Quick summary

Suppose 3 suits have been bid, and you are still not certain which suit you should be in

If your partner does have it, he will bid NT.

If he doesn't have it

Level

2nd use: Getting to game in a minor
Beware: responder's re-bid of 3-in-a-minor can be passed. So with a strong minor hand, use 4th Suit Forcing followed by a bid of 3-in-a-minor, to get to game in the minor. If that fails, revert to game in NT.

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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
+West
North
S K J 5
H A J 7
D A K Q 8 4
C 9 6
+East
+South
Example Deal
Dealer: North
Vuln: Nil


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"4th Suit Forcing", NT and minors

Anyone who already has the 4th suit would bid NT !

When 3 suits have been bid, and you are still not sure which suit is right for the contract, you can try "4th Suit Forcing".

Logically, if you have a stopper yourself in the 4th suit, you can yourself put the contact into No Trumps. A bid in the 4th suit is therefore in effect redundant as a prposal to play in NT, and instead has come to mean "I want to carry on bidding, and either

  1. I can't put it into NT because I lack the 4th suit. Have you got it ?, or
  2. I'm not happy where we are, please describe your hand further.

You need 10 HCP to use it at the 2-level, and 13 HCP to use it at the 3-level. In the latter case, it's (obviously) game forcing.

Partner's reply
If your partner has a stopper in the 4th suit, he can put it into No Trumps. Both logically and as the name implies, it's a forcing bid. The responses from the opening bidder are:

  • bid No Trumps if he has a stopper in the 4th suit
  • without a stopper, try to support partner's suit (consider delayed support)
  • rebid the second suit if it has extra length (i.e. 5)
  • raise the 4th suit if it has 4 cards and extra strength,
  • if all else fails, or with extra length (i.e. 6) bid your first suit

With this reply, if you have game going points between you, you can then keep bidding up to game.

Strong minors - don't miss a game

There are 2 issues to consider when you have a strong game going hand in a minor

  • 5 tricks is a lot of tricks to make, only one short of a slam, so you need a lot of strength and information to go for it
  • you must at the same time try to decide if 3NT would be better

The problem arises if you are strong in the minor: a re-bid of 3-in-a-minor-suit is a "limit bid", telling your partner that you have 10-12 HCP. It can be passed, leaving you in the wrong place.

The solution is to use "4th suit forcing", and then re-bid 3-of-the-minor. The combination of these bids tells your partner you are strong in the minor, and is an attempt for game or slam in the minor. If that fails, you can opt for 3NT.

Of course, your partner won't know at first that your "4th suit forcing" bid is in fact strong. But it doesn't matter, he will in the meantime give you that useful 4th suit information. You next bid of the 3-in-the-minor will make everything clear.

  • After the 3 diamond rebid, the opener will assume responder has 10-12HCP and can pass.
  • WNES
    1club pass 1diamond pass
    1heart pass 3diamond pass
    pass pass    
  • Instead, with the same cards, responder can bid the 4th suit, obliging opener to reply (and incidentally to give an answer to the question of course, in this case the answer being "I don't have spades"). The subsequent rebid of 3 diamonds by responder shows a strong hand, and is game forcing, asking the opener to decide between NT and the minor.
  • WNES
    1club pass 1diamond pass
    1heart pass 1spade pass
    2club pass 3diamond pass
    5diamond

Examples

Hand 1
S 10 3 2  

The bidding goes 1club-1heart-2diamond. What do you bid ?
You can't agree to diamond with 7 cards, and by repeating heart could miss a game (combined 23-26 HCP).
Bid the 4th suit at the 2 level, 2spade, to see if partner has a stopper there and a NT contract

H A K 8 6 4
D A 4 3
C 4 3

Hand 2
S K 3  

The bidding goes 1spade-2diamond-2heart. What do you bid ?
You can't agree to spade or heart with 7 cards in each case, and by repeating diamond could miss a game (combined 26-29 HCP).
Bid the 4th suit at the 3 level, 3club, to see if partner has a stopper there and a 3NT contract

H A 4 3
D A K 8 6 4
C 9 4 3

Hand 3
S A 4 3  

The bidding goes 1heart-2club-2spade. What do you bid ?
You can't agree to heart or spade with 7 cards in each case, and by repeating club could miss a slam (combined 30-33 HCP, noting opener's reverse).
Bid the 4th suit at the 3 level, 3diamond, to see if partner has a stopper there and a big NT contract, and then probably go on to rebid club either at 5 or 6.

H K 3
D 9 4
C A K 8 6 4 3

Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).

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