Join Bridge Winners
Better Preempts: What is the upside? part II
(Page of 2)
When the hand belongs to the opponents, the upside for a preemptive jump overcall (PJO) is a function of:
  • How much information opponents have already exchanged
  • How much useful bidding space our bid conveys
Your opponents will be trying to pick a strain and a level in their constructive auction. The biggest determinant of strain is whether or not opponents have a fit. This article, will examine fit auctions for good and poor opportunities to preempt.
Express-Fit Auctions

As we saw last week, when the opponents have already bid and raised a suit the reward for preemption has droppedprecipitously. Raise auctions are called "express-fit" auctions, because the raise announces the fit expressly.The worstauctions for preempts are express-fit auctions where one opponent has limited their hand:
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
?
W
N
E
S
1
P
3
?
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
?
In all these auctions, preempts (either PJO's or raises) should be sound. We can't afford to risk a large number when chances of causing them to go wrong are small.Still bad, but better, are unlimited-raise auctions:
W
N
E
S
1
P
2NT
?
They haven't yet found their level and they have announced an excellent chance for game or slam, which gives us protection. We havesome upside. It's possible we can upset a slam auction, and we have the safety of knowing they have game values. While this is a mediocre time to preempt, it is a great auction to stick in a lead-director because opponents can rarely double effectively.
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1
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2
?
This auction is better for preemption. Despite the raise, opponents have not necessarily settled on the strain. NT will often be their best spot. Also, unlike the earlierJacoby auction, they have not yet settled at their level. In addition, since both opener and responder could be either unbalanced or balanced, there is much moreuncertainty than after the Jacoby auction as to where they belong, and a preempt could cause them to guess wrong.
Implied-Fit Auctions

Express-fit auctions are not the only auctions where the opponents' fit affects the potentialreward. Consider this hand:
South
KQ10xxx
x
xxxx
xx
W
N
E
S
1
?
RHO has shown a five-card heart suit. You have a singleton heart. LHO is likely to hold 3+ hearts. What will happen over your 2 preempt? LHO will raise hearts and the opponents will usually bid easily to a comfortable contract. Our preempt didn't do much damage. Why not?LHO already knew about the heart fit before we made out 2 call.Even though the fit was not announced in the auction, the key information (that RHO held 5 hearts) had crossed before we made our not-so-destructive preempt.
Could we have anticipated that 2 didn't rate to do much damage? Yes.The stiff heart in your hand means there are lots of hearts in the deck for LHO to hold, and consequently they will usually have a heart fit. The singleton heart makes this animplied-fit auction. When the opponents have named their implied fit, the upside to preemption is often not much better than if they had already shown their fit.Contrast that scenario with this one:
South
KQ10xxx
xxxx
x
xx
W
N
E
S
1
?
This time you hold four hearts in addition to your spade six-bagger. LHO probably holds only one or two hearts. Without a heart fit, a preempt rates to be much more disruptive.After your preempt,LHO will usually make anegative double; if partner can raise to 3, the opponents will frequently be in a pickle:
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1
2
X
3
?
Now they must find their fit at the 4-level. They will be stumbling in the dark to find both fit and correct level. Your chances of a big plus score are much better in this auction than the last one. Even expert players often overlook how subtle differences in side-suit shape change the odds offered by a preempt.
Implied Fit Auctions in the Sandwich Position
Now let's look at a couple of auctions in the sandwich position.
South
xxxx
x
KQ10xxx
xx
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1
P
1
?
Given the implied heart fit, 3 has relatively low upside. LHO will often just raise to 3 or 4, and has a good chance to judge accurately. You might not want to risk a number with such a low upside.
South
x
xxxx
KQ10xxx
xx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
?
This time our singleton spade and partner's failure to overcall 1 suggest the opponent's fit is in spades, a suit neither one has mentioned. A 3 preempt will often cause them to miss this fit. With much more upside, you can preempt more aggressively. I call an implied fit in an unbid suita "hidden fit." Hidden fit auctions are some of the best times to preempt.
Implied Fit in the Minors
Implied fit is a much bigger factor in a major suit than in a minor. When the fit is in a minor, opponents have not settled on the strain since 3NT is a likely final contract. Further, since opener's call didn't promise five cards, they may not always be aware of their fit:
  • After 1, responder needs 5 clubs to be certain of an 8+ card fit
  • After 1, responder needs only 3 hearts to be certain of an 8+ card fit
South
xxx
xxx
KQ10xxx
x
W
N
E
S
1
?
Here the implied fit is in clubs. Unlike our example where the fit was in a major, LHO frequently cannot know about the fit with any certainty. This implied fit is nothing to worry about.
Pushing The Opponents Into Game
In general, I never worry about an opening preempt pushing opponents too high. I do worry about PJO's having that effect. When it occurs, it is usually in an implied-fit auction.
East
KQJxxx
xx
xxx
xx
W
N
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S
1
P
1
?
This is the classic scenario where a PJO could push the opponents into a game they would not otherwise bid. What will LHO do if you preempt 2 or 3? He will raise hearts of course. He may have to overbid, but your call has forced him to guess, and we all know people guess to raise far more often than not.What is worse, you have no defense, so their "lucky" game would roll home.When bidding against an implied fit, you would much rather have a defensive surprise for the opponents that would cause their game to fail if they guess to bid.
East
AQ10xxx
Qx
J10xx
x
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N
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S
1
P
1
?
Contrast this hand with the last one. When preempting against an implied fit, some defensive strength is useful. If your opponents overbid to 3 or 4, you have an excellent chance for a plus score on defense holding this hand.
East
KJ10xxx
KJ9x
x
xx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
?
Given your heart holding, the opponents probably have not yet found their fit. Therefore a preempt has great upside. And if LHO does happen to hold a heart fit, your preempt will push the opponents into a tenuous contract.
Scary and Safe Preemptive Raises
Let's look at a couple of preemptive raise auctions, where your partner has opened, and the opponents have overcalled. Should you raise or pass?
North
xx
QJxxx
xxx
xxx
W
N
E
S
1
1
?
A dangerous preemptive raise. You have no defense, and opponents have an implied fit in the boss suit which they have bid. Your preempt won't do much damage: you are unlikely to be able to sac in 5, and you might push them into an overbid that makes. This preemptive raise makes me nervous.
North
xx
QJxxx
xxx
xxx
W
N
E
S
1
2
?
This is a fine preemptive raise. Where is the enemy fit? Unless partner holds four spades, the opponents' fit is in spades, a suit they have not yet bid. 3 will make it much moredifficult to find that hidden fit. This preemptive raise givesan excellent chance to win a swing.
Conclusion
Any time the opponents have named their strain, a preempt has less chance to succeed. At the other extreme, when the opponents have a hidden fit, a preempt has an excellent chance to do damage.Small differences in your side-suit distribution enormously affect the odds offered by a PJO or a preemptive raise.
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