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Responding to pre-empts - to spoil

The principle is the same whether responding to an overcall, a Weak Two opener, a Weak Three opener or a Weak Jump Overcall. Holding a weak hand with support, work out how many cards are held by the partnership and bid for that number of tricks. It’s termed bidding to the level of the fit and it’s a winning competitive bidding strategy — because of the Law of Total Tricks (more later).

A word about Weak Jump Overcalls. Say an opponent opens 1 . If you jump to 2  , you’re showing a hand which would have opened (a Weak) 2  ; if you jump to 3 , you’re showing a hand which would have opened 3 . Simple and highly effective.

Back to responding to the level of the fit. Say partner opens (or indeed makes a Weak Jump overcall of) 3  . Respond with these:

Hand i) Hand ii) Hand iii)
9 8 2
Q J 8 2
A 9 4 3 2
A J 3
6 2
K J 4
9 8 7 6 2
K J 8 2
Q J 3
9 4 2
Q J 3

With the first, bid 5  . There’s an 11-card diamond fit, so bid for 11 tricks. You would do this non-vulnerable or vulnerable. But if your shape was duller, making two of your clubs into hearts, you’d be wise to settle for 4  if vulnerable.

With the second, raise to 4  , the (ten-card) level of the fit. Your opponents will now have to guess what to do at an uncomfortably high level.

With the third, you need to use your nous, because of the defensive nature of your hand together with the flat shape. 4 (doubled), the level of the fit, could lose a lot of tricks; and there’s no guarantee the opponents are making game. The wise action is no action. Pass. The level of the fit is a guide not a gospel.

North Deals
None Vul
K J 9 4
K J 9
A Q J 7 4
A 7 6 5 3 2
8 5
10 6 3 2
W   E
7 2
10 9 6
K Q J 9 7 5 4
10 8
A Q 10 8 6 4 3
K 3 2
West North East South
  1  3 1 3 
5 2 6 3 All pass  
  1. Weak jump overcall, like an opening bid of 3 .
  2. Raising to the presumed 11-card level of the fit. I say presumed, although a 3  opener/Weak Jump overcall can be a good six-card suit. However, the fine 6421 shape makes jumping to 5  clear, even if it’s one beyond the level of the fit. Make ‘em guess.
  3. Robbed of the chance to bid 4 NT to ask for aces, North makes his best guess. In fact 6  was a good slam — but it didn’t make.
6  by South
Lead:  A

West led  A (key play) v 6 . After seeing trick one, he could judge whether to play partner for a singleton spade or switch (probably) to clubs. After  A,  4,  Q,  8, he knew precisely what to do (East wouldn’t play  Q if he had a lower spade). He led  2 and East ruffed. Down one.

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