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Bidding is more accurate when you have the bidding space to show your strength and your shape. When you have a long suit and the hand belongs to the opponents, you can make it more difficult for your opponents to find the right contract by preempting.

A preemptive bid is a weak jump bid or weak jump overcall. It shows a long suit and a weak hand. The objective of a preemptive bid is to consume bidding space to make it difficult for the opponents to find their right strain and level.

When to Preempt:

The best time to preempt is when your opponents likely have a game or slam and have not shared much information about their shape and strength.

As discussed in our “Preempts by Seat Position” article, preempting in 1st seat and 3rd seat have high upside.

Preempts over a minor suit opening have significant upside because only 3 of opener’s 13 cards are known. A minor suit opening could be balanced or highly distributional. It could be a minimum or could be very strong. Preempts steal the room needed to describe opener’s hand.

Preempts over a strong artificial opening (e.g. 2♣) have great upside because the opponents are likely to have a game and they have not exchanged any information about their distribution.

Typical Preempts


Preemptive Bid

Expected Length

Typical Hand




QJT842 83 7 ♣K982




KQ98542 83 7 ♣982




KQJ98542 83 7 ♣82


In a high upside position for preempting, the length of the suit or the strength of the suit may be less than expected.

Risk versus Reward

When you preempt, you hope your opponents will miss a game or slam, or bid the wrong game and go down. The reward is larger when the opponents are vulnerable because the bonuses for making a game or slam are higher. Preempting with defensive tricks in your hand decreases the likelihood your opponents have a game. This lowers the upside of preempting.

The biggest risk isn’t being penalized. Missing your own game or getting too high and going down on a hand which belongs to you are greater concerns. . If you are vulnerable and you go down 2 when the opponents don’t have a game, you will score poorly.

When your partner is a passed hand, the risk of preempting decreases because preempting will not cause a game to be missed. The reward is higher because it is more likely the opponents have a game, and your preempt may make it difficult to find the right contract.


We Are Vulnerable

We Are Not Vulnerable

Partner is Unpassed



Partner is Passed




In his "Preempting" article, Justin Lall emphasize the importance of having an offensively oriented hand to preempt.  When judging whether to preempt, the article recommends considering:

  • Purity of the Suit:  you want your honors in your long suit, not your short suits.
  • Texture:  Good texture helps you handle bad breaks
  • Shape:  Semi-balanced hands (e.g. 7-2-2-2, 6-3-2-2) are a negative for preempting.

Responding to a Preempt

  1. Responder is the captain of the auction
  2. All raises are to play. Raises are not invitational.
  3. New suits are forcing opposite a 2nd seat preempt. Non-forcing after a 1st seat preempt. Jump in a new suit or go through 2NT to force.
  4. Doubles are for penalty
  5. Redoubles give opener the permission to double for penalty
  6. Consider tricks not points:
    1. Aces in side suits are valuable, Kings to a lesser extent
    2. Queens and Jacks are less valuable in side suits
    3. Opposite a minor suit preempt, consider whether 3NT is viable. You need stoppers and quick tricks.
  7. Be conservative responding to a potentially aggressive preempt, partner may have already pushed a level higher than normal. Tend to go 1-level lower when raising.
  8. Raise normally with trump support and shortness, e.g. 2♠ - (P) - 4♠ with ♠ K984 8 KJ83 ♣9852
  9. A passed hand can give the preempter permission to sacrifice with an impossible 3NT bid

Weak 2 Bids

An opening bid of 2, 2, or 2♠ in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd seat is called a Weak 2 Bid. Open a Weak 2 typically shows a 6-card suit and 5-10 HCP.  A conservative Weak 2♥ opening bid would look like ♠42 KQ9843 7 ♣K982 or ♠4 AJ9843 7532 ♣82.  In 3rd seat,  a high upside preempt position, you might preempt 2♠ with a weaker suit or a good 5-card suit.  With a hand like  ♠4AJ9843 7532 ♣82, you might preempt 3 in 3rd seat to put additional pressure on your opponents. When your partner opens a Weak 2 and you would like to invite game, it is wise to use a 2NT response as an asking bid. We recommend using 2NT as a Feature Asking BidThe Weak 2 preempter answers as follows:

  1. With a poor suit (not 2 of the top 3 honors or 3 of the top 5 honors), rebid your preempt suit.
  2. Lacking an Ace or a King is a side suit, rebid your preempt suit.
  3. With a good suit (2 of the top 3 or 3 of the top 5) and an outside Ace or King, bid the suit of your outside Ace or King.

These responses help responder assess whether a game is available.

For more advice on preempting, we recommend the following articles by Andrew Gumperz:

One of the best books on competitive bidding is "Partnership Bidding at Bridge The Contested Auction" by Andrew Robson and Oliver Segal.  Their "Putting on the pressure" chapter provides insight into how and when to preempt.  Advanced players and experts will benefit most from their book.  Intermediate players can benefit as well.  The density of information in the 234 page book is staggering.  Other bridge writers might divide the teachings into 10 books.  Students may wish to reread sections to get the full benefit.  The concepts Robson and Segal share are incredibly valuable.  Players who invest the time and effort to understand and apply the concepts will enjoy putting pressure on their opponents and reaping the rewards when their opponents make the wrong guess.