1NT Forcing (VBH)

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 04/01/2014
Level: Intermediate

Previously, we examined the basic concepts of 2/1 Game Forcing.

An important part of the 2/1 GF system is to employ a 1NT bid (by an unpassed hand) in response to a 1? or 1? opening bid as forcing (or semi-forcing) for one round. Unlike Standard American, this bid is not limited to 6 to 10 HCP. It shows 6 to 12 HCP.  At the end of this article, you can try 4 practice deals.

I'd guess 70% of players (as of 2014) agree to treat the 1NT (6-12) response as "forcing."

I'm in the 30% (as a player and a teacher) who recommend the 1NT response be NOT FORCING. As a player, I won many tournaments with this treatment, and as a teacher of intermediate-level players, I find it much simpler. In fact, I'm content if you read only the next 2 paragraphs and be done with this entire topic (which most teachers make a complicated issue out of).

The ACBL actually considers "my" way to be "semi-forcing" -- which to me is a silly term. It is not forcing at all. Nothing "semi" about it.  The opener will bid as if it were 1965 and pretend his partner has 6-10 (just aware that it might be 11 or 12). There is nothing special to learn--no fancy 3-card suit rebids by opener.

I think it is easier (and better) to play the 1NT response as not forcing (though it requires that silly "semi-forcing" announcement).  If opener happens to have a flat minimum, he just passes and 1NT is the final contract. There are pros and cons - to read more, click here.

I'd be happy if most readers went no further. But, since 1NT FORCING is popular, I'll delve into it now. (Agree with your partner if you will play it this way or not).

If 1NT is totally forcing, opener CANNOT pass! If opener has nothing special to say, he must invent a bid, typically in a 3-card minor.

For example, after 1? ? 1NT, if opener holds the following hand:

?A J 10 8 2
?9 7 3
?A 2
?Q J 2
, the appropriate rebid is 2?. Opener cannot rebid his major since this would show a 6-card suit. He cannot make a 2? call because a rebid of the other major shows at least a 4-card suit. Lastly, he can't pass if 1NT is forcing, and he cannot bid 2?, a 2-card suit. (Personally, I prefer to use 1NT as "semi-forcing"—so that opener can pass with a hand like the one above.)

Opener's Rebids after 1NT forcing:

2 of a minor – at least a 3-card suit (note: 2? can be exactly 4=5=2=2 if not strong enough to reverse)
2 of a new major – at least a 4-card suit (if reverse, shows extras)
2 of the same major – at least a 6-card suit, NF
2NT – more than a strong notrump, balanced
3-level – same as over a normal 1NT response

Examples for opener after 1?-1NT (answers below):

L) M) N) O) P)
 ?A Q 9 8 2
?A 5 2
?Q J 2
?7 3
?Q J 10 6 5 2
?A 5 2
?Q J 2
 ?A K Q 5 2
?A K Q 10 2
?10 5 2
?A J 5 4 2
?A K 2
?K 2
?K 8 3
?A Q J 10 5 4 2
?A J 2
?K 2


Responder's actions after 1NT forcing (in other words, responder's next bid after he has responded 1NT):

New suit on 2-level : Non-forcing
Preference to opener's Major : Typically weak, usually 2-card support
Raise of opener's second suit: Invitational, natural
2NT: Invitational, Natural
Jump Raise of opener's major: 3-card limit raise

Examples for responder after 1?-1NT-2? (answers at the end):

Q) R) S) T) U)
?10 3 2
?Q 5 4 2
?A K J 6 4
?A 5 2
?Q J 9 8 2
?K 10 2
?10 9
 ?Q 7
?A Q 6 2
?9 8 7 6
?5 4 2
?Q 10 9 8
?K Q 10 8 7
?A 8 2
?K Q 10 8 7 6
?Q 4 3 2
?J 2



Larry's audio presentation to the ABTA on 2/1 GF in New Orleans, 2010

Larry' 64-page 2/1 GF workbook

ANSWERS (with further clarification)

(A-K were in the 2/1 GF article)

L) 2? (But pass if playing 1NT as semi-forcing)
M) 2? (Same as if 1NT is semi-forcing)
N) 3? (Same as if 1NT is semi-forcing)
O) 2NT (Same as if 1NT is semi-forcing)
P) 4? (Same as if 1NT is semi-forcing)

Q) 3? (Invitational)
R) 3? (This sequence is used to show a 3-card limit raise)
S) 2? (This could be a very bad 3-card raise, but is usually a hand like this—a "false-preference")
T) 2NT
U) 2? (Natural, nonforcing)