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Many duplicate players pre‑empt the bidding with a weak 2‑, 3‑, 4‑, or 5‑level bid with the enthusiasm of a suicidal maniac playing a game of Russian Roulette, oft times with a pistol loaded only with "blanks".   For the duplicate player, "blank cylinders" represent probable zeros on the score recap sheet totals; and their use denies added enjoyment to the game for both the user and his/her partner, while enriching the opposition.

        Accordingly, it is with a degree of appropriateness that definitive methods of some fashion

and logic must be employed so as to determine which suits are appropriate for a weak pre‑emptive

bid, and what level should be considered as a reasonable one to place the pre‑emptive call.

Obviously, vulnerability, sizing‑up of the opponents, fortitude or lack thereof, whether partner

has previously passed or not, position at the table, outside Major suit holdings, and many other

factors have some relevance in this matter; but in general, two methods are suggested as the

main considerations which should guide one's decision in this matter     They are: (1) suit quality, and (2) The Rule of 2‑3‑4.    If these two guiding factors offer a variant preference, one should perhaps consider some compromise (*) between their differing guidance.


A.  SUIT QUALITY:  ‑ The level of any pre‑empt should not exceed the level equivalent to the suit quality of the pre‑emptive suit holding; i.e., a bidding level equal to the summation of the number of cards held within that suit + the number of honors held within that same pre‑emptive suit (only Jack or above are considered).


EXAMPLES:  AKXXXX = 6 + 2 = 8  (Pre‑emptive 2‑bid is appropriate)

AQXXXXX = 7 + 2 = 9  (Pre‑emptive 3‑bid is appropriate)    

AKJXXXX = 7 + 3 = 10 (Pre‑emptive 4‑bid is appropriate)    

KXXXXXX = 7 + 1 = 8  (Pre‑emptive 2‑bid is appropriate)

             10XXXXXXX   = 8 + 0 = 8  (Pre‑emptive 2‑bid is appropriate)   

 AKQXXX      = 6 + 3 = 9  (Pre‑emptive 3‑bid is appropriate)


       The suit quality test can be utilized singularly as a general rule in establishing a guideline as to the level of reasonableness of any contemplated pre-emptive bid, and is especially useful if one desires a rigid partnership understanding so as to only allow for “structured” or “disciplined pre-empts”.    Some players desiring to have an even more structured framework to their pre-emptive calls insist on having two of the top three honors in any suit holding given a pre-emptive consideration.


B.    THE RULE OF 2-3-4:  -  When opting to pre-empt the bidding, either by an opening pre-emptive bid or by a pre-emptive jump overcall, it may become important for your partner to know exactly how strong or weak your pre-empt bid was.   If the hand truly belonged to the opponents, then your partner has little interest other than to experience, with you, the outcome of your blockage attempt upon the opponents.    If, on the other hand, your pre-empt bid finds your partner with the balance of the missing high cards, then it would be convenient, and indeed, extremely valuable for your partner to know the exact strength of your pre-emptive call  without first seeking further information.   By such means, the partner of the pre-emptive call can gauge whether or not a game try is even justified in exploration before the attempt is even begun.


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          Some superficial attempts to identify the quality of pre-emptive bids based upon the number of cards held within the suit that is bid (at least 6 for a pre-empt at the 2-level, 7 or more at the 3-level; etc.), a high card strength of 5-11 HCP’s for a pre-emptive 2-bid and 7-11 HCP’s for a 3-bid, or the suit-quality test as described above, are, at best, too vague in their attempt to qualify the strength of the bid and virtually incapable of ease of further clarification to a partner interested in pursuing a furtherance of the pre-emptive call or a possible game attempt.   Conventions like a forcing 2NT bid asking for a feature (Ace or King) outside the pre-emptive suit, or the Ogust Convention (1-2, 1-2-3), and its variations are better than having no standardization at all, but notice, they are mostly effective over a pre-emptive 2-bid and not one made at a higher bidding level; i.e., at the 3-level and beyond.


          The Rule of 2-3-4 serves to present a standardization, yet aggressive unstructured method upon which to base all pre-emptive calls, at the 3-level or higher, and is rooted upon losing trick count coupled with a variance based upon the relative vulnerabilities of the teams at play.  It allows the partnership a standardization basis upon which partner, who happens to have a strong hand opposite the pre-empt by partner, can recover and better estimate the value of the combined partnership holdings in an evaluation as to whether or not to proceed toward a potential game or slam contract.  When contemplating a pre-emptive call, holding at least 7 pieces in the suit in which one is prepared to pre-empt, the would-be pre-empter computes a 2-step process in order to determine the level of his pre-empt and once computed, the pre-emptive call can be understood by the partner as to how strong or how weak the hand chosen for the pre-emptive bid was in all actuality; i.e., just how many tricks the pre-emptive bidder anticipates going down in his/her sacrifice attempt.  The two steps are as follows:


1. The number of presumed winning tricks is computed by the bidder by subtracting his losing trick  

    count from 13.

2. To this number of winning trick count, the would-be pre-empter adds either 2-3-or 4                

    additional tricks he/she is willing to go down based upon the relative vulnerabilities as follows:     

                   Notice: This technic is fairly aggressive in that it presumes that one trick will be found in

                   partner’s hand for the sacrifice to give up fewer points than would be given up by simply

                   allowing the opponents to secure their rightfully-presumed game contract.


a.      Unfavorable vulnerability - Red (V) vs. White (NV) = An anticipated 2-Trick Set

b.      Equal vulnerability - Red (V) vs. Red (V) or White (NV) vs. White (NV)

= A 3-Trick Set

c.      Favorable vulnerability - White (NV) vs. Red (V) = A 4-Trick Set




      AJXXXXX  X  KXX  XX (Vul. vs. Vul.) = Pre‑empt a 3-Bid

      KJXXXXXX  XX  AX  X  (Not Vul. vs. Vul.) = Pre‑empt a 4-Bid 

      AXXXXX  XXX KXX  A   (Vul. vs. Not Vul.) = Pre‑empt a 2-Bid 


    Note:   Once a partnership has agreed to utilize this method of determination for the pre‑emptive level decision‑making process, then the partner of the pre‑emptive bid can use this information to either (a) calculate how much additionally to further the pre‑emptive attempt, or (b) whether or not to try for game or slam based upon his/her losing trick count when combined with that of the pre‑emptive bidder's presumed hand and its concomitant losing tricks based upon the Rule of 2-3-4.