45 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).


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


Or this:


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. Remember we want to preempt as often as possible, particularly first in hand.

How about this:


Or this :


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 , 2 , and 2 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.
2 AQJ765 A54 743 KJ9843
J98654 83 AQ10954 Q109652 854
K543 954 5 Q64 65
53 73 843 8 95
Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______ Pts ______
Y/N ____ Y/N ____ Y/N ____ Y/N ____ Y/N ____
Vuls ______ Vuls ______ Vuls ______ Vuls ______ Vuls ______


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 sacrifice 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.


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 safest) 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.

45 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

  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.

  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).

  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?

  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!

    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.

  6. Nora McKinley

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

    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!

  7. Barbara Stepanic

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

  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

  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

  10. J Kellogg

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

  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 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.

  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?

  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?

  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.

  15. Kitty Cooper Post author

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

  16. Florence

    If the 1st player opens 1 spade, is it possible for the 2nd player his left hand opponent holding 10 points and 7 high card point cards in diamonds able to preempt?

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      You can always preempt on whatever you want, there is no “law” … but it may be better to make a simple overcall with that strength, it depends … if you are vulnerable or the side points are jacks or even queens, go ahead and preempt. For example, AQJxxxx with a side Jack and queen not together is fine, but AKxxxxx and a side Kxx is too good. The point is to have mainly stuff in your suit and not to fool your partner about your playing strength.

  17. Paul

    Playing rubber bridge, both sides vul, we had 60 points on. My hand had 10 high card points and a void – the singleton ace of clubs, 4 small spades, and 8 hearts to the KQJT. In first seat, I opened two hearts (watching the scoreboard) and was passed around. The hand actually made 7 hearts as my partner had the bare ace of trump and I was able to discard two losing spades while my opponents discarded all their spades leaving me with a 7 and 6 of spades as winners at the end. After the hand, my opponents said that I had too many points (they counted 3 points for the void) to open at the two-level. My thinking was that I had 5 possible losers in my hand (the four spades and the ace of trump) and we needed 60 points for the rubber. Was I wrong?

  18. Kitty Cooper Post author

    What you did was not terrible as you wanted to complete your game and get that bonus. The danger was that your hand had so many tricks that slam was possible. Better to open 1 in cae your partner had a good hand also and could explore for slam.

  19. Marcia McCalden

    My understanding in today’s bidding is that a new suit by partner over a weak two is forcing for one round.
    What about a new suit by partner over a 3 level opening preemptive bid?

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      Your understanding is correct, new suits, that are not a bid of game, are forcing for one round unless the partnership has agreed otherwise. So for example 4 over a 4 preempt would be to play but 3 over a 3 preempt is forcing one round.

  20. Mary Creed

    I was playing bridge tonight
    My partner opened 1 diamond
    Right hand opp overcalled 1 heart
    I had 8 spades including A K Q with 10 points
    I preempted with 3 Spades ♠️
    But partner felt I shouldn’t have preempted over her opening bid
    Now should I have just overcalled ?? Instead we went light one as my partner bid on to 6 ♠️

  21. Kitty M Cooper

    Yes 1 would have been better but a bid of 4 might have also been reasonable, you were much too good for a preempt of three.
    It is standard to play preemptive jumps when the opponents interfere over partner’s opening bid. This is because the chance that you will hold a strong hand is infinitesimal so the preempt is an effective description and makes it hard on the opponents

  22. Kitty Cooper Post author

    Barb –
    There is a saying, “don’t prempt the preemptor” – the thought is if the opponents preempt, your side wants to show good hands not preemptive hands.
    When your partner preempts you are always invited to further the preempt with a fit
    When you preempt, your partner is captain so you should not do any more bidding.

    Hopefully I have answered your question

  23. Kitty M Cooper

    It is not a jump so it is an over all. However in balancing seat jumps are not preemptive, they show 16+ and avoid 6+card suit

  24. Carole

    I understand a preempt would be a double jump over opponents bid, so if they bid 1 spade, would I have to go to 4c c, 4d or 4h to show my bid is a preempt bid or would just going to 3c or 3d 3h still show a preempt hand ?

  25. Kitty M Cooper

    A bid of 3// over the opponents 1 is a preempt. A preempt is a single jump over the opponents bid. The double jump is a splinter if you play that convention and partner has opened, else just a bigger preempt

  26. Margaret Maguire

    North opened 1s (15 PST) and W (my partner) went to 4D with JS. 72H KJ87543 D A64 C
    S passed with 8pts and I responded 5D presuming my partner was a strong hand
    She at the end of the game told me hers was a weak preempt but I said maybe an ordinary overcall of 3 diamonds would have described her hand better. What would have been the best call in your opinion. It did stop N/S bidding

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      4 is a preempt just like 3 and as you pointed out to her three was more descriptive. A bid of 4 usually has 8 diamonds or a 7-4 pattern

  27. Mary Jane Fryer

    Partner passes
    2nd seat bids 1 diamond
    3rd seat wants to pre empt with clubs..
    how to bid with 6 clubs?

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      You can preempt to the three level with a good six card suit, In clubs we only expect six so are pleased when partner acutally has seven!

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      Of course, when ytour partner has the best hand at the table, he may not be too happy when you open a preempt. But there is one of hime and two opponents.

  28. Bob Shields

    In the first position, my partner opened 3 diamonds, RHO bid 3 spades. I had a beautiful 7 card heart suit with 12 HCP and passed. Partner bid 4 diamonds and we went down one trick (low board). It makes 6 hearts.

    Question: should my partner have opened 1 diamond giving me room to bid my hearts?

    1. Kitty Cooper Post author

      Preempter is NOT supposed to take a second bid! But why didn’t you try 4 with such a nice hand?
      Without knowing his hand, I cannot tell you if he should have opend one rather than three ….

  29. Kent Jones

    I held S:Q63 H:Q5 D:KQJ752 C:Q2 at favorable vulnerability. After LHO and partner pass, RHO bids 1S. Is a preempt of 3D by me acceptable?

  30. Kitty M Cooper

    Not really. With 3 outside queens you have too much defense and partner may be enticed to take a phantom save. The other flaw is poor spots in your suit which is only 6 cards not the preferred 7.


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