1) You want to suggest a lead to partner if the opposition win the auction.
2) You want to get in their way.
3) You want to let partner know what kind of hand you’ve got as soon as possible.
But just how weak can you be? Well the answer is “pretty damn weak!” OK, so we all know you have to have 12 points to open the bidding and this is fine if your hand is fairly flat. However what would you do with this?
K x x
K J x x x x x x
7 HCP. You cannot possibly be thinking of passing this endless Club suit. The opponents might have a game or slam in Spades or Hearts. You need to trash their auction – fast. Bid 5 Clubs. You won’t make it most of the time but so what? They’re never going to be in 4H or 4S now are they?
Aha! you say but what if they weren’t making game their way? Well if that's true your partner must have quite a lot and now you probably will make this dodgy 5C into the bargain. So, trebles all round, Steerpike.
That is an extreme example of pre-emptive bidding. You bid not to make your contract at all, but simply to make life as difficult as possible for the opponents. It is – simply put – getting your retaliation in first.
You can pre-empt at any level you think fit but the normal levels are 2 & 3. A 3-level pre-empt is based on a 7 card suit (possibly 6 in clubs – you'll see why) and about 5(6) - 9(10) HCP. The lower the point count the more the points should be concentrated in the suit, e.g KQxxxxx is a good pre-empt suit with no other points in the hand, but 10xxxxxx is a bad pre-empt suit.(Though it wouldn't deter some people I know....)
A 2-level pre-empt is based on a 6 card suit and again 5(6) - 9(10) HCP. Note that you cannot bid a weak 2C, as this is the big Game Force bid (Hence the 3C bid can be 6). 2-level pre-empts (weak 2's) are far more common than strong 2's and are also far more damaging.
Well, that takes in weak hands with long suits and up to about 9 HCP. But what if you've a fraction more than that? When should we open in the 9 - 11 range? And how do we value the hands?
10 HCP, flat hand - PASS!
10 HCP, shapely - 1S! Exactly the same HCP as above and this hand is just a bit too good to open 2S, but how can we tell? The answer is the Rule of 20:
- Add your HCP.
- Add the length of the 2 longest suits.
- Add these 2 answers together and if the answer is 20 or more - open the bidding.
Have fun and get bidding!!