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Precision's Secret Weapon

Almost every time someone announces, "We play a strong club", a conversation starts up about which defense to play.  The defending side discusses their options and comes to agreement, yet often they miss the most important discussion needed.

To best defend against a strong club, it is important to understand your opponents' mentality.   Many people do not know that the major benefit of a strong club system is not the artificial 1.  It is the rest of the opening bids, which become limited.  Having an upper limit on opening bids allows for more aggressive, less informative bidding.  The most effective strategy when playing a strong club is to open aggressively and try to push your opponents out of the bidding.

A standard Precision opening bid structure is as follows:

1 16+ HCP any distribution

1 10-15 HCP 2+ (11-13 balanced OR a natural 1 opener 10-15)

1 10-15 HCP 5+

1 10-15 HCP 5+

1N 14-16 HCP Balanced Hand

2 10-15 HCP 6+ (or 5 plus a 4 card major)

2 10-15 HCP 0-1 3 suited (4-4-1-4, 4-3-1-5, 3-4-1-5, 4-4-0-5; all the distributions which don't qualify for 1///2)

The most frequent and most difficult opening bid to defend against is the 1 opener .  Since 11-13 balanced is dealt out more than any other opening hand, that is the most common opening bid and therefore deserves the most discussion.

When the opponents open 1 it might be their shortest suit.  When we have a natural bid available we can bid as usual... the problem arises when overcaller has an imperfect shape to enter the auction.   To neutralize the playing field, we need adjust both our style and methods.  Here is a list of thoughts to guide you in this situation:

  1. Make slightly offshape takeout doubles when you are compatible with the majors.  When you pick up hands suitable for the majors, but not typically good for takeout doubles like 4-3-4-2 or 4-4-3-2, it is more important to make your noise now before the stakes get too high.  Since precision players open light they cannot afford to come after you with a redouble nearly as often.  In fact, many pairs use their redouble for something other than penalties, because of how difficult it is to accurately obtain penalties.
  2. Similarly, you are "safer" to make aggressive 1NT overcalls.  A light 1NT overcall may beat your opponents at their own game. They will have a tough time coming after you for penalty and will sometimes be preempted out of finding a nice major suit fit.  It is also okay to overcall when your stopper in diamonds lacks substance, as your opponents are unable to give full credit to the 1 bid.
  3. Know when your bids are natural and when they are cue-bids. Agree with your partner that a direct overcall of 2 over 1 is natural.  After a 2 overcall (over 1), it is best to use the suit as the "cue-bid".  To compensate for the loss of Michaels it is a good idea to play 2 as both majors (not forcing) and 3 shows both majors with a hand too strong to risk partner passing 2.
  4. Always keep in mind your risk of missing game by failing to enter the auction.  If your partner is already a passed hand, then entering with off-shape balanced 12-13 point hands is no longer worthwhile.  Neither is overcalling 1NT with some ratty 15 count or good 14 count.
  5. Stay on your toes later in the bidding.  If the direct overcaller passes and then enters the auction later, you can assume they have a hand with length.  A common auction is:

     

    W
    N
    E
    S
    1
    P
    1
    P
    2
    X
    P
    3
    P
    P
    P

    Even if partner does not enter the auction, you can still draw inferences about his diamond length. In an auction like:

    W
    N
    E
    S
    1
    P
    2NT
    P
    3NT
    P
    P
    P

    If you are sitting West with a weak hand, 0-5 HCP, in order for your side to beat the contract you need your partner to have a near-opening hand.  Recognize that the most common time your partner will have that strength is when his distribution prevented him from acting over 1.  This is a great time to make a speculative lead!

 

Now you are ready to discuss Interfering with the Strong Club Opener .

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