Preempt openings

These hands feature preempting decisions from the finals of a past World Championship.

High-level suit openings are weak or preemptive, showing a long suit and typically 6-10 HCP. As a guideline, a Weak Two shows a six-card suit, a 3-level preempt suggests a seven-card suit, while an eight-card suit (or other shapely hand such as a 7-4) is often opened even higher, up to game level.

Another important factor is vulnerability. When not vulnerable, be happy to preempt at least three tricks higher than you expect to make. Vulnerable, you may be a trick more cautious.

From the semifinals, here is a classic preempt:

H T9
D 753

As dealer, with no-one vulnerable, all players opened 3S. Expecting to lose to the SK, there are six spade tricks, and adding three tricks to that for a non-vul pre-empt, 3S seems about right.

Here is another hand from the semis. Again you are dealer but this time both sides are vulnerable:

H J75
D 52

This time you will definitely lose to the missing honour (the ace) in your long suit, so again you expect to make only six tricks. That’s a trick light for a vulnerable preempt, right? Perhaps, but all players stretched and opened 3C with these cards. With such a solid suit, the temptation is irresistible – after all, this hand may take no tricks in defence but has six sure winners if played in clubs.

Here is a similar suit, but you are vulnerable against non-vulnerable opponents. This is the time to be most wary – if doubled, you can afford to go down only one trick and still show a profit against an opponent’s game contract (whereas at equal vulnerability, two down doubled is better than letting them make game). As dealer, what do you call?

H T9
C 842

Some chose to settle for a weak 2S opening (despite the fine seven-card suit), while others opened 3S, undeterred by the unfavourable vulnerability.

Another decision from the semis, dealer with both vul:

S 2
H AJT8642
D 5
C K632

With a good seven-card suit in a 7-4 shape, it is often best to preempt at game level. Two players did that, but most, being vulnerable, settled for 3H. One even opened a quiet 2H.

Not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents, you are dealer with this hand: 

S 5
H KQJ9542
C Q7

You have six likely heart tricks, and prospects of a trick in diamonds. Not only are you not vulnerable, but the opponents are vulnerable, making aggressive preempting even more appealing (because at this “favourable vulnerability”, you can afford to go three down, doubled, and still show a profit against an enemy game). Only one player in the semis settled for a 3H opening, while five opened 4H. The other two opened 1H.

Our last hand is the first board of the grand finals. After two passes, with nil vul, you have: 

S Q4
H KQJ95432
D —
C A65

The chosen opening was 4H. This hand is on the strong side but partner is a passed hand so slam is unlikely; more important is to worry about cutting fourth player out of the auction.