Doubles over Preempts
The main goal of preempting is to take away opponents' bidding space, by opening at a high level with a long suit and weak hand. You don't even expect to make your contract, but if you play in your suit, you're in a win-win position because you'll do well if that suit is trumps, and you don't even have many points. Here’s a typical preempt:
You have a good suit, missing only the ♠A, and 6 high card points. A perfect time to open 2♠. If the hand had another spade, and the same point count, you’d open it 3♠.
Give yourself yet another spade, and you'd open 4♠.
Preempts are the toughest thing to manage in bridge if you're the opponents, and your side has points. You sometimes have to guess what to bid at a high level without the good feeling of discussing what you and your partner have.
Takeout doubles apply over preemptive openings the same as over one-bids. People don’t always think of double as a bid, so they don’t use them as much as they could. We’re programmed to bid suits! But the best bid over a preempt when you have a good hand without a clear cut place to play is to say "Double".
If you're in the direct seat you need a good hand. As usual, you're asking partner to decide. The higher the preempt, the stronger the doubler should be. Over a 3-level preempt, double in the direct seat with 15+. Shape is always important. e.g. 3♦ is opened on your right, you hold:
Double would describe your hand well. Remember to count your shortages when deciding whether to double or not.
NB: The direct seat (i.e. 3♠ and you are next to bid) is a different proposition to the balancing seat (i.e. 3♠ p p to you), when you could pass the bidding out. In the direct seat you need to be stronger, because the partner of the preempter is not yet known, (and could be strong) but in the balancing seat, relax a bit, because you know that the partner of the preempter has passed.
One good thing when you end up declaring after they've preempted is that their hand will be a "readout". Don't expect many points in the preempter's hand, but simply expect a long good suit. Most of the missing points will be in other hand. Trumps may break badly for you too, but at least you will expect the preempter's partner to have more trumps if you have to make a decisions about taking a finesse.
If they raise partner's preempt (e.g. 3♦ Double 4♦), this is usually designed to put your side in an even tougher bidding position and one level higher, and is usually not based on points. It's based on length in their partner's suit. You should still bid if you know there's a fit, and you have a few points. In a way, they help you by raising the preempt, because you can account for around 10 cards in that suit (usually seven from the preempter and three from their partner. One of you will definitely be short in that suit, making it an even better proposition to bid.
There are usually about 16 points left in the deck after an opponent has preempted (showing up to 9 points) and your partner has doubled, (15+), so your partner will be expecting you to hold about 8 points. It' a rough but reliable guide. If the auction goes 3♣ Double pass to you, just bid your suit at the most economic level if you hold up to eight points, but with more than your "share" (i.e. 9+) jump a level and go to game.
Although preempts are hard to manage, they fact that they have entered the auction has given your side more clues about where the points are and how the hands are divided. So, in general, tend to BID over preempts, and don't let them take effect!
Looking for more information? These books will help you learn more about doubles and other conventions.
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