… WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL
Borrowing a phrase from our founding fathers seems to cover all bases relating to the handling of Forcing No Trump. The liberty aspect allows you to employ the form of treatment you deem most effective for your partnership and the justice results from the announcement and clarification to your opponents of the ramifications of your specific understanding.
According to the ACBL, ‘it’ must be written on your convention card and is ‘announceable’ (as opposed to ‘alertable’). Let me make it clear — I am not a maven on this subject. Far from it! I am just trying to have clarified the different versions of the bid and insist on full disclosure by those playing it so there are no surprises for the opponents later in the auction. Let’s examine the variety of methods played, especially in ACBL land with regard to a delicate subject — the diverse handling of a 1NT response to a major opening since two over one is forcing by most twosomes.
1) FORCING NT (INTENDED FORCING) with 5-12 HCP. I believe that a great many people play that by a passed hand, you may pass 1 NT as there are other methods of showing support with a good hand (Drury, for instance). As an unpassed hand, most play it forcing (with standard minimum responses to rebid a six card suit; bid a four card suit; and in the absence of either, to bid your lowest three card minor). HOWEVER, there are those who advocate it should not be forcing (since partner cannot have an opening bid — or better) and their judgment dictates that holding a balanced minimum, opener may pass — choosing not to go beyond what is possibly their best contract. Therefore, adjustments must be made by the responder, necessitating the invitational jump to three of a major with only three card support (whereas it normally guarantees four or more) as 1NT is no longer 100% forcing — and you do not want to be playing in the wrong strain — should partner have that dreaded minimum balanced hand and pass before you can show support.
2) FORCING NT (100% FORCING) with 5-12 HCP. This is living in the comfort zone — knowing you have the luxury of temporizing with 1NT (assured partner cannot pass) and the option to jump with three card support at your next opportunity whereas an immediate jump would normally promise four or more. Of course, there are many other bids available to responder if playing 1NT forcing but we are addressing the handling of three or four card trump support with invitational values. I believe this is standard operating procedure and the treatment of choice.
Now — arises the issue of private understandings!
3) FORCING NT (100% FORCING AND UNLIMITED) with 5+ HCP to INFINITY. If this treatment is in your repertoire, it must be on your convention card and announced! SAYING SIMPLY ‘FORCING’ DOES NOT SUFFICE! If there is no upper limit to your no trump range, the entire auction may differ from the standard handling and YOUR OPPONENTS ARE ENTITLED TO KNOW IN ADVANCE about the innuendos that ensue. It helps them to understand the meaning of your bids, may enlighten their defensive thinking and prevents them from entering an auction (unsuspecting that the NT bidder could have a game or even slam) and ending up in the Intensive Care Unit of their local hospital.
NAME YOUR OWN POISON. PLAY WHATEVER YOU WANT. BUT — KEEPING SECRETS ARE NO-NOS!