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Better Preempts: What is the upside? part III
Last week we discussed how the progress of the opponent's constructive auction affects the upside to preemption. We focused on fits, both express and implied.This week, we will look at auctionswhere opponents may already know their level.
Any time that one opponent has made a tightly limited call, chances are good the other knows the correct level. We have already seen one example, the limited single raise. Limited bids of NT are another common auction after which level is often known before you can make a preemptive jump overcall. After a limit bid, preempts should in general be sound, as in all of the following auctions:
1 -- (P) -- 1NT (8-10) -- ?
1 -- (P) -- 2NT (11-12) -- ?
1NT (15-17) -- ?
2NT (20-21) -- ?

Comparing 1NT in Different Auctions
Let's look at a few similar-sounding auctions to see how preemptive opportunity can change based on how limited a call really is.
1 -- (P) -- 1NT (8-10) -- ?
This is a poor time to preempt. RHO's strength is well defined, and hehas denied a major. LHO usually already knows what level to play, and he can rule out playing in a major, so he will usually also know the strain. Preempts should be sound.
1 -- (P) -- 1NT (5-10) -- ?
This is a better time to preempt. RHO can have a wide ranger for his 1NT response to 1 than in our last auction, and his shapeis less constrained. RHO might have been forced to bid 1NT with length in the other minor, but too weak for a 2/1 response, e.g.,Axx, x, xxx, Kxxxxx
1 -- (P) -- 1NT (forcing) -- ?
This is an even better time to preempt. RHO could have 5-11 HCPs, and he could have almost any shape. Contrast that with the preceding auctions where he has denied a 4-card major.
South
xx
KQ109xx
x
xxxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
?
Pass. LHO will often already know whether the hand belongs in game.3 is much too risky.
South
xx
KQ109xx
xxxx
x
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
?
Pass. Still too risky.
South
xx
KQ109xx
x
xxxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
?
3. Good chances of disrupting the opponents.
One Major Openings
Not all opening bids are equally limited. Sometimes, the opponents system provides an advantage to them in dealing with preemption.
1 (Two-over-one, 11+HCP) -- ?
This is a good time to preempt. RHO has show his longest suit, but his strength is largely undefined.
1 (Precision, 10-15 HCP) -- ?
Interestingly enough, a limited opening bid such as a Precision one-of-a-major presents only a fair time to preempt. RHO has shown his suit and limited his strength. Much of their work is already done, and the preempt won't do as much damage as in the preceding case, since the responder is already in a good place to judge whether to compete, pass or double.

Reverse Flannery Convention
The Reverse FlanneryConvention also provides significant preemption protection. If you have not heard of this convention,responder's jumpshift into a major after a one-minor opening shows both majors and limited values. (i.e., 1m -- (P) -- 2M)
1 -- (P) -- 1M -- ?
This is a good auction to preempt. Both LHO and RHO are virtually unlimited, and game could exist in any strain.
1 -- (P) -- 2 (5, 4+ and 5-8 HCP) -- ?
1 -- (P) -- 2 (5, 4+ and 9-11HCP) -- ?
Two terrible auctions to preempt. BothReverse Flanneryjumpshiftsare tightly-limited and describe shape precisely. The upside for preemption is negligible. If you preempt at this point, your preempts must be sound.
South
x
xx
KQ109xxx
xxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
?
Pass. 4 is a big risk and there is not enough upside to justify it.
South
x
xx
KQ109xxx
xxx
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
?
3 or even 4. Automatic to preempt.
Strong Club
1 (Two-over-one) -- ?
This is a good time to preempt. Opener can have a wide range of values and the strain is completely unknown.
1 (16+ any shape) -- ?
This is a great time to preempt. Opponents do not have any shape information, and RHO is strong, meaning game+ their way is likely. Disrupting their Precision auction with a preempt will get in the way of them finding the best strain and level.
South
KQ109xx
x
xx
xxxx
W
N
E
S
1
?
2 or 3 if you need a swing. You can justify either call.
South
KQ109xx
x
xx
xxxx
W
N
E
S
1
?
3. Very easy. On this auction you must stick it to them.
The same principle applies in all of the above auctions:The more unlimited the opponents's hands (in high cards and shape), the greater the preemptive opportunity.
1NT Opener
As previous discussed, you would much rather preempt a 1-minor than a 1NT opening, since 1NT is so well-defined.
South
KQ109xx
x
xx
xxxx
W
N
E
S
1NT
?
Bid 2. LHO will often already know whether the hand belongs in game. Since RHO's shape has been described accurately, LHO will often know whichstrain to play, or may have have reduced the possibilities to a choice between two strains. Further, LHO has a much better chance of judging accurately when to penalize you. 3 is much too risky.
South
KQ109xx
xxxx
x
xx
W
N
E
S
1
?
Bid 3. RHO has made a nebulous 1 opening. Your preempt will be very destructive and the opponents will have a tough time deciding when to penalize you. They don't want to collect +500 when they were due +1430. Preempting after an unlimited opening like 1 both reduces the risk and increases the reward, when compared to preempting after a narrowly-defined 1NT opening.
Conclusion
Two factors determine whether a preempt offers good chances for a reward:
  • Whether or not LHO knows the suit in which the opponents hold a fit.
  • Whether or not LHO knows the correct level.
The reward for preemptive calls of all kinds varies enormously based on how much information the opponents have already exchanged. In some auctions, preempts are largely pointless unless you strongly believe you have a cheap sacrifice. In other auctions, the reward is so high youshould preempt as often as possible. The amount of information they have already communicated drives how desirable a preempt is in the given auction.
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