The 3-suit opener

For a pre-emptive opening bid you need a weak hand and 6 playing tricks (not vulnerable) or 7 playing tricks (vulnerable). The pre-emptive three-suit opener is typically made with 6-10 points and a 7-card suit. Honour points should not be isolated.

North as opener
A K 9 7 6 5 2
9 8 4
7 3

With spades as trumps North counts 2 playing tricks for his A-K plus 1 more for each cards below the top three. That’s another 4, making 6 playing tricks in all. So with this 7-carder North can open 3.

The three-suit opener can also be based on a maximum of 10 points and a very long suit. A typical hand might contain a 7-card suit with 7 points. So there are several ways to judge what are, after all, very unusual hands.

These hand types should not contain:

  • Two honour tricks; or,
  • A 4-card major.

The three-level pre-emptive can also be made third in hand as a “sacrifice bid”. The holding is unlikely to be of value in support of partner’s hand, and certainly worthless in defence. This is a calculated risk, balancing the loss if opponents win the contract and the loss for playing your own contract and going down.

Response to 3-suit opener

The three-suit opener shows a weak hand, probably with nothing outside the bid suit. For this reason proceed with caution. It is rarely a good idea to rescue partner from his pre-emptive bid, unless you have an exceptionally powerful and long-suited hand of your own. Responder will either pass, bid 3NT or raise partner’s suit. With the following hand South raises partner to Game (even though he has a doubleton in spades):

South as responder
Q 10
A 9 7
K Q 9 4
A J 8 5


South has 16 points, modest support for North’s trumps, but some good outside values. With less South would have passed.

The hand can also be valued using the Quick Trick count method (see below).

In the next sequence North opens 3 showing at least a 6-carder. South raises partner to Game in 4. His doubleton is safe since North will have at least six hearts.

South as responder
A J 8
J 9
K Q 10 4
A J 10 3


In all of the following instances, South on 12 points, does indeed pass:

South as responder
A J 9 8 5 3
A 8 6
K 9 5

1) 3Pass
2) 3Pass
3) 3♣Pass

In the next example,  South has 19 points and launches a ‘one round force’:

South as responder
K Q 2
A K J 7
K Q J 9 2


South’s change of suit to a minor constitutes a slam try. In reply to South’s 4 North also changes suit cue bidding 4. This signals he has the A. The partnership will continue to exchange information, hoping to find a fit for a possible slam contract

Any new suit response below Game level by a partner who has not passed is a one-round force. Thus 3-3 is below Game in majors; and 3-4 is below Game in minors and both constitute a one-round force. It means North must rebid.

Some players take a 3-major response as Game forcing; and a 4-minor response as a slam try (as in the above example). This approach is for partnership agreement. Thus:

1) 33♠Game forcing
2) 34Slam try

In the next example, South’s response in a major is Game forcing:

South as responder
A K Q 2
Q J 7
K 10
K J 9 2


Again he has 19 points, but for this hand he shows his 4-card major. His 3 asks North to indicate his major fit. North must have at least seven hearts, so the partnership tally is ten cards in that suit. North’s minimum 7 points will give them enough for Game. North is left to choose the suit. I guess he will go for 4s.

Finally, the no trump negative response. South has 16 points in the following hand. To partner’s 3 pre-emptive opener he responds 3NT to indicate a balanced hand.

South as responder
K Q J 5
9 3
K J 8
A Q 4 3


Quick trick assessment

Quick trick assessment may assist in working out your response to a pre-emptive bid. In response to an opening bid of three of a suit, for example, you can generally assume partner has enough for 6 tricks. You need a further three Quick Tricks for a 4-level response in majors; four quick tricks for minors. This is, of course a rough guide, and you can assess your hand based on the following:

Quick tricks required in response to pre-emptive opener
Trump suit
HoldingQuick Trick points
Any Ace, King or Queen1 each
Three or more trumps and a singleton1
Three of more trumps and a void3
Side suits
HoldingQuick Trick points

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To continue reading go to: The 3 no trump opener

By Nigel Benetton – based on the UK Acol Bridge Bidding System

Last updated: Friday, 2nd July 2021