Friday, September 16, 2005 1:38 AM

Playing the Vulnerability - Forcing Passes




          All good players “play the vulnerability” . They are willing to sacrifice against our vul game as the method of scoring makes that advantageous. With equal vulnerability , they are more hesitant to sacrifice so the assumption is that they are bidding the contract to make or its too close to call. How do you counter act opponents who make things difficult for you by “playing the vulnerability” ? The tool we use is forcing passes are turned on by bidding game at this one vulnerability only. If we bid a vul game and they bid nv after that , forcing passes are turned on even if partner has limited his hand. 1-1-2-3   4-4-?  . The assumption is we are not bidding game vul as an advanced sacrifice against their non vul game. With other vulnerabilities , we could be doing so but not in this one. This is the one vulnerability scenario that bidding game in itself turns on forcing passes as protection against players who take advantage of the vulnerability.


          Does the level turn on forcing passes ?  One school of thought says that an opening bid and a response turns on forcing passes if they are at the 5 level or above after you have bid game. The reasoning being that as your side has announced 2 quick tricks and 20 HCP they should not be able to make an 11 trick contract. We feel that this is too restrictive. This thinking should be coupled with “playing the vulnerability” also. If we are vul and they are not and they are at the 5 level , forcing passes are turned on of course. What is the worse result that can happen ? They make their doubled game and win an extra 5 IMPS. A small price to pay to make your vulnerable decisions more accurate . Your vul partner opens 1♣ and RHO nv overcalls 1. You bid a spade with Axxxxx KJ9x void Axx and LHO bids 4 with partner passing . RHO  bids 5 so now what ?  I think the combination of level and vulnerability have turned on forcing passes. Your pass or more specifically your non double has suggested that you want to take offensive action somewhere. Partner with forcing pass theory can not pass 5 at this particular level and vulnerability..


          What about equal vulnerabilities ? Susan held this hand playing with Doug Deschner at a regional . AQxx xxxx void KQ10xx and opened 1♣ nv against nv. Doug responded 1 and LHO leaped to 5. What choices does Susan have ? I think on this vulnerability the most simplistic Bridge notions should apply since it is at the 5 level.. A pass means they might make 5 as I am minimum with no duplication of value and a double means they can not make 5. No forcing pass understandings apply. D.S.I.P. theory does not apply at the 5 level. A pass and pull does not show extra as we are just “righting the ship” . Susan should pass & pull the expected double to 5 which describes her distributional hand nicely. A free bid of 5 should mean given your minimum response at the one level, I feel we can make this contract. if Doug & Susan were vul against nv opponents , forcing pass theory should apply.


          At the table , Susan freely bid 5 and Doug with J10x AKQx Kx Axx thought he had 11 HCP more than he announced so he converted to 6NT for all the matchpoints. A small spade lead and Doug finessed losing to the king , a diamond back and down 8 for –400 which is a rare way to attain that specific number. If Susan passes 5, Doug will of course double ( what else) and Susan now pulls to 5. Doug will bid 6 and you get your +980.