Wednesday, March 30, 2005 12:15 PM

Hand Evaluation - The 5 level ( Forcing Pass )




            The 5 level has a special status in Bridge . You do not want to play a 5 level contract. Obtaining 11 tricks is Bridge is very difficult , so avoid playing 5 level contracts like the plague. A default for the 5 level is take your plus no matter how small rather than trying to be a hero & make the perfect decision.


            The 5 level belongs to the opponents is a cliché but it is based on a Bridge truth . In IMPS , the mathematics of the game of Bridge make it very true . With forcing pass theory at the 5 level, say you go wrong 3 times in a row whether to double or to take the push vul against not at the 5 level . You double the opponents for +500 but you could have made +650 in all cases. You lose –4 , -4 , -4 for a total of 12 IMPS. The next board you double them again , this time you can not make your game – it was a pseudo on their part. You win +600 or 12 IMPs so you get it all back with one board ! Your judgment can not be that bad ( wrong 3 times out of 4 ) so assume you are wrong half the time. Being wrong half the time means you are winning IMPS !  If on a good day you are right 75% of the time so you are actually contributing to a blitz. Quite often their bids are so bad they go for –800 or –1100 . Sometimes they get very lucky and only go for –300 or –100. These breaks even out over the course of a match. Be a mature Bridge player by “taking your fix . Your team will be better off in the long run when you do not try to be a hero & make the exactly correct decision every time at the 5 level. Take your plus !!


            Do not forget the type of players who have overcalled at the two level with weak hands & their partner pre-empts to game at the 4 level , have distribution on their side. You have 26 HCP as you were in game or about to be in game. If they buy the contract doubled , the lead of choice is quite often a trump. Their only source of tricks is usually by ruffing so preventing that line of play as much as you can multiplies the penalty. Do not break suits needlessly as you are in no hurry with all your sides’ HCP’s . Let them play the hand on their meager values.


When in a live competitive auction & they make pre-emptive jump raises all the time , play your doubles as D.S.I.P.  until the 5 level. At the 5 level , doubles revert to their most common meaning if you do not own the auction.  Below the 5 level , the opponents are trying to jam you into making the wrong decision , so do not have a double defined as “penalty” in these competitive auctions. They jump just for the sake of jumping on all sorts of hands. Tell partner you have defense by doubling. This gives the partnership the most options .hat the 4 level have distribution on their side. You have 26 HCP as you were in game or about to be in game. if ing IMPS !  If you do have a trump stack , put the green card on the table. If you have so much trump,  partner is very short  so a re-opening double against these type of players is always the best course of action. Do not play into their hands by taking extra bids. That is what they want you to do !


Playing the vulnerability of course comes with 5 level decisions. You are a passed hand , LHO opens 3♣ nv vrs nv & partner doubles. A passed hand re pre-empts to 5♣. Their pre-emptive action automatically turns on forcing passes for your side at the 5 level. You have ♠xxx KQxxx xx Kxx so you must make a decision as partner will play your pass as forcing. 5 is not an option as that is a slam try as is the pass & pull. I would double to warn partner that I have wasted values so let’s just take our plus on this equal vulnerability.


Quick tricks & vulnerability assist you in your 5 level decisions. ♠xx Qxxx AKJxxxx  Partner opens 3& RHO doubles equal nv . This may be a good time to bid 3 just in case you have the magical double fit. You decide not to & leap to 4 instead.  The opponents now bid 5♣ so now what ? This is easy , you have 2 quick tricks so you have the contract booked. Partner may have a trick or a stray queen for you so why gamble by bidding ? The mathematics of bidding makes no sense as you are going for a sure –300 nv against their iffy 400 in 5♣. You pass , partner has a doubleton diamond , gets a ruff & her A for +100. You have now saved 300 +100 for a 10 IMP swing.


Forcing pass theory is alive & well at the 5 level. Review your understandings with partner .  You open 1 vul vrs not ♠x AQ10xxx Axxxxx  & partner bids 1NT . The nv opponents double so you bid 2. Your LHO bids 3 nv & partner contracts for a vul game by bidding 4which means your side owns the auction. This gets passed around to your LHO who bids 4 & partner doubles. Your decision. You have 2 ½ quick tricks & there is no reason to think you can make a contract at the 5 level. Partner bid 1NT & feels 4X is the place to play the contract so why over rule her ? You bid 5 & go for –200 when 4♠X goes for 300 for a 10 IMP swing.


In 2nd seat , vul partner opens 1♣ . A nv 1overcall & you make a negative double with KJxxx Kxxx x ♣xxx . The passed hand nv RHO leaps to 5 & partner passes it around to you. The opponents bidding & the vulnerability have turned on forcing passes. Partner prefers you to bid with her pass so do you ? You have no certainty to make a 5 level contract , so you double to take your plus. Even if they make it , it will be a “forcing pass fix “ & no big deal. You bid 5♠ & mercifully the opponents do not double for –500 & the opponents go 1 down in 5 X for +100 . Another sizeable swing against you. The 5 level is for the opponents.