BridgeCast on RealBridge - Fourth Suit Forcing

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Fourth Suit Forcing

I hope you enjoyed playing four of my deals featuring Fourth Suit Forcing. I have run through deal three in the video above and all of the deals are analysed in the notes below. These deals were taken from my "Responder & Fourth Suit Forcing" book, part of my Bridge Lesson series of books.

Deal one

If the first three partnership bids are in different suits, a bid of the fourth suit is the only way to force opener to bid again. It shows 12+ points (forcing to game values) and asks opener to show something he hasn’t already shown. Because opener will have bid two suits, he will have shown a 5 - 4 shape. Here, in priority order, are the extra features opener should show in reply to Fourth Suit Forcing (FSF):
(1) Three cards in responder’s suit.
(2) Five cards in his second suit.
(3) Six cards in his first suit.
(4) A stopper in the fourth suit - shown by
bidding notrumps.
(5) A good doubleton in responder’s suit.
(6) Good five cards in his first suit.

The first three show extra length, the reason they take precedence.
What does opener reply to FSF after 1  - 1  - 2  - 2  with:

a)  J 6 2,  A K 8 7 4,  2,  K J 8 2
b)  4,  K Q 9 6 2,  K 4,  Q J 9 8 3
c)  Q,  A J 8 4 3,  K 10 2,  Q 10 8 4
d)  K J,  A 8 6 3 2,  8 6,  A 8 7 2

(a). 2 . Three cards in responder’s first suit is top priority.
(b). 3 . Showing his 5 - 5 shape.
(c). 2 NT. No extra length to show, but a stopper in the fourth suit.
(d). 2 . No extra length nor stopper in the fourth suit, but a good doubleton in partner’s response.

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
K J
A 8 7 5 3
K 9 6 4
5 4
9 8 3 2
K 10
10 5 3 2
A K 10
N
WE
S
7 5
Q J 6 4
J 7
Q J 7 6 2
A Q 10 6 4
9 2
A Q 8
9 8 3
WestNorthEastSouth
1 Pass1 
Pass2 Pass3 1
Pass3 2Pass4 3
All pass
  1. Fourth Suit Forcing - “we’re going to game, please tell me more”.
  2. No extra length, no stopper in the fourth suit, but a good doubleton in responder’s suit (Priority No. 5).
  3. Knows that it may be a 5 - 2 fit, but cannot play notrumps for the lack of a club stopper.
4  by South
Lead:  A

On this deal, the only makeable game contract was 4  reached via FSF. West led a top club and switched accurately to a trump to prevent the third round ruff. Declarer won in dummy and ducked a heart (best). He won the trump return in dummy and cashed ace of hearts and ruffed a heart (high).

No 3-3 heart split materialised, so declarer drew West’s last two trumps and now needed four diamond tricks. He cashed the ace-queen, and the fall of East’s jack made it more likely (the Principle of Restricted Choice) that West held the adjacent missing ten. He led a third diamond to the nine (key play), then cashed the king. 10 tricks and game made.


Deal two

After the first three bids are in different suits, responder’s bid of the fourth suit says, “We are going to game (+). Please tell me something new”. How else can you bid a hand such as:

A Q J 6 2, 8 7 3,  Q 9,  A K 4 after 1  - 1  - 2 

Holding the above hand, you bid 2  , Fourth Suit Forcing (FSF). What would be your next move after (i) 2  (ii) 2 NT (iii) 3 ?

(i). 4 . Partner may only have  Kx, but how bad can that be? You certainly can’t play 3 NT, for the lack of a heart stopper.
(ii). 3 NT. Your worry of no stopper in the fourth suit is gone.
(iii). 5 . Looks like little alternative to the unfashionable Five-of-a-Minor. [Experts might torture partner with 3  - “fifth suit forcing”, to extract yet further info.].

Board 2
East Deals
N-S Vul
Q 10 4 2
A 10 3
J 10 3 2
10 2
K 7 3
7 6 4
A K 8 7 5
K 5
N
WE
S
A 8 6 5
Q J 5
4
A Q 8 7 3
J 9
K 9 8 2
Q 9 6
J 9 6 4
WestNorthEastSouth
1 Pass
1 Pass1 Pass
2 1Pass2 N2Pass
3 NAll pass
  1. Fourth Suit Forcing. “We’re going to game; I know you’re 5  - 4 . Have you extra length, or, failing that, a stopper in the fourth suit?”
  2. No extra lengths, but a heart stopper.
3 N by East
Lead:  2

Our - 3 NT - deal - was reached because North’s FSF bid elicited a notrump reply, showing a stopper in that suit. South led the fourth suit - the normal choice being the one suit not bid naturally*. North won the ace, returned the ten to the jack and king, and declarer won Souths third round heart with the queen.

Counting eight tricks, declarer sought to establish a long club. Over to the king, and back to the ace-queen revealed the 4-2 split, but declarer was happy to give South his fourth- round winner, knowing he had just one heart to cash. After enjoying the heart, South switched to a diamond. But declarer won dummy’s ace-king, cashed the king-ace of spades, and scored his ninth trick with the long club. Game made.

*Although it seems common-sense to lead the fourth suit as a defender, an auction such as South’s is strongly indicative of shortage in dummy’s suit. A diamond opening lead would have rendered the game unmakeable.

Footnote: It is also worth mentioning that many players overly associate Fourth Suit Forcing
with a request for a stopper for notrumps. It is an important facet (as here), but it is far from the most important, and, as I hope I have made clear, opener should show extra length (over and above the 5 - 4 shape he will have already shown) ahead of the stopper.


Deal three

After three partnership bids in different suits, a bid of the fourth suit at the lowest level shows 12+ points (i.e. game-forcing) with no clear direction. The bid - “Fourth Suit Forcing” (FSF) - asks opener to describe his hand further, according to this priority list:

(1) Three cards in responder’s suit.
(2) Five cards in his second suit.
(3) Six cards in his first suit.
(4) A stopper in the fourth suit - bid notrumps.
(5) A good doubleton in responder’s suit.
(6) Good five cards in his first suit.

One extra point: when making his reply, opener jumps the bidding when he holds 16+ points (preferably not going beyond 3 NT) - in case responder is interested in slam.

Take 1  - 1  - 1  - 2 . What should opener bid now with:

a)  A J 8 3,  2,  K 9 8 4 3 2,  A 2
b)  K J 6 2,  7,  A J 8 4 2,  Q J 2
c)  K 8 5 2,  Q 9,  A K 7 4 2,  J 7
d)  A Q 7 3,  Q 10 6,  A K J 4 2,  2

(a). 2  . Showing his 6 - 4 shape.
(b). 2 NT. No extra length, but a stopper in the fourth suit.
(c). 2  . No extra length nor club stopper, but a decent doubleton in partner’s hearts (Priority No. 5).
(d). 3  . Jumps the bidding to show 16+ points and implies his exact shape.

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
K 7
A J 10 6 5
A 7 6 3
K 7
10 8 6 2
7
Q 10 5 4
Q 10 9 5
N
WE
S
J 9 3
9 8 4 2
K J 9 2
8 4
A Q 5 4
K Q 3
8
A J 6 3 2
WestNorthEastSouth
1 
Pass1 Pass1 
Pass2 1Pass3 2
Pass4 N3Pass5 4
Pass5 5Pass6 6
Pass7 7All pass
  1. Fourth Suit Forcing - “we’re going to game, more information please”.
  2. Jumping to show 16+ points and implying his exact shape.
  3. Roman Key Card Blackwood agreeing the last bid hearts.
  4. Zero or three of “five” aces (incl.  K).
  5. Have you got  Q?
  6. Yes.
  7. No losers - and anticipates ruffing diamonds (partner known to have a singleton).
7  by North
Lead:  2

Our - grand slam - deal saw West find the best lead of a trump. Declarer won dummy’s queen and began ruffing diamonds. He crossed to the ace and ruffed a diamond (low). He crossed to the king of clubs and ruffed another diamond (high). He crossed to the king of spades, drew the three remaining trumps, then led over to dummy’s ace-queen of spades (discarding his last diamond). 13 tricks and grand slam made.

It was opener’s jump in reply to FSF - showing 16+ points - that gave responder the confidence to try for all 13 tricks.


Deal four

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
Q J 10 2
Q 10 9 8
8 2
Q 10 7
K 8 5
A K 7 3 2
K Q 7 3
J
N
WE
S
A 9 7
J 6
A J 4
A K 6 4 2
6 4 3
5 4
10 9 6 5
9 8 5 3
WestNorthEastSouth
1 Pass2 Pass
2 Pass2 1Pass
3 N2Pass6 N3All pass
  1. Fourth Suit Forcing.
  2. No extra lengths, but a stopper in the fourth suit. Note that, crucially, South jumps the bidding to show 16+ points.
  3. Facing 16 points, North knows the partnership have the 33 they need for 6 NT.
6 N by West
Lead:  Q

Declarer counted ten top tricks in his 6 NT and clearly hearts was the place to garner the extra two. He had two strings to his bow. The second was a 3-3 split, but the first was a finesse - leading towards dummy’s jack.

Thus reasoning, declarer won the spade lead in hand with the king, to lead a low heart towards the jack (key play). West (say) rises with the queen (or the jack scores), but declarer wins his jack of spades return in dummy, cashes the promoted jack of hearts, then follows with the four top diamonds and ace-king and seven of hearts. The ace-king of clubs bring his trick tally to 12. Slam made.