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Another Angle on Pre-empts

Most new players will have learnt the basics about three level preempts: seven card suits and 6 to 10 points. But what then? Here is a typical preempt of 3C that did not lead to the best final outcome for most NS pairs.

Board 9 from Wednesday 30/01/19
Dealer N EW Vul

Board#9 30/01/2019

North has a typical preemptive opening bid of 3C. Did you, or would you, bid as East? In my view East has a perfectly good takeout DOUBLE rather than a 3D overcall, but I note that some Easts must have overcalled in diamonds. Whether East passes, or overcalls 3D, or doubles, I believe that South should bid 3NT. Why? Because South would be justified in sacking North as a partner if he did not have the ace of clubs, and having that card means that NS have seven certain club tricks plus two aces.

If East has overcalled 3D, a diamond lead is pretty well assured as are nine tricks in No Trumps. You should all know that game in clubs requires 11 tricks and generally a combined point count of 28 or so. South, opposite a preempt, should normally not go further with fewer than a 17 count, but there are always exceptions based on common sense. A bid of 3NT here is warranted under any circumstances, even after a double by East which suggests East has both majors. Even so, a) West would need to find a HEART lead and b) either West or East would have to have a five card heart suit to take five heart tricks. Furthermore if that does happen, are EW not likely to make at least 3H which means that even down one for NS will be a great score under those circumstances.

Too many new players that learn about preempts do not appreciate what preempts are about, and when and when not to preempt and when and when not to look for game when partner does open with a preempt, be it a weak two or at the three level. The most important thing to think about is FIT when partner preempts, and not point count, try playing in 3NT when you have a 19 count and a void in partner’s preempted suit. I have seen that before and will no doubt see it again. Seven tricks in your three suited hand with 19 points and seven tricks sitting untouchable in dummy is not a good look, but two tricks in your hand opposite seven in dummy does add to nine. You never have certainty unless you have every reason to believe that there will be seven tricks to be taken in dummy’s suit. South’s KQ10 of clubs should be a good clue!

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