Hamilton Bridge Centre Logo

Responding To Preemptive Openings

How to get more grey hair.


Before you read this article, please be sure that you and your partner have read the article on preemptive opening bids. This article applies to responses to partner’s weak 2 openings and preemptive openings at the 3 level.

The Overriding Principle: Be Direct

The most important principle in responding to a preempt is: decide immediately how high you wish to compete (the guidelines below will help), then bid to that level immediately. Here’s an example of a bad auction:

Auction 1


Both West and East have had the opportunity to exchange some information about their hands, and will be more likely to do the right thing.

Contrast that with this auction:

Auction 2


West and East now have more of a problem. They pretty much have to guess, and will be less likely to do the right thing.

Responding To A Weak 2 Opening

  1. With fewer than three cards in your partner’s suit, pass unless you have a very good hand (16+ points is a good guide) with a good suit of your own. Many disasters are caused by players who respond to a weak two opening without trump support just because they have an opening bid. If you play with someone who does that, quietly ask them not to. If they persist, find another partner.

    Let’s assume you have that very good hand but fewer than three cards in partner’s suit; what do you do with it? If you think 3NT can make, then go ahead, but it’s dangerous with two cards or less in partner’s suit. If you have to lose two tricks to set up partner’s suit, and partner doesn’t have an entry, you will probably go down. You can bid 2NT to see if partner has some help in a side suit, but if he doesn’t and you have to settle for raising partner to the 3 level, you could be in trouble.

    If you have a good suit of your own, you can bid it. Most people play that a new suit response over a weak 2 opening is forcing, but it’s better to treat it as a “drop dead” bid. If you have a huge hand and you want a new suit to be forcing, start by bidding 2NT to ask for a feature, then bid your new suit. Partner must bid again.
  2. With three cards or more in partner’s suit, you are obligated to bid regardless of your point count. Always raise your partner’s suit (exception: see next paragraph). How high? That depends entirely (and only) on how many trump you have. Over a weak two, you should bid to the level that equals the number of trumps you have. In other words, with three trumps raise to the 3 level, with four trumps raise to the 4 level, etc. Do it all at once; with four trump, don’t raise to the 3 level and then raise again if the opponents compete. After you have made your one and only bid to the level that equals your trump length, do not bid again. If the opponents continue, only double if you can set the contract in your own hand. Do not count on winning any tricks in your partner’s suit.

    The exception is when you think 3NT can make. If you have support for partner’s suit (especially if it includes an honour or two), you can count on taking six tricks (five for pessimists). If you can get to nine tricks based on your hand, bid 3NT right away. If you need help in a suit to make nine tricks, respond with 2NT first. This asks partner to bid a feature (normally a king or queen in a side suit). If partner has the feature, bid 3NT. Otherwise, with three card support raise partner to the 3 level, and with four card support raise to the 4 level (as described above).

Responding To A 3 Level Preempt

With a good hand, think about 3NT over partner’s minor suit preempts. You should have some length (and preferably strength) in partner’s suit so that you can get to dummy to cash those long suit tricks. Partner may not have an outside entry, and there’s no room to ask. Don’t be too concerned about points; if you can count nine probable tricks (given that six or seven will come from dummy), then bid 3NT. If you’re missing a stopper in one suit, bid 3NT if you feel lucky and partner won’t have a heart attack if the opponents double and run six tricks on you.

With a good hand over partner’s major suit preempts, think about the major suit game rather than 3NT. Partner is likely to have quick losers which the opponents will try to win off the top, so a “good hand” is one that has aces or ace king combinations.

With a weak hand, raise with trump support. For 3 level preempts, raise to one level more than your trump length (ie, raise to the 4 level with 3 trump, raise to the 5 level with 4 trump, etc.)