Wednesday, May 15, 2013

No-trump Preempts

One of the features that I like about the weak notrump, whether 10-11, 10-12, 12-14 (I've played them all at one time or another) is the preemptive aspect. Especially at "green" (not-vul vs. vul). It's very much harder for the opponents to come in and conduct a sensible constructive auction starting at the two-level, vulnerable because the opening bid is so well-defined and responder will know just when to apply the chopper.

But opportunities to preempt the opponents in no-trump don't begin and end with the opening bid. Take this hand from a recent team game at the club: ♠– Q754 QT2 ♣AJT843 (third seat at favorable vulnerability). Partner deals and opens 1NT (12-14) and the next player doubles. The opponents have at least a 9-card fit in spades and 17-19 hcp. Moreover, partner's values are going to be sitting under the opponents' strength. So, my hand might take a few tricks but partner will probably only score aces, assuming that the other hand can get the lead a couple of times.

In other words, there's just a little too much danger, in my opinion, of them making 620. I therefore raised partner to 3NT. This was followed by two passes and then double. Should I pull to 4♣? No, I decided to stand my ground (I had the feeling that the next player might take the double out). And so it proved. It went 4 on my left followed by two passes. Was I tempted to double? No way! That would have ruined the whole plan. The contract drifted off only one trick after I underled my ♣A at one point, allowing declarer to score her kingleton. But the damage was done. Our teammates were +620 at the other table giving us a 13 IMP swing.

As it happens, we could have made 3NT, at least with careful play and a peek (or an avoidance play) by felling that same club kingleton. Or we could have made 5♣ with the same peek (though there would be no particular reason for the avoidance play at a suit contract).

It takes a bit of a nerve to pull this kind of thing off. And you have to be ready with an apology to the rest of the team when it backfires. But the satisfaction of bringing off this sort of coup can turn an otherwise forgettable evening into something to smile about.


  1. Nicely played!

    I used to play the 10-12 notrump and found we got our best boards when they came in when they shouldn't have. They always thought we were stealing.

  2. Even 3C response might be an effective bar to their finding spades. And there seems little risk in that bid.

    When opponents overcall the weak notrump, they are at an immediate disadvantage because their overcall is at the two level, while "the field" might be able to overcall a level lower. I find it useful to retain that advantage. If the opponents guessed right on this hand, so be it. But in general it is nice to be able to follow a total trumps sort of analysis and sell out to their pressured overcall except when it seems that our side has some strength and too few combined cards in their suit.

  3. I'll offer another example of this from Friday's Eight-is-enough Swiss. ♠63 ♥2 ♦AT4 ♣KJ75432. Red versus white. Partner deals and opens 1NT (15-17). At my table, I raised to 3NT, partner got a heart lead and was able to wrap up 12 tricks. A spade lead would have set the contract one. At the other table, my counterpart, bid 2♠ (transfer to clubs) which was doubled. Our cards got to 5♣ alright but our teammates knew to take the good sac in ♠S. That resulted in a nice gain of 9 imps.

    Opening leader of course doesn't know that my hand has only eight points with a long club suit. There's approximately a 33% chance of finding the deadly spade lead on his own, so we rate to win 7, 8 or 9 imps 67% of the time and -9 imps 33% of the time. That's an average gain of 2.3 imps. If non-leader doubles 3NT for a major suit lead, there's still a chance that we can run to the safe 5♣.