NEW MINOR FORCING
By Larry Matheny
The bidding style loosely called “Standard American” has many flaws. One of them is the continuation after opener rebids 1NT. The problem is that responder’s rebids at the two-level are non-forcing and jumps to the three-level are forcing. The only invitational bid left to responder is a raise to 2NT. Take a look at these auctions and the problems they present:
(1) (2) (3)
PARD YOU PARD YOU PARD YOU
1 1 1 1 1 1
1NT 2 1NT 2 1NT 3
#1. This is non-forcing asking partner to pass or take a preference to spades. Holding five spades and four hearts you have no way to invite.
#2. This is non-forcing asking partner to pass. You have no way to invite with a 5-card heart suit.
#3. This is forcing to game but partner doesn’t know if you have four or five hearts.
These rules have been around for over sixty years and allow you to only sign off or force so what do you do with all of those invitational strength hands? There are several solutions such as TWO-CLUB CHECKBACK, NEW MINOR FORCING, and TWO-WAY NEW MINOR FORCING. I am going to present a description of the New Minor Forcing (NMF) convention. This great tool solves (at least) four problems for you as responder:
1. It allows you to discover if opener has 3-card support for your major.
2. It allows you to discover if opener holds four cards in the other major.
3. You can distinguish between 5-4 and 5-5 major suit holdings.
4. It lets you show both invitational and forcing raises for opener’s minor.
Let’s look at a problem hand.
KQ954 A72 A82 J5
You want to bid game, but which game? If partner has three spades a 4 contract rates to play better. If partner has only two spades, you'd rather play 3NT. The problem is that a rebid of 2 would not be forcing and a jump to 3 would show an invitational hand with a 6+card spade suit. (With 6+spades and a game-going hand you would simply rebid 4.) Enter NMF…simply rebid 2. This says nothing about the diamond suit; instead it shows at least invitational strength and asks opener about his distribution and strength. Here are his possible rebids:
2 a 4-card heart suit (may also have 3 spades)
2 a minimum hand with 3-card spade support
2NT a minimum hand without 4 hearts or 3 spades
3 a maximum hand with 3-card spade support
3NT a maximum hand without 4 hearts or 3 spades
If he rebids 2 you bid 3NT. Obviously you are not interested in hearts so you must hold five spades. He will move to 4 holding 3-card support. Remember, using NMF requires invitational or better strength.
Here are some hands that are now easier to describe:
1. KQ954 AJ42 J5 82
2 Invite with 3
3 Raise to 4
2. AJ954 AK942 J5 8
This sequence shows (at least) 5-5 in the majors. You would have used NMF if you held only four hearts. This makes it easy for partner to raise hearts holding three small.
You can also use NMF over partner’s jump rebid of 2NT.
3. AJ9 A9842 J5 864
Partner will rebid 3 if he holds 3-card support, 3 holding a 4-card spade suit, and 3NT otherwise. This frees up your 3 (over 2NT) to show a 6+card suit with slam interest. Holding 6+ hearts with no slam interest you would simply rebid 4.
4. AJ98 A9842 J5 84
This sequence shows four spades and five hearts. If you were only 4-4, you would use NMF. (It is assumed opener may have bypassed bidding a spade suit.)
5. AJ987 A9842 J5 8
This sequence shows 5-5 or greater in the majors. With 5-4, you would use NMF.
Now let’s look at a feature of NMF with which many people are not familiar. After partner opens in a minor and rebids 1NT, we need to be able to support his minor with weak hands, invitational hands, and strong hands. Here is the solution:
6. 8 AJ87 J65 109654
7. 7 AJ109 K6 Q109542
8. A3 AK87 5 AK9654
#6. Rebid 2. Since partner denied holding 4+ spades, a club partial may be safer.
#7. Rebid 3 You want to invite and at the same time suggest shortness somewhere.
#8 Rebid 2 (NMF) followed by 3. This shows a strong hand and suggests a club game or slam.
Wait….there’s more. What about this sequence:
How do you discover if opener has 3-card spade support? In theory a rebid of two of either minor is non-forcing so what do you do?
There are (at least) two solutions: 1) Use 2 as your “New Minor” or, 2) Use your “Better Minor” to ask the questions. My preference is 2 and here are the responses:
1NT 2 Artificial, invitational or better
2, 2 Weak
2 Constructive raise 8-9
3 Limit raise 10-12
NMF is an artificial bid and therefore must be alerted. As always there are variations of this convention so please discuss it with your partner before adding it to your card.