Suppose you have something like AQJxxx of clubs (and no other values). If it were any other suit than clubs, I'd open with a with a "weak two" bid.

But two clubs is the STRONG two bid. Meaning that if I wanted a "weak" two bid, I'd have to go to THREE clubs. With such a strong honor holding, is it ok to do so with only six clubs, on the theory that your suit is actually stronger than a seven card suit such as QTxxxxx? (If your partner has nothing, you figure to win five tricks, going down four, but your opponents can make a small slam.)

Would you do this with another suit besides clubs, where you could bid a weak two? And how would vulnerability affect your answer.




Opposite an unpassed partner, an opening 3 or 4-level call in a suit tends toward sound at equal or unfavorable vulnerability. Vulnerable against not, you should be within two tricks of your bid (i.e. with likely distribution of the remaining cards in your suit). When the vulnerability is equal, you should be within three tricks of your bid. At favorable vulnerability, the preempt tends to be lighter, so you should be within four tricks of your bid.

To decide whether or not your bid is sound, start by considering the scoring:


Next, consider how many tricks you'd be likely to make with your longest suit as trumps. With your AQJxxx of clubs you'll probably take 5 tricks.

If you're non-vulnerable and your opponents are vulnerable then 3 clubs is reasonable - if your partner has anything you should be able to get a 6th trick, if your partner has nothing then your opponents probably had a small slam. At any other vulnerability you should pass.

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  • Now consider the case where partner has a singleton Club, so the Opponents are very likely to have two (maybe three) inescapable Club losers. That's why the 3Club opening should always be at least seven cards. – Forget I was ever here Jun 10 at 4:18

Under most circumstances, I wouldn't. If your partner has 3 or 4 clubs and mediocre strength, and decides to support, you might find yourself in a disastrous 4CX or 5CX while your opponents didn't have anything better than a game.

It depends on your distribution as well. With 6-4-3-0 I might feel bold enough to try it. With 6-3-2-2, probably not.

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  • Welcome to the site. An upvote to get you started. I'm in your "camp," but many other people I know think that I'm not aggressive enough. – Tom Au Sep 16 '12 at 23:09

The point about a pre-empt is precisely the lomg suit. If you bid on a 6-card suit more than once in a blue moon you are misleading your partner (who can be expected to have an opening bid in your example, and may bid up, based on your 7-suit); if you do it often, you are misleading your opponents, and should declare your 'system' in advance.

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  • On the other hand, if you are third seat opposite a passed partner, s/he doesn't have an opening bid. So maybe the time to do so is only in third seat and not otherwise. In fourth seat, I'd pass. – Tom Au Sep 18 '12 at 12:44

The only rule about preempts is "Don't make a preempt your partner won't expect". Have an agreement with your partner, and stick to it. What that agreement is is (almost) irrelevant; it is certainly less damaging to your results than violating the agreement.

I play duplicate, and mostly matchpoints. So read this with that slant. Although I will note that even at IMPs, very aggressive preempts are common even at the top levels, because they work.

At rubber, remember the golden rule of preempts: You are deliberately paying to extend the rubber. If you're playing with the weakest player at the table, the job is to get out as cheaply as possible and cut someone better, not pay a premium to continue longer. S.J. Simon's Why You Lose At Bridge is just as right about that as it was in 1946 when he wrote it.

End of digression.

If your agreement is "Rule of 2/3" then with 3 tricks opposite a vulnerable 3H bid, bid game and expect to make it. Great! You'll score a lot of -140s into -100 or -620s into -170 when you pass, but that's the choice you and your partner have made.

If your agreement is "7 cards, hopefully to an honour or two, and no more than half a defensive trick outside", then more power to you! You'll get a lot of +170s that the room bids game on, and the odd -500 into nothing, but the opponents are figuring out what to do at the 3 level when the room gets to open 1 a lot more, and they will not bid as well on average - and -100 for 3D-1 scores really well when other tables' opponents know to matchpoint double after the competitive auction, or get to wrap up 110 in 2S.

In particular, 3C (and 3D in systems with a conventional 2D call) are frequently very aggressive. They're "only as preemptive" as 2S, so these pairs treat them the same as 2S (even though, if doubled, it's down one more). If it works for you, go for it! If it doesn't, don't! (see below for my almost reverse of this decision).

I play very sound preempts with one partner, because she's one of the best card players in the city, and expects to win by taking one more trick than the field on the play and on defence (frequently doubled).

My agreement with my other regular partner is "3C or 3D opposite an unpassed hand will not feel guilty putting down dummy in 3NT. 3H or 3S, especially NV, is anything goes." (within the context of "anything goes" 2-bids and NAMYATS 4-major)

I've even played a system where your example of CAQJxxx is too strong for a 3C bid.

One thing my teacher said, 30 years ago, was "think about playing 5/8/11." That is, when you're vul and they're not, your preempt will go down 2 tricks (500) opposite a bust; at equal vul, 800 (-3V or -4 NV); at favourable, -5 (1100). Note that this style is basically trying to disrupt opponents' slam bidding, not game bidding. Again, if that's your style, go for it!

If I have to play with a new partner at the last minute (which as a club TD I am frequently called on to do), I ask 4 questions, and hope to muddle through the rest. One of them is "what's your preempt style?" It's that important to be on the same page.

I'll end with a link to a discussion on another site about preempts. Note especially the thread at the bottom, from a English International player (my emphasis):

xx J QJ10xxx xxxx

was opened 3D, first seat, favourable vulnerability at 4 of the 5 tables in the English trials. The fifth opened it 4D.

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  • My other questions, in case anyone cares: "What's our carding?" "What's our defence to 1NT?" and (because they will bid it, even though they don't know what the answer will mean) "what style of Blackwood?" – Mycroft Jun 9 at 17:28
  • I prefer a "weak" preempt, 3-7 hcps with a 7 card suit, as a defense against slams. If I have 3, and you have a bust, opponents have a small, if not a grand slam. With 8-9 hcps, I prefer a "weak two," so 3 clubs could mean either a "weak two" with 6-9 and seven cards, or a true preempt with 3-5 and seven cards. With 10, I have hand that is "average" in hcps but the two extra cards make up for it, and I would just bid one of the suit. – Tom Au Jun 9 at 17:38

Opening 3 Clubs on this hand is a disaster waiting to happen. If your partner has a singleton Club and an Ace there is every likelihood the opponents can't make game on their 29 HCP, but you are going down 2 or 3 (probably not doubled, but turning a plus into a minus).

This is why opening preempts should be disciplined on length (at least). The absence of a seventh Club in your hand is 1/3 to 1/2 of a defensive trick. You have 2 to 2.5 more potential defensive tricks in Clubs, again because the seventh Club is missing.

A key maxim for expert bridge is:

Don't take blind flyers in the bidding.

You are taking a huge flyer here, that is predicated not only on partner having absolutely none of the remaining 6 controls, but 2 or 3 Clubs as well. That is a very low odds proposition even in 3rd seat.

Now consider the delightful case where partner is strong, with 3 little Clubs. With the Club King missing, partner will completely misread the odds of Clubs being a no-loser suit in slam. Another disaster waiting to happen as you are the only pair in the room going down in 6C or even 7C.

Defensively, you are also advertising to opponents which way to side a NT or slam contract to avoid Club losers.

Finally, many pairs reserve opening preempts in 3C and 3D for weak suits and open a gambling 3NT with a strong long minor instead. Why is that? because opening 3C or 3D gives the opponents a lot of information but doesn't really preempt them much.

In conclusion, just don't do this. It's really bad bridge.

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