Preempting

Kitty Cooper   September 6, 2006   20 Comments on Preempting

One of the most effective strategies in competitive bidding is the preempt. When you have a long strong suit and not many points you can start the bidding at the 3 level with a 7-card suit and at the four level with an 8-card suit. This makes life very difficult for the opponents since they have lost the space needed in the bidding to find their own correct contract and most of the time doubling you will not be profitable enough.

Using the 2 level for pre-empting as well, makes it even harder on the opponents and only gives up bidding space on those very strong (22+) one suited hands that you almost never get. The bid of 2 clubs is used for all your hands of 22+ (except 21-22 balanced which are opened 2NT).


II. FACTORS TO LOOK AT WHEN DECIDING TO PREEMPT

The perfect preempt has a long good suit and at most one outside high card. A hand like this:

 S:764
 H:KQJ10962
 D:9
 C:J4

Or this:

 S:AJ109764
 H:4
 D:K82
 C:54

But if we only preempted with the perfect hand, we would not be giving the opponents much trouble. So let’s consider what other hands we can preempt on. First of all, partner needs to understand that our non-vulnerable preempt is not a descriptive bid, but an attempt to give the opponents trouble.

Second of all, our suit does not need to be good if we are not vulne r able. The advantage of length outweighs the need for a good suit. R e member we want to preempt as often as possible, particularly first in hand.

How about this:

 S:Q1076432
 H:10
 D:K98
 C:2

Or this :

 S:76
 H:J1098752
 D:2
 C:653

Neither of these has a good enough suit for a classic preempt, but both could be very effectively preempted not vulnerable.

III Position at the table

The two positions at the table to be most aggressive with your preempts are first and third when no one else has bid. If you are in second seat, your partner is as likely to have a good hand as the remaining opponent, so you want to have a more classic preempt.

When your right hand opponent has opened the bidding, the time to preempt aggressively is with either shortness or length (four or more) in their suit. Having three cards in their suit should be a warning to be more conservative.

When both opponents have bid, they have already exchanged enough information to be in a better position to double you. This is the wrong time for an aggressive preempt.

IV. OPENING BIDS of 2 D: , 2 H , and 2 S are WEAK 2 BIDS

These bids promise 6-10 points and a 6 card suit. In other words,
a hand which, if your partner opened 1 spade, you would not be strong enough to bid your suit at the 2 level (you would have to bid 1NT and hope partner bid again). If vulnerable (RED) then the suit must have some honors, a good rule of thumb is 2 of the top 3 or 3 of the top 5 (thus KJ10xxx or AQxxxx but not KJxxxx). If the decision on
whether to open a weak two-bid is close, do it with a singleton and not without one.

Exercise 1 . Would you open a weak 2 bid on the following hands at all vulnerabilities (or just non-vulnerable or just favorable)?

A. B. C. D. E.
 S:2  S:AQJ765  S:A54  S:743  S:KJ9843
 H:J98654  H:83  H:AQ10954  H:Q109652  H:854
 D:K543  D:954  D:5  D:Q64  D:65
 C:53  C:73  C:843  C:8  C:95
Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______
Y/N ____ Y/N ____ Y/N ____ Y/N ____ Y/N ____
Vuls ______ Vuls ______ Vuls ______ Vuls ______ Vuls ______



IV. RESPONDER IS CAPTAIN AFTER PARTNER OPENS A WEAK 2

What happens next? Well, now your partner is captain. One of the golden rules of pre-empting is that you never bid again unless partner bids 2NT to ask about your hand. All further decisions on competing and saving belong to your partner.

Partner should not expect to be making a game unless their hand is at least 16 plus points. However, partner should always raise the level
immediately with a trump fit. Since your level of safety is to contract
for the number of tricks that is equal to your side’s number of trumps,
with hands of less than 16 points, raise partner to 3 with 3 trump and to 4 with 4+ trump (raise 2D to 5D with 5+ trump). Your side has enough trumps to either make your contract or to have a good sacr i fice against the opponent’s contract. If you are red versus white be more careful – you need a side singleton or extra strength to raise it to 4 and a side doubleton to raise to 3.

How about responder’s new suit bid? This is a game try in that suit and it is forcing.

III. RESPONDING to a WEAK TWO-BID with 16+ POINTS:

A. If you are balanced or have a fit, bid 2NT to ask partner about her hand.

1. weak two-bidder repeats her suit with 6 to a bad 8 (and you pass)
2. With a good 8 – 10, weak two bidder:
a) bids another suit that has an A or K (stopper for NT). Now responder decides whether to play 4 of her suit (often sa f est) or 3NT

b) bids 3NT with a solid suit

c) with neither of the above but a good 8+, she bids game in her suit.

B. If you have a long suit of your own and think game is possible, bid your suit, this is forcing for one round and partner will use common sense to respond, raising whenever possible.

20 thoughts on “Preempting

  1. Kitty Cooper Post author

    Renate –
    Normally since you have 13 points, you would open one of your suit but if your trick taking potential is too large to risk being passed at the one level then you might consider opening a strong 2 – it would depend on the hand. For example this is 13 points with an eight card suit. I might open a strong 2 but would likely just open 1
    KQJxxxxx Ax Kx x

    Reply
  2. Kathy Boehmer

    If I as opener open with one of a suit, can my partner then respond with a preempt 3 bid? I was under the assumption you could only preempt if you were the first partner to bid.

    Reply
  3. kitty cooper

    It used to be that only the first partner to bid could preempt. However modernists love to bid a lot with long good suits and not many points, so many do play the weak jump shift response (what a preempt by responder is called). Some, like me and my partner, only play them in competition, but others like two of a major to be weak in response to one of a minor.

    Weak jump shifts are not the standard treatment when there is no competition so your partner and you would have to make that agreement and check the box for it on your convention card if you want to play it. It might also be alertable (look if the box is red).

    Reply
  4. Nora McKinley

    I was dealer and held 8 hearts. 10 high card points, 2 aces and 2 jacks. My hearts were Aj 10 and 5 smalls. I held the ace of diamonds and a jack of clubs. No voids.
    Even though I had 8 hearts, I felt my hearts were too weak to open 4H.
    I opened 3H. My partner responded 4 H I knew she had at least opening. I wanted to ask for aces using roman key card, but the opponents angrily accused me of inappropriate play. I settled for 5 Hearts. We made 7 Hearts. I certainly did not mean to cheat. The opponents told me if this was duplicate play the director would be called over.
    Please advise me if this was a bad bid. Is one required to bid 4 with a preempt holding 8 of a suit?

    Reply
  5. Kitty Cooper Post author

    Dear Nora, where to start …
    1) your hearts were strong enough to open four, an eight card suit hardly needs more than one high honor. That many of them makes it a good suit regardless.
    2) If you are going to want to bid again after partner raises you, then your opening preempt was not the right bid
    3) When you preempt, you have described your hand and your partner is captain (makes all decisions)
    4) I personally will never preempt with 2 aces. Too strong, too likely to miss slam.
    5) 10 high card points plus an eight card suit is a one bid as 10 + 4 points for length = 14 points THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT

    and last but not least, find nicer opponents!

    Reply
    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      Also it is best, one you decide to preempt, to stick with opening four with 8, three with 7, and a weak 2 with 6. There are some exceptions, for example a 6-4 might open three and a 7-4 might open four. I have ever, when vulnerable, opened a weak 2 rather then three with a 7-222 pattern and a bad suit, also three rather than four with an 8-221 and a suit headed by the J or Q, but I try to avoid these downgrades.

      Reply
  6. Nora McKinley

    Dear Kitty,
    Thanks so much. I appreciate your advice and will not make this mistake again.
    Many thanks,
    Nora McKinley

    Reply
    1. kitty cooper

      Nora, we all make mistakes at bridge, that is part of the reason it never gets boring. Like you, I always resolve to learn from my errors!

      Reply
  7. Barbara Stepanic

    May a player respond using the preempt. Partner has opened, and I have a preempt hand. What is the correct response?

    Reply
  8. kitty cooper

    If you and your partner have agreed to play weak jump shift responses you can jump shift in response to an opening bid with a preemptive hand. However standard bidding is to bid 1NT with a weak hand and hope to bid your suit next time, if there is a next time

    Reply
  9. Kitty Cooper

    Bruno –
    When partner prempts and you have a singleton in his suit be conservative and pass unless you have serious extra strength (19+) or a long suit of your own. Without a fit, there are unlikely to be enough tricks for a game

    Reply
  10. J Kellogg

    Partner opens 1 club and I have 7 diamonds. I respond with a preemptive 3 diamonds. Please advise reverse preemptive bid.

    Reply
  11. Kitty Cooper

    J – You cannot preempt your partner who opened unless the two of you have agreed to play “Weak Jump Shifts” but that would be a response of 2 not 3.
    See http://www.bridgebum.com/weak_jump_shifts.php for a further discussion of those.
    If you play splinters, then that is what the double jump shift to 3 would be. It could otherwise be played as preemptive but that is not the normal meaning so both you and your partner must have agreed to play it and must alert it at the table.

    Reply
  12. Janet Hawk

    I know the rule is not to prempt with an outside 4 card major, but this has led me to miss what would have been successful preempts on several occasions. I know that the odd hand doesn’t void a rule, but is it ever right to preempt with an outside 4 card major?
    If I do have an outsdie 4-card major, how strong must I be to open with 1 of my long suit?

    Reply
  13. Susan

    If your opponent opens the bidding with 1spade and you have 10 points and six hearts, should you overcall 2 hearts or would your partner think you had opening points?

    Reply
  14. Kitty Cooper

    Partner will expect close to opening points, but go ahead if you have a good suit. Otherwise it is a matter of your partnership style. Overcalling is more about how important is it to you that partner lead your suit. You can overcall with less high card strength when you really want that lead.
    Some other factors, with a marginal looking overcall that has 3 cards in the opponents suit or no aces, just pass.

    Reply
  15. Kitty Cooper Post author

    B Jane –
    Yes it is a weak bid unless you have agreed to play “intermediate jump overcalls”

    Reply

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