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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

The Power of a Pre-empt.

Sometimes they do backfire. There is a risk in making such a bid. An understanding partner must appreciate that if your action was sensible but wrong. However, I would think the effect of a pre-empt (and a weak jump overcall is effectively the same as a pre-empt) would on balance be either neutral (no difference) or else worth bundles of imps and match-points. What happened at the two tables in a recent Teams match on the following deal is a great example:

You are South and hold the following, playing Teams and with just your side vulnerable:

 Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg

North Deals
N-S Vul
W   E
J 9 8 7 5
A K J 9 7 6
West North East South
  1  3  ?


3Club-small is a weak jump overcall. Nothing sinister, there. What would you bid?

Taking the normal action but dreaming a little was:

Michael Cornell  “ 3Heart-small:Too much disparity between my 2 suits to do anything else. On a good day partner may bid 3Spade-small (sometimes even on 3 cards) but I will bid 4Heart-small over his 3NT.”

Perhaps if it was that good a day, this problem would not have arisen.

There is talk about a negative double and it received a couple of votes, but first:

Nigel Kearney  “3Heart-small: I'd rather reserve double for less shapely hands so partner can pass it without getting a nasty surprise. We might miss a 5-3 spade fit but that often won't play any better than hearts.”

Kris Wooles  “3Heart-small: I could "negative double" but hearts are definitely the better suit and I’m not sure how I would convey that adequately other than by bidding them. I know there is a risk of losing the spade suit. Nothing is perfect.”

Peter raises and dismisses another option.

Peter Newell  “3Heart-small: My hearts are much better than my spades, and partner will often bid 3Spade-small with 4 card spades (though when partner has a club stopper he may well prefer 3NT) and this keeps things simple. 

If I double, partner is either likely to bid 3NT which I will want to rip to 4Heart-small, or pass. So neither particularly satisfactory.

For me 4Club-small agrees diamonds and doesn’t show majors so not an option, and as my hearts are longer and stronger than my spades, I am much more focused on them. In trying to show majors, you will often get yourself into a bit of a tangle where 1 suit is much better than the other. So, keep it simple – bid your suit.”

And the votes for double:

Matt Brown “ Double: and follow it up with 4Heart-small if partner does not bid a major, which I think should show both majors... Maybe it implies 6-4 rather than what I have but my hearts are good enough to play, I think.”

Bruce Anderson “Double: if I bid 3Heart-small and partner can only rebid 4Diamond-small, then I am already at the four level when I bid 4Spade-small.

Notwithstanding being 6/5, this approach will not be a success if partner fits neither suit. If partner bids 3Diamond-small over a negative double, then my bid of 3Heart-small means I hold hearts and spades without the high card strength to bid 3Heart-smalldirectly. Problems could arise if partner has 3 spades and a singleton heart, but no one said bidding hands like this would be easy. 

I certainly agree with your last statement, Bruce, though I would have thought double followed by 3Heart-small might show long hearts with lesser high card points than a direct 3Heart-small. I am not sure you are now showing spades as well. The other problem with double is when it gets passed out and a 6-3 heart fit is passed. 3Club-small may be defeated but not to compensate for a missed vulnerable game.

No-one suggested bidding 3Spade-small, an action which would enable one to show both majors though gives a false impression about their respective length. Had the spades been of greater quality, that might have been an option.

Every action, therefore, has flaws, but no-one anticipated the flaw of what actually happened at the table. South did call 3Heart-small but West, too, was wanting to bid:

West              North            East                South

                        1Diamond-small                 3Club-small                 3Heart-small

5Club-small                 5Diamond-small                   Pass                ?

Well, you do not like it but you know your partner must have a decent length and quality diamond suit to rebid them at the 5- level. They heard you bid 3Heart-small and therefore, there seemed no particular reason to bid hearts again. It would have turned – 200 into -100 but that is not really why you would have rebid your suit:

North Deals
N-S Vul
K Q 3 2
A Q 8 7 6 5 2
10 5 3
K J 9 4
Q J 9 7 4
W   E
10 6 4
8 4 2
A K 10 8 6 5
J 9 8 7 5
A K J 9 7 6
West North East South
  1  3  3 
5  5  All pass  


   wrong contract!

5Diamond-small met a quick death. Both black aces were taken with there being two trump losers to follow, -200. 5Heart-small did have more chance but Spade-smallA followed by a club and then a spade ruff would seal declarer’s fate. Otherwise, the lucky heart break would have seen this contract make.

It looks like Bruce Anderson and Matt Brown’s double would have won the day this time. Double with such a shapely hand as South’s feels wrong but does leave you better placed after pre-emption. It would have made it easier for North to choose the winning action at the 5-level, though there would still have been a temptation to call their 7-card suit as a negative double might be based on, say 3442 shape.

Kris Wooles is right that “nothing is perfect” but what happened at the other table shows that waiting a round before bidding is not the winning action:

West              North            East                South

                        1Diamond-small               Pass                1Heart-small

Pass               1Spade-small                2Club-small                  4Club-small

5Club-small                 5Diamond-small              Pass                  5Spade-small

All Pass

East-West bid up to 5Club-small as well (had they tried 6Club-small that would have only cost 300), but by the time East got round to bidding, the spade fit had been discovered. Indeed, North-South were trying for slam with 4Club-small and then 5Diamond-small and under the circumstances, South did well not to cue-bid 5Heart-small which almost certainly would have propelled the partnership to the doomed spade slam.

Had South held Club-small QJ974, East would have been rather pleased they had not called 3Club-small but, on balance, it must be the right action, first time, as the auction at the other table proved.

The following decision occurred at Rubber Bridge, though the decision would perhaps be the same at Teams. The opponents alone are vulnerable (nothing below the line).


South Deals
N-S Vul
W   E
4 3
A Q J 5 3
J 10 9 8 6 5
West North East South
Pass 2 NT ?  


2NT is game-forcing agreeing spades. Your bid?

The answer tomorrow.

Richard Solomon


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