By Prof Tony Campbell

ONE of the potential difficulties in bridge is how to cope with a pre-emptive bid by your opponents.

A pre-empt is typically a jump bid that gives your partner a good description of your hand, and aims to put off the opposition, preventing them reaching the right contract.

Here is a hand where the bidder after the pre-emptive bid made a good decision, but even so did not end up in the best contract.

The Auction

East’s three club opening pre-empt bid, non-vulnerable, showed seven clubs and less than nine points. South, with a double stop in clubs and seventeen points, felt he had no option but to bid three no trumps. A double might have been better as he did have two four card majors. Given that East must have eight points or less, that left at least fifteen points between West and North. So there was a good percentage chance North had at least eight points, making the classic twenty five between them. North, with four spades, wondered if four of a major was a better contract, but had no way to find it. So, with eleven points, he passed his partner’s three no trump bid, hoping he had a good club stop.

The play

West led his singleton nine of clubs, which was won by South’s queen. Assuming East had eight points or less, South argued that East could not have both the queen of spades and the king of hearts, as he must have started with seven clubs to the king and jack. So declarer played the ace of spades and then finessed with the jack, which was won by East’s queen. East played back the jack of clubs, which was won by South’s ace. South cashed his last two spades, ending up in hand and then played the queen of hearts.

This was covered by West’s king and overtaken by dummy’s ace. If the hearts were three/three as here there was a chance of an extra heart trick. But declarer could not risk this so had to simply cash out his winning jack of hearts, followed by the ace and king of diamonds, conceding the last three tricks to East. So three no trumps made with nine tricks – three spades, two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. Well done. But the three club opener in fact worked well as it prevented North/South reaching the optimum contract of four spades which makes eleven tricks, South only losing the queen of spades and the ten of hearts, as the hearts were 3/3.

What have we learnt?

1. After a pre-empt three no trumps shows 16/17 points and a good stop in the pre-empt suit. A double would show points and at least one four card major. So that was really the best option here. A suit overcall would show at least five in the bid suit and less than 16 points.

2. When bidding after a pre-empt and playing the hand, it is worth estimating how many points your partner and the opening bidder might have. It helps judge finesses.

Further information

Many thanks for the readers who pointed out to me an error in last week’s seven no trump hand. I inadvertently deleted some of the text by mistake. So when declarer returned to hand he came back with a heart and not a ruff. The ruff was what declarers did who were in seven spades instead of seven no trumps. Not such a good score. This feedback is very useful. I do try to have the hand checked for errors. But this one escaped.

I have an idea on how we could reopen Penarth Bridge Club safely. Watch this space! I wonder what you did during the long lockdown. I spent a lot of my time writing a scientific mystery novel I have been meaning to write for thirty years. Its title is Mirror Image – what Darwin missed. It is available at Griffin Books, Penarth, and also online at

The story is set in the stunning scenery of Anglesey. The hero, surprise-surprise, is a brilliant biochemist and a keen bridge player.

There is a whole chapter based at the local bridge club, with an amazing, even crazy, hand I am sure you will enjoy. If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is very good and may be open again for new registrations. BBO is still open for registrations. Contact for information.

You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.