Up until now, I have been talking about the straightforward ordinary bids that make up 90% of bridge hands. However, there are those other 10% which because they are very different, are interesting, and need to be dealt with separately, as they have different sets of rules.

The first of these which we will talk about now, is for the occasions when you have an exceptionally long suit. If you have a long suit, and lots of points as well, that will come into a later lesson. But for a hand to be a PRE-EMPTIVE hand, it must have a suit that has at least 7 cards in it, but it must also be weak - have 6-10 honour points only.  What you do with this sort of hand, is to start the bidding at the 3 level.  It might seem strange to you that when you have a weak hand, you actually bid higher to start off than when you have a strong hand, but that is the case. The reason for this, is that you have to have some sort of signal for your partner to recognise that you have this sort of hand. The other more important reason, is that by bidding high, you are excluding bidding from the opposition, or at least making it very difficult for them to bid. You are Pre-empting their bidding ability, and that is where the name comes from. The dictionary definition of Pre-emption is the appropriation of something by one party before it is offered to others - to forstall.

You do not have to pre-empt if you have a weak 7 card suit. You can choose to No Bid. Most often it is used when a partnership is not vulnerable, and the opposition are vulnerable, and perhaps have a part-score, so are on the verge of a rubber. It is a defensive bid - and it often gets defeated. But that shouldn't discourage you from using it, if the occasion is right.

Here is a typical pre-empting hand.

Spades       3
Hearts       10,9,8
Diamonds  K,Q,10,9,8,4,3
Clubs         K,2

41. What will you open on the above hand?

a. 1 Diamond
b. 2 Diamonds
c. 3 Diamonds