Pre-emptive Openers and Weak Jump Overcalls

Why do we pre-empt?

The primary purpose of a pre-empt is to get in the way of your opponents! You are attempting to interfere before the opponents can make their desired bid. This is why it is called pre-emptive bidding. You are getting in your attack before the opposition have a chance. 

This is why pre-empts in major suits are more effective than in minors, as they take up even more of the bidding space.

The use of a pre-empt may also allow for a sacrifice contract to be bid. This is where you bid a contract that you think will go down in order to stop opposition making a game. If judged correctly this will result in a better score for you.

A pre-empt also gives a specific description of your hand, so if partner has a strong hand they will have a good idea what to bid.

What kind of a hand should pre-empt?

*You need to have 5-9 points and at least a 6 card suit with 2 of the top 4 honours in that suit (AKQJ).*

Weak 2’s

The most common kind of pre-empt is a weak 2. This means that you are opening at the 2 level to show a weak hand. We only bid weak 2s in spades, hearts and diamonds. We reserve 2 clubs to show very strong hands.

♠ 73



♣ 93

This is a good hand to open 2♥. You have 6 HCP and a good quality heart suit.

♠ AQ



♣ 93

This hand is not suitable for a 2 opening. Although you have 7 points and a 6 card suit, the points are in the wrong place.

When you open a weak 2, you are not necessarily expecting to make the contract. You need a good quality suit to protect yourself against losing too many tricks if you end up playing the contract.

Responding to a Weak 2

If partner opens a weak 2, what should you do next?

  • If you have less than 3 card support and fewer than 15 points then you should PASS
  • If you have fewer than 13 points and 3+ card support, bid to the level of the fit
  • If you have more than 14 – 18 points and 2 or more cards in partners suit then use 2NT to ask how good partners hand is
  • If you have a very strong hand 18+, and 2 or more card support with stops in other suits then just bid game.
  • If you have 18+ points and no support for partner then you can bid your own 6 card suit. Without a 6 card suit you must either raise partners suit or pass.

Let’s look at a few of these points in greater detail.

Bidding to the level of the fit

If partner opens a weak 2 then you know that they have exactly 6 cards in their suit. If you also have a weak hand, but have 3+ card support for partner then you can extend the pre-empt. This is designed to interfere even further with opposition’s ability to bid.

The level you should bid to is entirely dependent on the level of your fit. If partner opens a weak 2 and you have 3 card support you should raise to the three level, with four card support bid four and so on. 

It is best to remember this by the total number of trumps. (Partner may open a weak hand at the 3 level with a seven card suit, in this instance if you have 3 card support you should raise to 4). I remember which level you should bid to with which fit by equating it with the tricks you need to make the contract…

9 card fit with partner = 9 tricks to make a 3 level contract = raise partners suit to 3

10 card fit with partner = 10 tricks to make a 4 level contract = raise partners suit to 4

11 card fit with partner = 11 tricks to make a 5 level contract = raise partners suit to 5

Always bid as high as you can as soon as you can. Your pre-empt will not be effective if you creep up. Remember you are trying to make life as difficult for the opposition as possible by taking up as much bidding space as you can.

2NT Inquiry

If partner opens a weak 2 and you have a hand with 15+ points then your side has a chance of making game. The exact kinds of hands with which you should bid 2NT depends heavily on shape.

If you have support for partner and shortages of your own then you can inquire with fewer points. Remember to add fit points to your hands value. Remember also that if partner has a six card suit then they must have shortages elsewhere, at least two doubletons or a singleton. This means that their hand will be worth more than the minimum 5 HCP that their weak 2 opening showed. 

Say partner opens 2. Here are some examples of hands which should and should not bid 2NT.

♠ KQ73



♣ AK93

This hand only has 14 HCP. However, you have good 3 card support for partner. This means that you know that you have a 9 card fit and so can add 1 fit point for the extra trump. Since you have a fit you can also add 1 point for the doubleton diamond. So this hand is actually worth 16 points in heart contract. Just about worth bidding 2NT.

♠ KQ732



♣ AK932

This hand also has 14 HCP. However, here you have no fit for partners suit. This means that you cannot add any extra value for shape. If anything the Q doubleton diamond is worth less than its points.

If you don’t have a fit then you also cannot add value to partners hands for their shortages. So partners maximum value remains at 9. This gives you a total maximum value of 23. This is not enough for game, and this hand should just pass.

♠ KQ73



♣ AK9

Here you have a fit with partner but no extra value to your hand. Although with your 18 HCP you should just about be worth 25 between you, you have quite a few potential losers. Best to bid 2NT to make sure you have a little extra strength.

Rebidding over a 2NT Inquiry

Ok, so far you have opened a weak 2 and partner has bid 2NT. This section covers your next bid (openers first rebid).

Partner is asking you whether you are minimum or maximum for your weak 2 opener. Whatever you bid should be in the context of your original 5-9 HCP. 

With a minimum 5-6 points rebid your suit at the three level. This will end the bidding.

With a maximum 8-9 points bid an outside feature. This means that if you have a useable honour or a singleton/void bid that suit. What you are doing is telling partner that you can limit the losers in that suit. This means that if partner was worried about having too many losers in that suit they can now bid game more comfortably. 

If you have AKQxxx then bid 3NT. This tells partner that you have a maximum hand which should be worth 6 tricks. 

Time for some examples. You have opened 2 and partner has asked you how good your opening was by bidding 2NT. 

♠ 73



♣ 93

This hand only has 6 HCP and is as balanced as a weak 2 can be. This hand should bid 3♥ to end the auction.

♠ 73



♣ 9

This hand has 8 HCP and a singleton club. Over 2NT you should respond 3♣. Partner will then choose the final contract. 

Final steps – wrapping up an auction which has included a 2NT inquiry

By now responder will only have to think about bidding again if the auction has gone 2♠/♥/♦ – 2NT – 3 of a new suit.

If this is the case then it is now time to think about the final contract. Most of the time responder will just bid game in partners suit. The only time that you would not do this is if you think that you might make a slam. 

The auction has gone 2♥ -2NT – 3♣. Here is a hand which might have slam interest

♠ AQ



♣ 6432

This time you have a really good fit with partners hand. Although it is only has 16 points if partner can limit the club losers to 1 then you have a good chance of making a slam here. I would bid 4NT Blackwood to check that partner has at least 1 Ace.

Weak 2 Quick Bidding Guide

Weak 3’s and 4’s

If you have a hand which has 5-9 points and a good 7 card suit you can open at the 3 level. With 8 cards in the suit open 4. As a bonus, you can make these kinds of pre-empts in clubs as we only save 2♣ for strong hands.

If partner opens a weak 3 or 4 then you should still raise to the level of the fit if you have support. However, if you have a strong hand you cannot inquire with NT. You will have to decide whether or not to go to game on your own. Remember though that the longer partners suit, the more shortages they must have.

Weak jump overcalls

If you have a hand which would have opened pre-emptively, but opposition has opened in front of you, all is not necessarily lost. You can still show your hand as long as you are able to jump the bidding. 

♠ 732



♣ 93

If the opposition open 1♣ or 1♦ then you can overcall this hand as 2♥ will be a jump. If the opposition open 1♠ then you cannot overcall this hand as 2♥ would not be a jump.

If partner makes a weak jump overcall then you should respond exactly as if they had opened that bid. A weak jump overcall shows exactly the same hand as would open and so can be treated the same.

One last thing to think about…

You might adjust your bidding slightly depending on your position at the table and vulnerability.

If you are first or second in hand then make sure that you have a properly solid suit to open a weak 2. You have no indication yet where the points are. Having honours in your suit will protect you if you end up playing the contract.

Take note of vulnerability, especially if you are bidding a sacrificial contract. You should expect to be doubled, and you can only afford to go down by 1 trick and still be in profit.

If you are not vulnerable and opponents are then be a bit bolder. In this case you can afford to go down 3.


Pre-empts are really useful to disrupt your opponents. Do remember that these contracts are not usually going to make, but that is by design. Do not get discouraged if you start to play a hand and see it is impossible. Try your best to make as many tricks as possible and you may still get a better score on the board than if opponents had played the contract.