When I pre-empt at say, the three level, I am doing so with a "lopsided" hand that has relatively few points and is long in one suit (and short in two or three others). Under the circumstances, if the remaining high card points and "lengths" are distributed evenly between my partner and two opponents, I expect that my opponents will be able to make ten tricks in their longest suit.

If I pre-empt with a minor suit, there are two chances out of three that my opponents' "longest" suit will be a major, for which ten tricks represents game. If I pre-empt with a major, the chances are only one out of three that my opponents have a major suit game.

If my partner has the three to four defensive tricks needed to defeat a ten-trick contract, I'll (probably) make my bid. If partner has "no defense," the opponents may make a slam.

So I don't mind going down one trick, or even two doubled, (except when vulnerable versus not), if my opponents' ten tricks represent game most of the time. But I do, if those ten tricks represent game only a minority of the time.

Are there any systems or experts that say that you need "more" (either tricks or points) to preempt with a major than a minor suit, because you need to go down "less?"

3 Answers 3


Your statistical analysis is completely wrong: As a preempter, your shortness in unbid major(s) increases the likelihood of opponents having an eight-card major fit. This fit doesn't have to be their longest suit, and the hand will often play for more tricks if it isn't. As a matter of systemic agreement the opponents will often choose to play in an eight-card major fit regardless of other hand features, unless a running side suit with stoppers has been identified.

So no, no-one suggests that you need more to pre-empt in a major than in a minor (at the three level). That 3-level pre-empts in a major may typically be made on stronger hands than in a minor is because the top=end of minor preempts tend to open a Gambling 3NT instead.

  • So the point is to find a major with minimum length (and strength) as opposed to the best suit? Interesting.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 26, 2014 at 23:28
  • 1
    @TomAu: No - read what I wrote and not what you want to see written. In brief the goal of most game investigation auctions is to determine, in order, whether (1) partnership has 25 points; (2) there is an 8-card major sit fit; and (3) when (2) fails whether all suits are reasonably stopped. Read the literature. It is well known that when given the choice between an 8-card and a 9-card fit, the 8-card fit plays almost 1/2 trick better on average. That combined with the scoring table is why major suits are so strongly favoured over minors in Dupllicate. Sep 27, 2014 at 0:42
  • I just realized a couple things and am checking to make sure I got them right: 1) "That 3-level pre-empts in a major may typically be made on stronger hands than in a minor is because the top=end of minor preempts tend to open a Gambling 3NT instead." So even if true, "effect has no relation to cause." 2) If we have a nine card (or better) major suit fit, the "flattest" fit you'll have is 8-7-7-(4), but as a practical matter, you are likely to have TWO "eight card" (or better) fits. And if so, two chances out of three you'll have an eight card major. Thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 26, 2014 at 18:59
  • @TomAu: That's why Hans Kreijns (nytimes.com/2012/04/16/crosswords/bridge/…) famously overcalled Belladonna's 4H with 4S on only a 4-card suit in (I think) 1966 Olympiad. Belladonna apparently asked to inspect his hand after the deal, and with a straight face asked where his fifth spade was. Oct 26, 2014 at 19:53

No, not really. When you preempt, you're trying to make it more difficult for your opponents to make a decision. Opponents have game in a suit less frequently when your suit is a major instead of a minor, but eg when you bid 3S, one of the opponents is going to have to make an immediate decision about the viability of 3NT (what do you do in second seat holding a 14-count with Axx in spades?). Major-suit preempts take away more bidding room, so even as opponents will have fewer games, they'll have a harder time diagnosing the fact.


There is something to be said for demanding a better quality suit for pre-empting in a minor in front of partner, only so that, with a good hand, partner is better judged to place the contract in 3NT. With a major partner is more likely to place the contract in 4 of your major.

If partner has, say, Kx in your minor and enough outside, he might be able to rely on running your minor for tricks.

So this actually goes against your theory of needing less.

If you are pre-empting in 3rd seat there is a case for being a lot more flexible, regardless of what your suit is. In particular, if you have a "weak 2" in a minor you cannot open at a level of 2 you might open it at a level of 3 non-vulnerable 3rd in hand and hope to get away with it.

  • You'd open a good 6 card club suit at 3C, because 2C is "strong." And clubs is the lowest denomination, and most likely to be "taken out" anyway.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 20, 2015 at 19:41
  • The quality of the suit has to be good though even if you allow only 6 of them. AQJxxx for example, and partner might go 3NT with Kx.
    – CashCow
    Oct 21, 2015 at 9:52

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