Thursday, 7 March 2013

Nice Pips

Like just about every other bridge player who has a certain level of experience, I have my own pet ideas on what works and does not work at the table. Based not on any great insight into bidding theory but formed (warped) by bitter experience, I have a view on pre-empting – a subject which is guaranteed to raise the emotional level on both sides of the table when it works, and when it doesn’t. Somehow pre-empting is considered a bit like stealing or to use an EBay auction analogy, like sniping. Nice girls don’t.

Anyway, here is me putting my ideas into action against Bryan Last and Tim Pike, who had just gained a 75% result against us on the previous board by making an overtrick in 3NT.

3 (1)
4 (2)

(1) If I showed this hand to most players, few, if any, would choose a 3 opening bid
(2) After enquiring deeply as to the possibility of the pre-empter having strength outside hearts.

The defence was quick and brutal. On my lead of K partner played 5 and declarer followed with 3. We are playing count signals (hi-lo shows an even number) on the lead of a king, so I knew that partner held either a singleton, or Q95 or Q5 (and had chosen not to throw the queen under the king to fatuously signal a doubleton).

We then continued rapidly with a club to the ace, jack of clubs returned (high card requesting partner continue with the higher of the two remaining suits) - duly ruffed by me with 8. I now played the J. I was clearly trying to get partner in and would not have done this without a second trump, so partner ruffed and played a third club, which I again ruffed, this time with the Q, and now played the A. With a slightly weary and hurt look Bryan ruffed high with A, but my partner’s trump pips were good enough that he now had a natural spade trick – three down and a complete top for E/W. 

Post Mortem:

It is perhaps unlucky that N/S have no safe landing spot in spite of their combined 24 count. Bryan’s 4 bid was reasonable – although I think that I might have been tempted to try 3NT in his position (I know this goes four off against best defence).

The current vogue is to open hands such as West’s 4 and I would certainly give this bid serious consideration in third seat after two passes. (Around the room, four pairs played in 4, one of whom was doubled).  Others would advocate a 1 opening – again I would choose this happily in second seat. (Three pairs played in 3, making eight or nine tricks.  One other pair played in 4 but only went two off: if West plays HA at trick four rather than leading a low heart for partner to ruff, the second club ruff may disappear).

I would just put the following thoughts up for consideration in deciding what/if to pre-empt.

  1.  Opening 3 on Jxxxxxx can lead to some spectacular successes - but if partner ends up leading from honour doubtleton as a result, who is to blame?
  2.  In your partnership, would partner know with confidence what to do with three aces facing a first in hand not-vulnerable pre-empt?
  3. Are your pre-empts predictable? If everyone round the table knows what to expect, you lose half the advantage of the pre-empt.
  4. Look at your spades.  If you are weak in spades, the chances are greater that the deal belongs to your opposition.
  5. Look at the vulnerability and assess your opponents. If you are not vulnerable, they may be tempted to think that you don’t have your bidding  - and over bid as a result.
  6.  Is your hand playable in another suit contract? Partner will not be expecting you to have a side four card suit or a void, so best to save those ones for third and fourth seat openings.

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