Bridge: June 23, 2024

Preemption is a sword with two edges. Crowding the opponents’ auction has undeniable benefits, and a disciplined preempt can help your partner make an accurate competitive decision. But a preempt may result in an unprofitable penalty; it may goad the opponents to bid with all the more resolve, reach an unlikely contract and make it. A preempt may help declarer judge the play.

Toward the end of the final of this year’s Vanderbilt Teams, Nick Nickell’s squad trailed a team led by Kevin Bathurst. At both tables, North-South played at 3NT after North opened one diamond on a flimsy hand. At one table, East overcalled two diamonds, natural. Then when North for BATHURST played at 3NT, East led a spade, ducked to West’s queen. West shifted to a diamond, and declarer put up the ace. With little to go on, he cashed the A-K of clubs, after which he had to go down.

When NICKELL’s pair sat North-South, the auction was as shown today. Why South responded one heart, not two clubs, is a mystery, but it left West room to jump to two spades, preemptive.

Against 3NT played by South. West led a high diamond, and declarer took dummy’s ace, came to the king of clubs and let the queen of hearts ride. East won and returned a spade, and declarer won and cashed the jack and ace of hearts. When East discarded, declarer placed West with four hearts, six spades and, since East had not bid diamonds, two diamonds, hence one club. So South led a club to his jack and had nine tricks.

Without West’s preempt, North-South would still have reached a game. Whether they would have made it is unclear.

North dealer

Neither side vulnerable


S J 9 6

H A 5 2

D A Q 4

C 10 8 6 4


S K Q 10 5 4 3

H 10 9 6 4

D 8 5

C 2


S 7 2

H K 3

D K J 10 9 3 2

C Q 7 3


S A 8

H Q J 8 7

D 7 6

C A K J 9 5

North East South West
1 D(!) Pass 1 H 2 S
Pass Pass Dbl Pass
3 H Pass 3 NT All Pass
Opening lead – D 8

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