Forcing and Non-Forcing Bids
This might seem to be an innocuous subject, but there are few events in bridge as annoying as having one's partner pass a bid you believe to be forcing.
What does “forcing” mean? It means that the partner of the person who makes the “forcing” bid is not allowed to pass.
Here is a simple example of a forcing bid:
East is not allowed to pass 2 ♣. It is a forcing bid. In theory, West could be void in clubs.
4NT is also forcing. It is not an offer to play in no-trump. It is an inquiry about the number of aces held by West.
2 ♣ is a natural bid, showing at least 10 high-card points but potentially a lot stronger than that. West is not allowed to pass 2 ♣.
This is more subtle, but 1 ♥ is every bit as forcing as a 2 ♣ opener, a Blackwood 4NT bid, or a response of 2 ♣ to an opener of 1 ♥. East is just getting started in this auction. No limit has been placed on his hand. He could have 18 or 19 high-card points.
This chapter is mostly about uncontested auctions, but it's worth noting that there is such a thing as a forcing pass in competitive bidding. Suppose the auction goes this way:
East's 3 ♥ invites game, and West accepts. The opponents are clearly sacrificing in 4 ♠. When East passes North's 4 ♠, it does not mean she wants to go passively. East is saying her action in this case is not clear, and she is leaving the decision to West whether to double or bid on. The one thing West is not permitted to do is to pass. In that sense, East's pass is forcing. West must act in some way — by doubling 4 ♠ or by bidding on.
Another example of a forcing bid is when responder to an opening bid reverses in his second chance to bid. For example:
East is showing a strong hand and is forcing to game by bidding 2 ♠. West's 1NT rebid usually denies four spades, so opener may have a difficult decision in his third turn to bid, but he is not allowed to pass.
Here is a good rule of thumb for deciding whether to bid on over an action by partner that you don't completely understand: If it sounds forcing, it is. Your partner will be less annoyed with you if you bid on over a non-forcing bid than if you pass when he wants you to keep bidding.
Harmony in bidding is vital to success at bridge. Make sure you and your partner understand which bids are forcing and which are not.