot hurt to make a forcing pass and to get some additional information about North's hand, in particular, his diamond holding."

LARRY COHEN: "Pass, then pass if partner doubles, since we rate to have two diamond losers if North is declarer in spades, and there aren't enough tricks in notrump. If he bids five hearts or five spades, I'll bid five notrump, showing the diamond king."

LOU BLUHM: "Pass. Don't believe I'm strong enough to bid five spades or to pass-and-pull, so I'll abide by pard's decision."

I like those passers' plans, which are basically conservative. Partner will double most of the time, either because he has two diamonds or because he has no hand, and in all cases five diamonds doubled figures to be the best we can do. We'll hear now from the aggressive segment of the panel which, it seems to me, has forgotten that partner did not open with a two-bid. People open two nowadays with six spades and thirteen cards but fail to credit partner with similar tendencies.

BILL SIDES: "Five spades. Partner figures to have the ace of clubs, a stiff diamond, or both. He is also likely to have six spades (no negative double)."

DICK FREY: "Five spades. Hate to have the lead coming through, but partner may be short."

MARSHALL MILES: "Five spades. It doesn't sound as though partner's values are in diamonds, and he probably has a singleton."

Could five spades possibly be not enough?

ERIC KOKISH: "Five spades. I'm willing to stab at five spades with my good trumps and controls, although pass-and-pull, stronger yet, is tempting."

BART BRAMLEY: "Five spades. I expect to make 11 or 12 tricks, but bashing to slam is too extreme. Defending is a top-bottom wager . . . I expect to get average-plus or better for declaring. Perhaps partner has already made the winning decision by bidding his spade suit."

Higher, ever higher.

ROBERT WOLFF: "Six spades. Close between spades and notrump. Might as well put the early pressure on, to get the seven-diamond save."

ALAN STAUBER: "Six spades. Spades is better if we need heart or club ruffs, but six notrump is tempting."

CARL HUDECEK: "Six spades is enough, with North a passed hand. . . The few times we would lose two diamond tricks are far outweighed by our slam gains. There are not enough winners for six notrump opposite many hands that make six spades."


EDGAR KAPLAN (continued): "Pass. We are probably headed for six notrump (I intend to bid five notrump next over most normal actions from North), but there is no hurry. Delaying my action suggests uncertainty about strain. And North's next action may be significant."

JOHN SWANSON: "Six notrump. Partner needs more than queen-jack-fifth of spades and the club ace for his three-spade bid. One wonders what he holds that was not satisfactory for a two-spade opening or a negative double."

Up, up, and...

MORRIE FREIER: "Six notrump. There could be a grand slam, but . . ."