Join Bridge Winners
Better Preempts IV: Preempts by Seat Position (part 1)
(Page of 2)
My last article discussed how seat position changes expectations about where HCP rate to be and how much that affects decisions to preempt. I argued that seat position, not vulnerability, is the most important criteria in determining when to preempt. Vulnerability can tell you how high to preempt, but isn't as useful for telling you whether it's a good idea to preempt in the first place. Seat position lets you know when a preempt has a good chance to be effective.
 
The most important conclusion was the huge difference between second and third seat. In second seat partner is a favorite to hold values which should incline you towards sound preemption. In third chair partner is certain to hold limited values, providing the green light to preempt as often as possible. First seat is a bit of a tossup; my suggestion was to preempt aggressively NV and conservatively when vulnerable. Fourth chair is a special case; since you can pass with weak hands that expect a minus score, jump openings become intermediate calls showing constructive hands. This article will look further at what are appropriate preempts based on seat position. 
 
 
First Chair
In first chair, the outstanding HCP rate to be split evenly between the three unseen hands. If you hold 8 HCP or fewer, the opponents will own the deal 2/3 of the time or more. That makes first seat a preemptor's seat. On the other hand, there is still room for partner to have a good hand so we can not completely ignore our own constructive bidding. Vulnerable, when the cost of missed games is high, I recommend a reasonably sound style. NV, you can step out as long as your partner understands what you are doing.
 
That last point is the most important. If partner expects your 3-level preempts to show seven with two of the top three honors and you preempt holding 6 to the jack, I predict tears. Partner will overbid, hanging you when your bold preempt was about to earn a swing. So before you adopt my suggestions, discuss them with your partner. Varying your style significantly based on seat position and vulnerability requires knowing when preempts are and are not disciplined. 
 
South
x
xx
KQ109xx
J10xx
W
N
E
S
?
Open 3. This is a fine hand for preemption and 1st chair NV offers good chances to earn a reward. 3 is much more preemptive than 2. When NV, take the risk to increase the chance of pushing them around. Vulnerable, pull in a notch with 2 unless you are looking for a swing.
 
South
x
xx
KQ10xxxx
J10x
W
N
E
S
?
Open 3. This is a minimum vulnerable 3. You can do it because the suit quality is good and you have 2 of the top 3 honors. If partner bids 3NT, the suit will run and you should make it. 
 
South
x
Ax
KQ10xxxx
J10x
W
N
E
S
?
Open 1. This is too good for a non-vulnerable 3
 
South
x
xx
AKQ10xxx
J10x
W
N
E
S
?
Open 1 or 3NT if you play it gambling. A good rule is to never preempt three-of-a-suit on a solid suit. If you open 3, how is partner supposed to know that 3NT is gin opposite: Axxx, Axxxx, xx, Qx? A preempt should promise a broken suit.
 
South
x
QJxxxxx
Kx
J10x
W
N
E
S
?
An easy 3
 
South
x
Qxxxxxx
Kx
AJ10
W
N
E
S
?
1. With so much outside, I'd rather open 1 than 3 or 2.
 
South
x
Axx
xxx
QJ109xx
W
N
E
S
?
3. Aggressive, but a winner on balance.
 
South
x
Axx
xxx
QJ109xx
W
N
E
S
?
Pass. Same hand, but this time vulnerable.  A clear pass dictated by the vulnerability.
 
Second Chair
RHO is limited by his pass, so partner rates to hold more HCP. He is more likely to have game-invitational or better values. The opponents are less likely to have a game their way. Second seat is a poor spot for aggressive preemption. In particular, be wary of preempting on light values. When you are light, partner is even more likely to have the hand that will bury you.
 
South
AQJxxxx
xx
x
xxx
W
N
E
S
P
?
This is a par 3 call in second chair if partner wants to bid 3NT. Your hand will provide the expected tricks. 
 
South
AQxxxxx
xx
x
Kxx
W
N
E
S
P
?
A max 3 call in 2nd chair.
 
South
Q10xxxxx
Qx
x
Kxx
W
N
E
S
P
?
Pass. Not the time for 3.
 
South
KQJxxx
x
xx
Q10xx
W
N
E
S
P
?
You might try an aggressive 3 NV in 1st or 3rd, but in second seat 2 is a stand out.
 
South
K10xxxx
Axx
x
Qxx
W
N
E
S
P
?
Pass. Your suit is bad and you have plenty of outside cards. It is quite safe to pass marginal weak twos in second chair.
 
South
Q10xxxx
KQx
x
Qxx
W
N
E
S
P
?
Pass. I see weak twos in second chair like this all the time. 2 might be fine in 3rd chair but in 2nd chair it is losing bridge.
 
South
Q10xxxx
Jxxx
K
Ax
W
N
E
S
P
?
Pass or 1. Do not open 2. Do you really want to to play 2 facing: x, AKxxxx, Qxx, Kxx?
 
To summarize: good suits, but not solid, with possibly an outside card.
 
(Andrew's article will continue on Thursday with 3rd- and 4th-seat preempts)
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