District 6
Jane Farthing, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Jun/JulArticle by Steve RobinsonFeb/Mar
ArticlesPreempts with Fit (Dec/Jan 2012/13)

Partner opens 3 favorable and you have five diamonds with nothing on the outside. An example hand would be 43232KJ432432. Over RHO's double, what tactical bid do you think is best? Suppose RHO passes.

There is no clear-cut answer to this problem. The opponents could have a hand where nothing you can do will stop them from getting to their best spot. What you can hope for is that the strength is divided and the opponents won’t be able to communicate their extra strength. Most experts raise diamonds with the range between four and seven. Some experts think that bidding 4 will do the job. They hope that LHO will double and RHO will bid four-of-a-major which will end the auction. If RHO makes a takeout double and you raise to 4, they think that LHO will bid a heavy four-of-a-major which ends the auction. Some experts think that bidding 5 will do the job.5 takes away the opponent’s Blackwood bid. However, you show more strength bidding 5 over 5 then bidding 4 over 4. Some experts even bid 6 or even 7.

Some experts consider fooling around. They think their spades are strong enough to play opposite partner’s likely two-card support and bid 3. Other experts bid 3NT, thinking that they can take nine tricks. Other experts bid 4NT, thinking that they want to be in slam if partner has enough aces.

Most experts think that straight forward bidding is best.

Jeff Rubens---In either case, I bid 4, which makes it awkward for either opponent to show strength. However, bidding a different suit might be indicated if it were known that the opponents had weak agreements in this area.

Marty Bergen---4.

Chuck Berger---4.

Eric Greco---This is an age old question. In the instance you give, where it is extremely likely the opponents have a slam and I have lots of losers, I would bid only 4 to induce a heavy four-of-a-major bid on my left. RHO with a big hand has to give his partner some rope so will often pass with big hands. For example say LHO has KxxAQxxxxAxxx and RHO has AQxxKxxxAKJ10x. It is very possible this will be the end of the auction where they are on a club guess for seven, and we have seven losers. Now if I think the opponents have a slam, but I have lots of shape and therefore fewer losers, I may start with a 5 or 6 bid with the plan on saving.

If you held xxxKQxxxKQxxx, you could bid more since there’s a good chance that you only have five losers.

Barry Rigal---4 normally works reasonably, 3NT always causes problems. Outright psychs such as 4 or 4 may or may not work. Sometimes bidding your three-card suit works better than bidding your two-little suit.

Marinesa Letizia---I actually like bidding just 4. Bidding 5 or higher, rates to propel them to the slam probably the grand. Bidding 4 takes that bid away from them yet doesn't necessarily propel them into slam.

Alan Sontag---Probably 4. But a case can be made for much higher. Unfortunately any giant preempt will be met by an opponent who will believe you.

Joe Kivel---I would bid 4 in either situation. Now when an opponent bids four-of-a-major, his partner doesn't know whether it's an overbid or underbid.

David Bird---After a double I would bid only 4. To bid higher may push them one of them into an overbid, which his partner can then raise. If RHO passes, I would try 3NT.

Some experts raise diamonds but also consider bidding 3NT or some other psychic bid.

Zia---If you are feeling really greedy and against underbidders 4 may do the job with a jump to 7 later if it gets out of control. The 3NT bidders always regret their bid, but if you bid 6 they may well bid six-of-a-major, not seven, so if that is your target, it will work. 7 will always get doubled so if the math works, it is pretty safe if you think they are cold for a grand.

Ron Smith---4. My left hand opponent might go low after 4. He's going to bid.

Mark Lair---4 over the double. Over the pass I’ll bid 4 which is keycard.

4 allows an opponent to bid 4 which gives them extra room.

Steve Bloom---Too much depends on partnership style. If partner will always have a classic preempt - seven diamonds and no side cards, then they can make a grand, while 7 doubled will cost 1400. Our goal should be to play 6 doubled, with defending six- of-a-major second best. To that end, I would bid 6. In the real world, partner's preempts are much looser. In our partnership with no weak 2 available, partner will typically deliver a decent six- or seven-card suit with maybe a side card. Picture partner with QxxxKQ10xxxJxx. That's a pretty automatic 3 opener. 5 doubled is down 1100, and partner will often score the Q against a slam, so slam may depend on the diamond split. I would guess slam is cold 75% of the time, or better, while 5 will cost anywhere from 500 to 1100. If I bid 5, I will be nervous if it goes double all pass, and if the next hand bids five-of-a-major, they will almost always judge the hand well. So, 5 looks like a losing bid. I would try 4, hoping for a very wide-range four-of-a-major bid next.

I have some sneaking admiration for a 4 psych, but, explaining to our teammates how they guessed the Q in their slam when partner led a spade would be a little rough.

There are experts who bid either 4 or 5 depending upon what they had for breakfast.

Bart Bramley---This is a game-theoretical question, where I use a mixed strategy. I'm NOT bidding 6, which just waves the red flag at them and almost forces them to bid a slam. Most often I bid 5, which covers a wide range of hands and doesn't tip off the opponents. If they guess to bid a slam I'll reconsider. Sometimes I bid only 4, another wide-range action that takes away critical room. Pass is not in my usual repertoire; I might try it occasionally, but I don't like giving LHO a free cuebid. Psyching is even further down my list.

If RHO passes, the considerations are much the same, except that 3NT moves into the rotation, a bid that may cause both opponents to play me for high cards their partner has. Three-of-a-major also has a better chance to scramble their eggs.

Some experts think 5 is the best bid. If I came to the table after the auction 3 -- Pass -- 5, and I had to do something without looking at my hand, I would double.

Kit Woolsey---A simple 5 is generally best. This way the opponents don't get any free doubles of artificial calls to show strength, since 5 doubled might be the final contract. If RHO passes, I think 3 is likely to be most effective.

Larry Cohen---I'm a 5 bidder. Just get past Blackwood and make them guess.

Richie Schwartz---5. Your most likely make is eight tricks and this bid is pretty destructive. You might get out for -300. They should make seven-of-a-major. I think this bid makes it the most difficult to get to their best spot.

David Berkowitz---I think you bid an honest 5. I don't want to push them to a slam I don't want to save against, but I don't want to leave Key Card Blackwood or a 5 cue bid for them. My second choice would be 6.

Chris Compton---5. Other bids allow opponents extra bids plus double to select the trump suit. People who psych with this hand and get good results are playing against weak players, and 5 works best then too. Redouble of a double by RHO is miles the best psych because fourth hand's suit bids sound weak.

The problem with Redouble as a psych is that if partner is in passout seat, he will think that the auction is forcing and keep on bidding.

Nick Nickell---5 at both.

Lynn Deas---I am just a simple person and will just further the preempt with 5, whether they double or pass. It’s much harder to bid over 5 then some kind of psychic bid.

Drew Casen---I’ve seen these hands 100 times, and I have learned that it is best to get the level as high as possible. No tactics, just straight forward preemption. I like 5, making them guess whether they can make 11, 12, or 13 tricks and find a trump suit!

Freddie Hamilton---Most of the more usual deceptions like bidding your two little, 3NT or 3 just will not work here, as it is very unlikely any of these will get by LHO. No, I think it is best to just bid 5 and let the chips fall where they may. Take away the cue bid, Blackwood, and jump bids below the six-level and hope they get the level wrong! 

Mike Lawrence---Pass still gives West too many strong options. 4 also leaves West with some strong bids. 5 feels like the bid to cost them some certainty.

There are experts who think jumping to 6 or even 7 is best. The problem with 6 or higher is that 6 doubled might go down six which is 1400. If you go for -1400, you gain only two IMPs if they can make seven. However, you lose many IMPs if partner has two defensive tricks.

Karen Allison---I favor a direct high preempt to the seven-level. If they are able to bid and make a grand slam, more power to them. Partner does not have to have a blank hand.

Eddie Kantar---6. Let them guess whether they have a grand slam or not. I don't want to push them into it by bidding 7. Maybe 4 would work!  

Robin Klar---7. Same bid I'd make over six-of-a-major knowing we have an 11-card fit.

Alan Siebert---Against weak opponents I would psych. Against strong would bid 7.

I thought all opponents were weak.

Ralph Katz---Knowing who you are playing would be quite helpful. But in a vacuum, I would bid 7. It is much more likely that they have a grand then taking a phantom. You might save 300 sometimes by only bidding 6 but -2210 will certainly not be a good score.

Frank Stewart---Many approaches are possible, and any might work well or badly. Assuming expert opposition, my style in either case would be to bid 7 directly. That was the approach advocated by Edgar Kaplan. If it went 3 -- double -– 6 or 7, I would think that pass would be forcing inviting partner to bid.

Kathie Wei-Sender---I bid 6 and let them figure out what to do at the six-level.

There are some experts who try to fool their opponents. This makes some sense since very little has been written about what you do when it goes 3 -- pass –- 3 and you have hearts. Some actually play 3 -- double -– 3 -- double as responsive.

Billy Pollack---3NT can be a good shot, since it's wide-ranging. LHO may bid four-of-a-major with some shape, reluctant to double with no diamond card. That, in turn, can make it hard for RHO to know what to do. They might both "go low."

3 is also OK, since LHO's double may be confused (Takeout or psych-revealing??), and partner presumably won't bury us.

4NT has the advantage of more preemption, even when double reveals the psych, unless LHO has lots of shape and bids. Of course you can just try 5, giving them an 800 or 1100 “fielder's choice," or 6 to "spin the wheel."

Jill Meyers---I like 3 if they double; 5 if they don't.

Dan Gerstman---I appreciate that anything including nothing could work. By nothing, I mean not bidding, so that one of them looking at two little diamonds wouldn't know there aren't any losers in the suit, and so might take an underbid, whereas by my bidding he'll be more likely to assume shortness with his partner.

In answer to the question, in either case I like a mere 4. Take away that one cue bid and the guy with the big hand in next seat may take his sure 4 rather than the cue bid followed by 4.

Just as I bid in your columns assuming to respect the opponent's intelligence, I assume they respect mine: if they feel that I feel that my level of safety is merely the four-level that might give them cause to pause before they bid a lot.

The converse to that is that if I push them with a big bid, they're more likely to take the push.

Lastly, just because I bid merely 4 this time doesn't mean I might not bid again after they're done bidding. But if it sounds like they might bid seven if I save there, I'll give them their six.

One expert considered passing hoping that the opponents will think that their partner has extra diamonds. However, not one expert passed, and I don’t think that passing is an option.

Mike Passell---I like 3NT without the double. It might make a four-of-a-major bid by left hand opponent sound more gambling than powerful. After a takeout double, I can live with 4 to take away the cue bid or four-of-a-major against weak opposition. I hate 5 as this usually results in pushing the opponents.

Some experts bid 4NT. The problem with 4NT is that if partner has two aces, he’ll bid 5 and you’ll be forced to play in 6 doubled when the opponents might not have a slam. Could you open 3, holding A2A2J109876532?

Shawn Quinn---I am going to bid 4NT Blackwood.

Kerri Sanborn---I’m a fan of Blackwood in either case.

John Mohan---This will be an expensive sacrifice against slam and you can't bid 8 against their grand, so after 3 -- Pass by RHO, I think a psych is best -- probably 3 since that makes it very difficult for LHO to describe different hands.

After 3 -- double by RHO, maybe I just bid 5 and hope that they miscommunicate. I don't want to push them into bidding at the six-level which we presumably can't beat.

Zeke Jabbour---There is no "right" bid on such a hand. It depends on the distribution of the opponent with the stronger hand. The last time I held a similar hand, also in diamonds--but I had six! I decided to throw a little dust and simultaneously attempt to disrupt communication by taking their ace-asking away. So, I bid 5, hoping to ignite a "rhythm" double; should that get cracked, then I run to 5. Confusion may be our best weapon. You should be advised not to try this deception in a suit that's higher than the pre-empted suit.

Bidding 5 allows the opponents to cue bid 5.

George Jacobs---I think over a double by RHO, a jump to 4 is best. You have taken gobs of room and at least planted the seed of a lead director. Over pass by RHO, a simple forcing 3 is best.

As you can see, the only correct bid is the one that works. The majority raised diamonds and hoped for the best. I like bidding 3. It might not accomplish anything but you have a good story if you’re in 3 and take no tricks. The defense to the 3 psychic-bid is that a double of all bids by Responder are takeout doubles of diamonds.
Don Berman, Web Master.