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District 6
Shawn Stringer, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Oct/Nov 14Article by Steve Robinson
ArticlesPreempting Style
   I asked my expert panel -- Let's assume that you're in control of your partnership preempting style. Assume favorable in first seat.
   What more do you need to add to the following hands:
   xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3
   J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2
   J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3
   xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2

   Assume favorable in second seat:
   xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3
   J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2
   J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3
   xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2

Your thoughts on neither vulnerable first seat on the above hand.

Experts have different opinions about what a preempt looks like. Some like very light, some like reasonable and some like sound. I know that Jimmy Cayne’s preempts look like opening bids. If I was playing with him, I couldn’t open 2 on example #2. I would need KQJxxx plus an outside honor. If I was playing with Kit Woolsey, Fred Stewart, or Peter Boyd I could open any of the examples. I’d even open 2 holding KQJxxxxxxJ10xx, or open 2 holding xxxxKQJxxxxxx, hands with a strong five-card suit. I’d certainly want my suit led. However, you do pay for wide-range preempts when partner has a good hand. When I play with a new partner we compromise.

If you allow the opponents to have a non-competitive auction, even the weakest pairs will get to the right contract. For instance JxAKAxxxxAKJx opposite AxxxxxxxQxxxx, the auction will go 2NT – 3 - 3 - 3NT and everyone will take nine tricks. However, if you open 3 and find LHO with JxAKAxxxxAKJx even the strongest players will not like bidding over it.

Most experts need more then my minimums to open. However, there are those who will preempt on anything, but even they are sounder in second seat.

Kit Woolsey---Favorable first seat I would open them all preempts except that on the fourth hand I would open 3. Favorable second seat or neither first seat I would want something else good about the hand -- 6-4, another honor in my suit, or something like that.

Ronnie Rubin---
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx I’d need a seventh club to open 3
J10xxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I’d need a seventh spade
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 OK as is
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I’d need Q

Favorable in second seat I’d need:
xxxxxxJ10xxxx I’d need the K seventh to open 3
J10xxxxxxxxxx I’d need KQ seventh of spades
J10xxxxxxxxxx I need K
xxxxJ10xxxxxx I’d need KQ to open 2, in summary, a good suit

Some experts just need a little more.

Ralph Katz---At favorable vulnerability in first and second seat, add the queen of the suit instead of a small card. If you removed the jack, a side four-card suit to something like the J9xx would do it. With no one vulnerable, beef it up a little, maybe KJ10xxx or Q109xxx with Q10xx on the side.

George Jacobs----Favorable in first seat:
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I’d need a seventh club and a singleton
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I’d need a QJ and a singleton
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 I’d need a void
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I’d need QJ9 and a singleton in a major

Favorable in second seat:
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I’d need QJ10xxx and a singleton
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I’d need too much
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 I’d need QJ10xxxx and a singleton
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 Too much

Bobby Wolff---For the two 3 openers, I need a singleton and QJ10 in the bid suit, and for 3, seven spades including the QJ instead of the J10. For the two weak two bids, it is not my style to open such weak hands but rather at least QJ9xxx and a king or a Q10 extra.

Mel Colchamiro---
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 -- I’d need the K instead of a low one.
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2-- I’d need the K instead of a low one
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3-- I’d need the Q instead of a low one
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2-- I’d need the K instead of a low one

Favorable in second seat
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3-- I’d need the A instead of a low one
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2-- I’d need the A instead of a low one
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3-- I’d need the K instead of a low one
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2-- I’d need the A instead of a low one

A little stronger in each case

Jeff Rubens---
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 -- wouldn't open 3 with that shape regardless
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3-- I’d need the Q or K
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3-- ok with K in case partner has strong hand, maybe not with queen. Would want KQ10xxxx.

Larry Mori---I don't think it is good to play a ten-point range for weak two bids even though preemption is quite useful. The only one that comes close is #3 and even there I think you need at least the Q. Notice that except for #3 all the hands have the death shape. Favorable vulnerability is the only one that there should really be looseness. If you are going to be light, at least be 6-3-3-1 or 7-3-2-1 because of losers. The rule of two, three, four is still quite useful even though xxxxxxxQJ10xxx 3 is attractive. So, with #2, I would have KJ10xxx with a 6-3-3-1 shape, with #3 the Q, and #4, I would have a decent suit because there is not much preemption with 2, so AJ10xxx would be the minimum. Vulnerable, the rule of two, three, four is really applicable and the weak two and three bids should be constructive with a good suit and taking a look at the number you are exposing yourself to. At unfavorable vulnerability, the hands would be much better with an eight+ - ten range and no death shapes.

My rule of two three or four is a little different. If I’m at favorable vulnerability, I guarantee that I can take at least two tricks. At equal vulnerability, I can take at least three tricks and at unfavorable vulnerability, I can take at least four tricks.

I think you’re wrong about the preemptive value of opening 2. What is LHO supposed to bid over 2 holding QxAQxxxxxAKJx?


David Berkowitz---
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I need seven clubs or QJ10xxx
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I need KQ of spades extra
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 I don’t need anything extra
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I need KQ10 diamonds

Assume favorable in second seat

xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I need KQJxxx, or QJxxxxx
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I need KQ of spades extra
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 I need Queen of spades
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I need KQ of diamonds

Neither vulnerable first seat on the above hands, about a king more for the three bids, no change for the two bids.

Larry Cohen---
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I need KJ109xx in clubs
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I need slightly better spades
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 Ok since it’s a seven-card suit
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I need better diamonds -- like KJ10xxx

Assume favorable in second seat
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I need KQJ10xx in clubs
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I need KQ10xxx in spades
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 I need another king
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I need KQ10xxx in diamonds

If neither vulnerable, all of above need to be slightly better.

The following experts are very sound. They need a good suit.

Steve Bloom---It makes no sense to me to preempt on such hands. I aim for frequency, along with some measure of discipline - partner should have a rough idea of my hand. If I were to open 3 on J10xxxx and out, and also on KQ109xxx with a side king, how could partner judge? Hands with a long suit usually have honors in that suit - it is rare to deal out a long, bad suit - so, frequency dictates having reasonable suits. Likewise, it is rare to be dealt nothing on the side - so frequency suggests a preempt should have a little on the side. That is my ideal - a decent suit with a side card. I deviate from this at favorable vulnerability, particularly in first seat, but including J10-sixth and out is way beyond my expectations.

Joe Kivel--- Quality of suit is a determining factor. My rule is under any vulnerability, that I have at least one of the top three, so Partner can lead the King from Kx, and find partner with either Ace or Queen, or both. A secondary observation: if I am a passed hand and make a preemptive bid, there's a reasonable chance that my suit doesn't have at least one of the Ace, King or Queen, especially non-vulnerable. 

Eddie Kantar---
xxxxxxxJ10xxxx to open 3 I need the AJ10xxxx  
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 2 I need the AJ10xxx 
J10xxxxxxxxxxx to open 3 I need the AJ10xxxx 
xxxxJ10xxxxxxx to open 2 I need AQ10xxx 

Same in second seat

Danny Gerstman---All of the club ones: a seventh to the Ace or King. The others, I need the ace or king of trump. With all of them, if I'm bidding on a four or five count, I've got at least one of the high trumps. I don't care whom I'm playing against, I don't think I'm that much worse than they are that I have to resort to a mere crap shoot. In third seat, I'd bid with all of them after two passes.

Frank Stewart---I stick to a textbook preemptive style, especially in first and second seat. I reject the modern hyperactive style. Sure, random preempts can give the opponents problems, but they may also impel them to bid with all the more resolve and reach an unlikely and successful contract. Nobody can predict the effect of a preemptive action, but I am certain that undisciplined preempts will make your partner a non-participant in the deal. I still believe that bridge is a partnership game. I guess that makes me a dinosaur.

Henry Bethe---It is hard for me to answer this question because these example hands are so far from what I would choose. I am an old fashioned preempter: I believe in the “rule of two/three/four and interpret that conservatively. That is at the three-level. I also believe that a three-level preempt should say “this is very likely to be our best trump suit.” With respect to weak twos, I subscribe to the notion that in first or second seat they should show the offensive values for an opening bid without the high card strength. And again, a strong suggestion is that the opened suit will prove adequate as the trump suit. This is particularly true of 2.

Marinesa Letizia---I wouldn't preempt on any of these. Add Queen of trump suit and I would.

Jon Wittes--- It is not my style to open any of those hands or anything close to them in first or second seat. I might consider some of them in third seat, depending on the state of the match. In first or second seat, I would always have a suit headed by QJ minimum, usually better.

Richie Schwartz---To open 2 I always need a good suit three out of top five honors (not QJ10) or two of top three, as the bid is ALWAYS an effort to get to 3NT as well as destructive in either seat. The 3 bids I need an extra club or more safety (KQJxxx) as the bid has less reward since it doesn't preempt enough since they have whole three-level. The 2 bids I need narrower range (6-11) and just about always six as partner could feel safer about trying for game. The 3 bid is fine as you have listed as risk reward is better. They can go for huge number, and you’re white and a little protected by the law. I think the enemy pushes for a vulnerable 3NT too much instead of taking the sure money.

Drew Casen---I think we all agree that preempting in first seat if more effective than preempting in second seat because you’re preempting two unpassed enemy hands instead of one. Keeping that in mind, my standards are higher in second seat. In answering the examples you gave me: I would NOT preempt on any of the first four hands you gave me in the first set. Some years ago I experimented with destructive preempts and had horrible results. On the first hand I would need another club honor and a seventh club to open 3. On the next three hands I would need another honor but six-bagger is ok at these colors.  

In spite of my previous statement about first seat vs second seat, I feel the same way for the second set of problems as the first set. Assuming all white, once again the SAME standards. In general, it matters less to me what color they are and more to me what color I am. My partners can take my vulnerable preempts to the bank! I like to sit for the takeout double more than most, but we better maximize the defense.

It’s very important for your partnership to have a preempting style and follow it. If you think about preempting and it doesn’t make you sick and your partner will expect it, then do it.  
Don Berman, Web Master.