The 12 Habits of Highly Effective Bidders   (September 2012)

10.  They allow their opponents to make mistakes. 

When your opponents have the balance of strength, they usually prefer that you and partner stay out of their way. To be a tough opponent, you have to look for reasonable ways to obstruct their communication and make them guess. Is this one of those opportunities?

    You     LHO    Partner    RHO
     Pass     Pass         1C          1S

Not vulnerable vs. vulnerable at IMPs, you hold 
   J92   J3   654   Q7653 

When you have slim high-card values, the best excuse for bidding is a big trump fit. That idea has led to the popularity of preemptive jump raises, which allow a weak responder to bid at the three-level. Here, 3C would be a preempt (a 2S cuebid would show a limit raise).

In an informal poll of experienced players, about a third chose 3C. Their comments ranged from "Automatic!" to "I hate it, but passing is too cowardly". Some said it was a "Law of Total Tricks" bid because they thought it likely that partner had four or more clubs.

A smaller group tried 2C, calling it a "compromise". A typical comment: "I hate it, but 3C is too rich, and I can't not bid with five-card support".

Almost half chose to pass, and they were the most adamant about their decision. One fear was that 3C could preempt partner. One passer asked, "Why can't partner have a big hand? Do they even have a fit? The 3C bidders seem mesmerized by the third-seat opener at favorable vulnerability."

It's easy to be enticed by the conditions because they're so perfect for preempting. Your hand, however, isn't. With 10.5 losers, it has far less playing strength than partner will expect, and you can't be sure he won't bid again. You'll need to have apologies ready if he carries on to 3NT or, worse, sacrifices at 5C.

The 3C bidders were hoping to crowd LHO out of the auction, but that can backfire. If the opponents have a spade fit, they've probably already found it. If not, your raise may allow LHO to make a responsive double and find a 4-4 heart fit. Advertising a big club fit could also push the opponents into a cold game.

Even at this vulnerability, a preempt should offer some trick-taking potential. Consider these tips when making decisions about preemptive jump raises:   

   2012   Karen Walker