~2/1 The Forcing 1NT

An integral part of 2/1 is 1NT Forcing. After partner opens 1 of a major suit (say 1S), a 1NT response shows 6+ HCP and says, “partner, I need to make a forcing bid.”

~Not playing Jacoby 2NT, the bid once showed 6-10 points. Spade support might or might not be held if 1NT were bid, but if three-card spade support existed, the point count was incompatible with another bid.

~Jacoby 2NT over partner’s major suit is now STANDARD; the bid shows 4+ cards in opener’s major, 13+ HCP, and a balanced hand with no singleton or void. The point count for a Forcing 1NT after partner opened a major suit was changed to 6-12, as responder might hold 11-12 HCP but only three trumps and be unable to make a descriptive 3S bid.

~Some bridge professionals are now placing requirements on both the length and quality of the suit if, after opener bids one of a major, responder bids at the two level in a lower-ranking suit (the 2/1 game force). Length is generally considered to be 5+ and suit quality varies from writer to writer.

Some bridge experts require the suit quality to show at least two honors (QJ972). Others require two honors (A, K, Q, or J), one of which must be an A or K (KJ972). The more conservative experts require at least two of the top three honors (KQ972). All three requirements apply only when responder holds 3+ cards in opener’s major.

The more conservative of the experts state that the 2/1 bid (holding 3+ cards in opener’s major plus 13 HCP) is both a game force and a slam invite–just as a Jacoby 2NT bid or a splinter bid are. These experts would bid a forcing 1NT first, then make a jump to game in the major suit fit, if the suit quality were less in responder’s suit. Partner would then recognize that responder held 3+ trumps, 13+ total points, and no qualifying side suit.

Some examples based on this conservative approach; partner opens 1S and the opponents pass throughout:

S K93
H KT76
D A
C KT932

The conservative expert would bid 1NT with this hand, rather than bidding 2C, due to the lack of high quality in the side suit. Note that without 3+ cards in opener’s major, the trump suit is unknown, and responder would just bid 2C with this hand to create a game force and leave as much room as possible to find the strain. But since responder knows that spades will be trumps, does not hold a biddable splinter (it is a singleton A), a good second suit, or a Jacoby 2NT-type hand, responder will bid 1NT (forcing) and then jump to 4S. Opener will recognize the type holding responder has and will only make a slam try holding extra values. Some top players would bid 4D, a splinter bid, despite the splinter being a singleton ace; the A certainly is not a “wasted honor.”

S K93
H KT76
D A
C KQ932

Here, responder would bid 2C. After opener’s second bid, responder would jump to 4S. In this sequence, opener would recognize the quality of the club suit and might have a suitable fit for a slam try. Give opener this hand

S AQ872
H QJ8
D JT
C A54

Opener would recognize the potential of the club suit to produce five tricks and could bid 4NT with relative safety. Responder’s holding would be adequate for a bid of 6S. At worst, the success of the slam would rest on a finesse.

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