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Basic Defense #2: The Forcing Game
One of the central rules of play in pinochle is that, when a suit is led and you don't have that suit, you must play a trump. The forcing game (like most of my terminology, adapted from bridge) is simply playing suits where declarer is out, thus by the rules, forcing him to ruff, shortening his suit, and hopefully making him lose control of the hand down the line.

The forcing game can be detected explicitly or implicitly. Explicitly, when declarer's forced to ruff on an early round of a side suit. For example, with spades trump for concreteness, let's say the early tricks run AH, AD, AD, QS - KS - AS to dummy, AC, AH, AH ruffed by declarer...he started with only a doubleton heart, which is reasonably common.

This is a good case for adopting the forcing game. Declaring side appears to be out of side-suit aces (if declarer is sandbagging in clubs, you know this because he would have had to meld his aces). When the defense plays hearts, declarer gets the tricks he was going to get anyway...but earlier than he wants to.

The implicit variation happens best in this situation: the first 3 tricks above remain the same, but declarer's spade exit runs QS - KS - TS -AS to East (declarer sits South). East started with, say, AHAHXHXHXHXHXHXH. With an 8 card suit, it's very likely declarer (who's expected to be long in trump) is short in hearts. East can cash club/diamond aces (he's out of position to sandbag them), then plan AH, AH. If these both survive, then:

a) If nothing interesting appears, play XH. 9 of the 12 missing hearts have been played; SOMEONE is likely ruffing this, unless they were 4-4-4 around the table.

b) If partner drops the missing AH...ugh. Bad break. Yes, you can reach him, but the forcing game fails to materialize. You don't have entries any more, except perhaps in trump, and you may have established a trick for declarer. You pretty much have to try a KH, to eliminate that trick and get partner in.

c) If dummy drops the missing AH, then the issue is, do you think declarer is also out? What other cards fell, from declarer and dummy? Say declarer's plays were KH,TH, and dummy's were THAH. There's a REALLY good chance that they're both out. Playing XH guarantees that dummy will be in before partner, but looks to be drawing 2 trumps. Declarer should ruff low (JS)...but many players think points, not tricks, so it may draw KS from declarer, AS from dummy. AWESOME! Likely WELL worth letting dummy in.

Another example: declarer, still South, plays AH, AD, AD, but now plays QD to West's AD, suggesting that South has numerous losers and is trying for diamond ruffs by North. West started with, say,


West has an even better opportunity to adopt the forcing game. The only route from South to North is in trump...which South doesn't want to do. Also, when the cards played suggest that both North and South are out of trump, North has to ruff first...his KS forces TS from South. Trump 10's are very valuable; give South something like ASASTSKSKSQSJS, certainly a decent suit...but ruffing with that TS may well help establish a defender's TS. Also, unless North ruffs with AS, South is going to win the trick and be on lead...with no non-trump route to North. West is very likely to win his exit, if it's not a trump, and be able to force again.
This looks like a great post. Need to settle down to read and digest this one fully!
This is the defense I find the most effective against me when I am declarer so this is the strategy I usually try to employ. I need to study the other defense posts though.
If you as declarer, don't like it when the defense does something, that's always a clear indication that the defense *wants* to do it.

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