With nobody vulnerable at matchpoints, partner dealt and pre-empted three spades with KQJxxxx (and some side values). With three small trumps, I raised him to four, following the Law of Total Tricks, which says that the number of tricks you contract for should equal the total number of trumps. We went down one which got us a bottom, but we would have gotten an above average score if I had passed, allowing us to make 3 spades.

Upon re-examining my holding, ♠ 832 ♡ AQJ7 ♢J75 ♣ kJ5, I came to the conclusion that raising was a bad idea. One reason was the flatness of my hand, the 3-4-3-3 distribution reduced the chances of our opponents also having ten, or at least nine trumps for a total of 19-20 between the two teams. Perhaps more important was the fact that my strong heart holding had "crippled" the suit for the opponents, making it unlikely that they could make four hearts even if they bid it over three spades.

Was I wrong to raise? And if so, was it because I was too strong? Would it have made more sense to raise with fewer points and a more shapely hand? Or is using the law of total tricks out of place in this situation?

  • Show us the full hand. I've seen how your partners play, and perhaps there is a play for 10 tricks in spades that got missed. Of course, these are the hands where Losing Trick Count is useful. Partner is expected to have a 6 loser hand for a disciplined pre-empt, and you have a 9 loser hand. 18 - (6+9) = 3, which is the level you made. Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 13:38
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: Partner's hand was ♠ KQJ9754 ♡ 64 ♢86♣ A6. The king of hearts was offside the finesse. We would have made game had it been onside.According to the Board Results analyzer, we got a par score, but our opponents were tougher on us than the opponents of others playing the same cards. Is this a case of the following: boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/58707/…
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 15:35
  • What part of "Show us the full hand." was unclear? "Full hand" means the full hand; distribution and high cards for all 4 hands, plus opening lead and defense up to Declarer getting in. On this hand Declarer has a choice of round suit finesses to take for the 10th trick. How was that choice decided? Opponents have 18 points, so there may be an inference available of the heart K being offside if your RHO shows up with the singleton Spade and more than 10 points. I've seen your Partners play before, as I noted. Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:16
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: I don't see the point of showing all four hands (and I don't remember how the play proceeded). This was a bidding (not play)question from my vantage point), and I am trying to present only the information that was available to me after hearing partner's bid, and available to partner after dummy went down. (as a post mortem) For problems like this, I deal out declarer's and dummy's hands as given, and then the remaining 26 cards "randomly" between the two opponents (eliminating those hands where they could have bid, but failed to do so).
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


The rule of thumb is to raise partner's preempt to the level of the trump fit, but it is only a rule of thumb to make routine bidding easier.

Here, you are probably right that it was incorrect to follow the rule of thumb. There are two reasons you might raise 3S to 4S:

First, you want to prevent opponents from finding a good contract of their own. That reason doesn't hold in this case. You have a good defensive hand: Opening values, top honors in two suits, no wasted values in spades, which opponents figure to be short in. Opponents are unlikely to be able to make a game.

Second, you think you might make 4S. That's also not the case on this deal. You have no ruffing values. Partner had an absolute max for a nonvulnerable 3S opening (6 tricks in hand!) and you were on a finesse for game. At matchpoints, you are more or less indifferent to being in a 50% game, but given the information you have about your partner's hand, you have to figure that game is likely less than a 50% proposition.

So passing seems like the right move.


I would not raise to game because of lacking high card points. Your partner pre-empted with 3 spades. That gives them 6 to 10 HCP almost all in spades. You have 12 HCP. In general you want 24 or 25 HCP for game. Partners good shape and your long trump fit give you a little extra so you could bid game with less HCP opposite a pre-empt but your hand is not good enough to raise a pre-empt to game.

Note also that whereas your hearts will work well even if partner is short with no values in hearts, your diamond and club high cards are unlikely to score tricks here.

  • 1
    The point of raising (with a weak hand) would be to shut the opponents ouf of their game because the cost of going down would be less than what they could make. Bu there, even "down one" was too much because they couldn't make any four level contract.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 13:46
  • @TomAU As ruds explained in their answer, you can either bid 4S because you think you will make it (both answer explain that one shouldn't expect that here) or because it prevents your opponents from finding and making game and ruds explains this doesn't why apply here.
    – quarague
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 16:54

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