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Partner opened with 3 spades (pre-empt). I passed with (s) xx (h) KQx (d) KQxx (c) AJxx.

That's because I was expecting something like the following (with or without the side jacks):

(s) KQxxxxx (h) Jxx (d) Jx (c) x.

Partner's spade suit was actually AKQxxxx, with the other suits as listed above. So we missed a cold game in spades or possibly no trump.

I said, "You had eleven high card points. That, together with your distributional strength was an opening hand. Opposite my (better than) opening hand, that meant game."

She said, "I bid three to show you may seven card suit."

I said, "That's not nearly as important as your high card strength. Your length will become clear when you rebid."

Was I right to pass, in expectation of the weaker version of her hand, given that three spades is quite high? Should partner have bid one spade if she didn't want me to pass her out with my 15 points?

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There's an old saying in Curling: "You're only as good a skip as the team that will play for you." If you want to get better, stop playing with beginners. If only beginners will play with you, ..., then there is nothing more for me to say. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 3 at 19:59
    
@PieterGeerkens: I play bridge for "social" reasons, not for competitive reasons. So I choose my bridge circles based on things other than their bridge abilities, then try to make the best of it, bridgewise. –  Tom Au Aug 4 at 23:36
    
If partner actually had the hand you showed you'd have a good chance of making game as long as you can avoid losing two trumps. Trumps 2-2 or stiff ace or Axx onside will do it as your hand has entries to lead towards the trumps twice. The stiff club is favourable, one of the red jacks sufficient. –  CashCow Aug 27 at 8:47

5 Answers 5

An opening bid of 3 spades shows a somewhat weak hand with 7 spades. A hand like AKJxxxx Ax xx Qx would certainly never open 3S. Partner's hand in first or second seat is worth a 1S opening in my book; it's certainly better than any balanced 12-count. In third seat I might open 3S, since game is unlikely (partner is a passed hand) and LHO might have a good hand and guess wrong about how to proceed.

Personally I would have risked a game bid with your hand, at least at some forms of scoring (eg vulnerable at IMPs). Game is a good bet if partner shows up with the hand you expected. You'll expect a loser in hearts and diamonds, with some chances of shaking a club loser or two on the red suits. You'll run into a bad time if partner had a spade suit headed by the KJ and nothing outside, so when your side has favorable vulnerability, the raise to game may be ill-advised.

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"Risked a game." That's a tough one for me, because it really depends on the two jacks (or lack thereof). Without them, partner has about 5 trump tricks, and I have three more with AJ and KQ for about eight. Those two J's are only two points, but opposite my KQ's, they're two extra tricks. –  Tom Au Aug 3 at 0:49
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Here are 3 different kinds of minimum-ish hands that are better than 50% to make a game: AKTxxxx xx xx xx; KQJxxxx xx xxx x; QJTxxxx Ax xxx x. If you can only count on partner to have 5 trump tricks with nothing outside when they open at the 3-level red, your partners bid much more aggressively than I would have guessed. –  ruds Aug 3 at 5:19
    
Interesting. The "difference" between your partners and mine is that your partners are likely to have the "two jacks" (or equivalent), and mine might not. (And unknown to me at the time, the focus of the question was the two jacks, not the side ace.) –  Tom Au Aug 3 at 14:43
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@TomAu You're focusing too heavily on the jacks. They're essentially meaningless to the decision of what to bid. Here they're nice because of your KQs, but partner can still lead toward your KQ and have a 50% chance of two winners in the suit. –  ruds Aug 3 at 17:00
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@TomAu: I would say good luck with that :-) –  Aryabhata Aug 4 at 8:04

Pre-empts should show a number of tricks and then you use "cover cards" in a situation like yours. If partner is used to pre-empting on 7 to the QJ and nothing else then you're going to pass on hands like that, but if partner has made a normal pre-empt you can assume a rule of 500, so 6 tricks if not-vulnerable, 7 if vulnerable.

Of course you have no idea whether the KQ holdings will yield tricks or not, and a club lead could certainly see the opponents set up 4 tricks, but I would generally think of your hand as 3 tricks and you'd certainly raise a vulnerable partner. With partner non-vulnerable, well take your pick but the cost is only 6 imps if you miss game here.

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QJ with seven is about five tricks, one less than the "usual" six. So (at that vulnerability), you need an extra trick to compensate. –  Tom Au Aug 26 at 14:34

In third seat, with (s) AKQxxxx (h) Jxx (d) Jx (c) x I'd pre-empt with four spades. This bids a game that you might actually make, and avoids the "no man's land" of three spades. Opposite a "passed" partner, you don't worry about missing out on a possible slam.

You have seven spade tricks in hand. At the same time, you have only one defensive trick, assuming that one of your opponents has a spade singleton. (Occasionally, they'll have more than one, but that will be balanced by the times when one of them is void.) If partner has nothing, your aggressive bidding may make it hard for them to find their small slam.

If your (passed) partner has the three defensive tricks needed to defeat an opponent's four level contract, those tricks will bring you to game. If partner has less, the opponents have a game in hearts, if that's their suit, and may have a five level game in a minor. Four spades makes it harder for them to bid that game than three spades.

Given your two jacks, partner could help you fulfill your game contract with as little as KQTx of one of those two suits, a holding that might not stop an opposing game.

In the first, second and fourth seats, I'd bid more "conventionally with one spade. Given distribution points, the 11 hcp point hand is strong enough to open.

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Your partner's hand looks borderline to me: it certainly could be opened 1S, but to what end? You certainly will not be able to support spades, and equally certainly her hand is valueless in any other suit. All a one opening does is allow the opposition to bid.

What is much clearer is that your hand is worth 3NT. All the other suits are stopped (with the opening lead where it is, quite possibly double-stopped), and you have two spades to get back to dummy. On a 2-2 split, the game is a no-brainer; in any event there will be some play for it. On the hand you were expecting, one Jack or other will surely be the extra entry you need, but in any event, your partner must have something outside spades. Even if she has AKQxxxx and literally nothing else, the game is solid.

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Just today I played a hand in which opponents found their 7-4 fit after a 1S opening. Your partner would also be happy to hear 2H in response to their opening. –  ruds Aug 4 at 6:49
    
Sorry, IMO, 3NT is a silly contract. It would be a rare hand where 3NT makes but not 4S. As to opening 1S to what end: to not miss game (a good idea at teams). You have the spade suit. If you have a game, they will need to sacrifice at the 5 level. If the suit was not spades, one could perhaps be inclined to preempt. –  Aryabhata Aug 4 at 7:57
    
Partner can win at least the seven spade tricks in her own hand. If I get in minimum response (say 1NT) meaning that I have 1-2 tricks, partner can profitably sacrifice against opposing any game contract. With my actual hand, I'd bid 3NT, and she'd bid 4 spades (we can make either). –  Tom Au Aug 4 at 14:32

I'd like to start with your question; "Are there times when a hand with a 7-card suit is too strong for a preemptive open?"
Yes, absolutely.
The way I learned preemptive 3-level opening bids is that they signify a 7+ card suit and 7-11 points. This is further restricted to 6-10 points when not vulnerable and 8-12 point when you are vulnerable.
Clearly then, any hand with more than 10 points when not vulnerable or more than 12 points when vulnerable is too strong for a preemptive open!
Sure, this may seem simplistic, but I think it's actually the crux of the issue here.
Point being that your partner made the right bid. Lacking any knowledge of vulnerability on this hand, we'll go with the 7-11 range and analyze:
1) Assuming a minimum hand (7 points) plus your 16 points is 23 points and 9 trumps, a little tight for game, but definitely possible.
2) Assuming a maximum hand (11 points) plus your 16 points is 27 points, an easy game.

With your partner making an opening preempt, their hand is fully described (excepting the slight range in possible value) and you're the captain of the hand. You can choose to play it ultra-safe (as you did) and not go over the 3 level. Or you can decide that 9 trumps and solid points are worth a try for a 4S game. Or you can decide that your off suits make no trump a better prospect and bid 3NT. It's situational, and it's up to you.
Were you right to pass? Hard to say for sure without more information, but it looks like a "no" here.
Should partner have bid 1S? With 11 points? That you're even asking this question makes me think you've either got unusual bidding practices or strange expectations. Your partner made a good bid with the cards held. Trust your partner, and bid as you see best. Most of all, have fun!

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