Hand of the Week #2

This week we see the value of paying attention to the vulnerability and working together with your partner to obstruct the opponents. When people hear the word "preempt" they immediately think of 3-level opening bids. But there is another kind of preempt, called a "cooperative preempt": a partnership realizes that its combined assets include nine, ten or more of a suit and few enough high cards that the opponents almost surely have a game.

Here is a hand from the 02 January 2008 club game illustrating this idea:

Dealer South
EW vul
S T 9 8 4
H 6 5 2
D 9 5
C Q 8 7 5
H A 9 8 4
D A K J 2
C K J T 9
[table marker] S J 3
H K J T 7 3
D 8 7 4 3
C 4 3
S A K 7 6 5 2
D Q T 6
C A 6 2

South opens a routine 1S, and West starts with a takeout double, intending to raise whichever suit East chooses.

Did you look at North's cards, count 2 HCP, and automatically pass? If you were vulnerable and your opponents were not, being cautious would be wise. But you know your side has at least 9 spades and is likely to have less than half the high cards. This is your one chance to tell your partner. North can jump to 3S! (Unlike 1S-Pass-3S, which would promise a good hand, South knows that the jump to 3S is based on distribution, not high cards; if North had a 10-HCP hand, he would either redouble, or make some kind of conventional strong raise.)

If North had passed, East would bid 2H; if North had bid only 2S, East probably would try 3H. But over 3S, East is afraid to bid.

Now it is South's turn: South has a sixth spade and a singleton heart -- and is, therefore, the only person at the table who is sure that E-W can probably make 4H and N-S have a ten-card spade fit. Raise to 4S, and don't care about whether you make it! Your partner will usually have six points, not two - but if North has enough to set 4H, he has enough that you will make 4S.

West, with a monster hand, can only double 4S and collect a lousy 100-point penalty, winning a heart, two diamonds, and a club, instead of making five in hearts.

For more about cooperative preempts, see Larry Cohen's To Bid or Not to Bid: The Law of Total Tricks, or attend my Monday evening series on competitive bidding, where we will cover responses after doubles and overcalls in February.

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This page last updated 16.06.08
©2008 Gordon Bower