There are a lot of different ways to bid game when you know unequivocally what the denomination will be. It’s less easy (and illegal) to scratch your head and say to partner – “Hey! I want to be in game but frankly I really don't know which one. Sorry!” Luckily there is a legal way of doing this. Really! And it’s Fourth Suit Forcing (FSF).
The auction begins with partner opening 1C. You know straightaway game is on but is it 3NT, 4H or 4S or 5C? Which is the safest? Which the most high scoring? Is 3N +1 (+430) going to be better than 4H/S (+420) or will a major suit game produce an overtrick for +450? Will 3N get you +2 for +460? At some stage you will have to take control of the auction and push partner to game.
The auction proceeds:
1C - 1H
1S - ???
Does partner have five clubs and four spades? Or six clubs and five spades? Or just four of each? Or even three hearts? Maybe a diamond stopper? At this point in this auction game might be on in three of the 4 suits plus the NT game and slam can’t be too far off either. So which one will you guess to bid? And why should you stab at a silly guess when the solution is to simply bid 2D! FSF!
How FSF Works
Once three suits have been bid between you and partner it is extremely unlikely that the bid of the 4th suit can possibly be natural. Therefore it is used as a conventional (ie unnatural) bid to demand of partner that they continue to define the parameters of the hand they hold. The other
great thing about it is that it is unconditionally forcing to game, so you and partner can swap useful bits of information between you safe in the knowledge that a game – somewhere – must be reached!
So the auction goes on:
1C - 1H
1S - 2D (FSF)
Now opener’s 3rd bid should be the one that finally unlocks the clues to the Sherlock Holmes-like mystery of which game to play in:
2H = 3 card heart suit
2S = 5 card spade suit (5+ Clubs as well; i.e. you have a fit in two suits)
2NT = A diamond stopper, no 3 H’s, no 5 S’s
3C = 5+ Clubs
3D = asking for a diamond stop for 3NT
When partner makes one of these bids you will – finally – know exactly which denomination to play in. What you may not know yet is exactly at which level. OK, so game’s on but what about slam? You’d like those extra 500 or 1000 points on the score card wouldn’t you? It’d take care of any of those silly minuses that creep in. As I said earlier, FSF is “forcing to game”. This means that both of you can bid away as much as you like showing a feature here, a void there, cue-bidding merrily away because you both KNOW that whatever else happens you MUST end up in game.
See you next week!