Non vulnerable vs. vulnerable in duplicate bridge, West dealt and opened a "weak two" (hearts), which an expert, Frank Stewart, called "cheesy" with the following hand:

♠ 2
♡ K98743
♢ J42
♣ KJ6

I consider the singleton spade for offense. Take away my two jacks and give me a queen of hearts in place of the nine as compensation, and I would open two hearts with a hand like this:

♠ 2
♡ KQ8743
♢ 642
♣ K96

But I would rather pass and play defense with the actual hand (unless my partner bids strongly) because 1) because I have only one, not two, of the three top honors in my six card suit, 2) because I have more strength outside than inside my suit, and 3) because the jacks are good "nuisance" cards that interrupt potential sequences for the opponents, creating "impure" suits and "negative adjustments" to the law of total tricks, as described by Larry Cohen.

Is this hand in fact a better "defensive" than "offensive" hand?

1 Answer 1


Yes, the second hand definitely has a higher ODR (offense-defense-ratio) than the first. The QH is definitely better for offense, and KJx in a side suit is definitely better for defense (though Jxx is pretty worthless either way unless partner has an honor).

Whether you preempt on the first hand, and how high you preempt on the second, definitely depends on your theory of preemption (as a partnership). Some people like to play fairly constructive preempts. This means they go down less when they preempt, and are also more likely to bid to game (or avoid bidding to game) accurately when they preempt and their partner has a good hand. The downside is that they preempt less, so their opponents more frequently get to freely exchange information starting at a low level.

The games I care about doing well in are the ones where I'm playing against very good players - you might consider them experts, though they are two or three rungs below national or world champion caliber (and a couple rungs above me) - and, in my experience, they will bid very accurately and find their 21 point games and 25 point slams when you give them the room to do so. Therefore, I tend to favor a more destructive approach to preempting.

Also, bridge scoring is pretty friendly to sacrifices - down 2 nonvul is a better score than letting them make a part score, and making a part score is a better score than setting them 1 vulnerable. There are even more profitable sacrifices against games when you have the distribution.

In fact, nonvulnerable versus vulnerable, I would seriously consider opening 3H (in first or third seat) with the second hand, and I wouldn't think twice about a weak jump overcall of 3H against a 1S opening to my right.

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