Traps for the Unwary by Michael Byrne
Pre-empting at Higher Levels
IN THE last issue we looked at opening with Of course you might have a traditional The auction was subse quently more
three-level pre-empts and how your hand eight-card suit and lack of defence: controlled after a 1NT opening in third seat by
should contain minimal defence, plenty of This is a four- the partner and while it ultimately didn’t
playing strength and a good suit, depending ´ K Q J 10 8 4 3 2 level opener at any make much difference to the hand, the point
on vulnerability. All these factors remain ™ 8 position and vul- was well made.
exactly the same when deciding whether or t 765 nerability, as the So far we have considered only traditional
not to open at the four level. ® 4 extra shape gives it strength pre-empts, but of course in third
In principle, a four-level opening shows plenty of bite. seat you can be a bit stronger and just bid
an eight-card suit and a similar hand to a Getting there what you think you can make.
three-level opening, but that is a very quickly may also make it hard for the This hand is a bit
simplified way of looking at it. opposition – they won’t be in a position to ´ AKJ97643 strong for a first- or
An opening four-bid in a minor suit know how best to defend. ™ KQJ second-seat four-
basically shows a pre-emptive hand with Change the hand to: t 7 opening, as partner
enough shape to be confident that 3NT is And now you ® 6 is unlikely to bid
the wrong contract. The suit will normally ´ KQ765432 would open 4´ on with strong no-
not contain A-K-Q as that makes it too ™ 43 non-vulnerable, or trump values, but
strong. A recent example hand that cropped t 5 at Game All, but at in third seat 4´ is the most practical shot. You
up in a competition was: ® 65 adverse vulnerabi- won’t miss a slam and by forcing the
My team-mate lity you might opponents to make a decision at a high level
´ 5 held this hand and chicken out and you will occasionally reap riches, being
™ 6 opened 4t as open 3´ since the 8-2-1-2 shape and lack of doubled in a making game or doubling them
t J 10 9 7 6 5 3 dealer at green, trump intermediates would slow you down. for penalties when they overcall.
® A J 10 6 (the vulnerability So far we have only seen hands that have Let’s review some of the Dos and Don’ts of
that we saw last points in their long suits; what about those high level pre-empting:
time was the best awkward hands with values outside?
for pre-empting, i.e. non-vulnerable vs This was another real life example from a
vulnerable). It kept the opponents out of a recent match: Do:
slam which had been reached at my table Dealer at Game • Vary your pre-empts in third seat –
after they opened this hand 3t. ´ Q9765432 All what is your remember that keeping partner in
The extra playing shape (7-4-1-1) and the ™ K choice? the dark is best done when he is
fact that both singletons were in the majors t A2 At one table the known to have a poor hand.
convinced him to go all out for aggression, ® 87 opponents opened • Bear in mind the vulnerability, as it is
the winning approach. This was an unusual 3´ which was not a one of your greatest weapons and
hand for a four-level pre-empt as the suit very good idea: key factors when deciding at what
was relatively poor, but lack of defence and notwithstanding that your suit is poor, you level to bid.
extra playing strength combined with the have values outside and partner will find it • Look at the residual shape of a hand.
vulnerability meant it was attractive. hard to judge that two small spades and a A void or two singletons gives the
In a major suit you often open marginal weak no-trump type of hand will prove to be hand extra bite; 7-2-2-2 or 8-2-2-1 are
opening hands at the four level on the strong enough for game. For example, a as unproductive as they can be.
grounds that the sooner your side gets there hand such as: Don’t:
the better: ´ 10 8 ™ Q 7 5 4 t J 5 4 ® A K J 2 • Be afraid of passing if you have good
There would not will produce ten tricks on most leads and values outside your suit and a lack of
´ Void be anything wrong distributions. playing strength; you will normally
™ AKQJ975 with opening this Partner raised to 4´ and now the oppo- get a second go.
hand 1™, but the sition bid 4NT to show a two-suited hand. • Open four of a minor with a
sooner you get to Opener then broke discipline and bid 5´, potentially solid suit, as you might
4™ the better, as effectively bidding the same hand twice, miss 3NT.
the aim may be to feeling guilty about the extra spade. • Bid again if you have pre-empted;
stop the opponents finding their 4´ contract The other player who held this hand was once you have elected to pre-empt
– or to push them into it! England’s number-one ranked player who you have told your story and all
An opening bid of 1™ may enable them to elected to pass! This may seem extreme, but future decisions are best left to
judge whether or not to bid 4´ over your 4™ look at the various downsides of pre-empting. partner. ‘Pre-emptor never bids
contract, whereas a 4™ opening makes them You have an ace and a king outside and a again’ is a sound maxim. r
take a unilateral decision. ropey suit, with unattractive 8-2-1-2 shape.
www.ebu.co.uk February 2013 English Bridge 13