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Bridge: Two level preempts

Assumed fit pre-empting on 4-4 two suiters

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Janus -Roman two headed god The assumed fit principle is quite revolutionary compared to standard preempting methods. In traditional methods one pre-empts with a long suit and and trusts to that for ones's safety. The more aggresive pre-empters in the 1980's would assume that the cards not seen in the hand were evenly distributed, and bid on partner's assumed holding as well. (This also requires partner's agreement not to raise, just because he has those extra cards)! Some examples..

S K107652
D Q95
C 1053
Thus one saw an aggressive pre-empt of 3S hands such as this. Some would say it was too strong! They perhaps hoped that heart singleton might cause problems
S 9852
H 7
D QJ842
Others went even further opening even a moth-eaten collection such as this with 3D! and hoping for 3 cards or more with partner. This is about a 66% chance, so arguably a fair Bridge working bet.

Similar "potential fit" theory underpins the assumed fit method of preempting. If you hold two four card suits then simulations indicate the chance of an eight card fit in one of them is around 60%, and rises to a healthy 78% if you are 5-4 or better. Total trick theory predicts that your opponents will rarely get rich doubling you in a such a fit at the two level. Indeed you are virtually always safe if non-vulnerable. Even if the fit isn't there the style is quite slippery and the judgement to extract a penalty may be a tricky one.

S Q652
H A1053
D 95
C J53
The original "Ekren" 2D preempt appears to have been an opening of 2D showing both majors, and causing a great deal of grief to inexperienced opponents.
An early adaption was to use a 2H opening for the same type. There is debate as to which might be harder to defend. I originally assumed that 2H might cause problems for a strong balanced hand as as it cannot safely pass. However Ekren points out that opener's partner is quite likely to pass 2D without major fit, and play there undoubled. It would seem that in experienced hands both have their problems.
S K973
H Q10862
D 92
C 85
Others modified these openings to a 5-4+ pattern, giving a 78+% chance of eight card fit but a reduced frequency of only 2.6%. It depends on whether you are a lion or a lamb. The EBU have (July 2000) enfeebled the "Ekren" 2D type al "level 3" by restricting it to this type. In my own view it is not worth playing in this manifestation.

There is no such restriction on the 2H opening which is considered 'natural' so long as it shows hearts. So you could play this anywhere! Have a look at my simulation results on the chance of "safe" fit with these openings

Once you have decided to venture an assumed fit style there are some other interactions to consider, which will depend on your overall system. For example Ekrens does not combine well with full method Lucas two's, as there are then two openings possible with 5-4 both majors. Similarly a very mini no-trump of 9-12 (EBU level 4) will compete for this hand type on 4432's, perhaps not the 5-4's

Other methods

Assumed fit technique can be extended down into the minors quite easily and there is a twofold (or even sixfold) gain in frequency, albeit with less preemption. Systems playing strong two bids will find conflict with say their big 2C opening. Some jurisdictions may allow a strong/weak combine to get you round this (eg EBU level 4).

Named Styles

The main variants I have found (so far) in standard format

My advice would be to try either the original 2D or theoretically stronger 2H version of Ekren. The adventuous might experiment with "rough" 2D={diamonds+major} which is twice as common, and twice as troublesome - for both sides! However my own experience is that assumed fit 2H is great fun and comes up several times a session. You will need to take the odd catastrophe philisophically, but bear in mind that the Norwegians and Swedes play the method enthusiastically, and at teams!

Tip: You may wish to exclude 4441 and 5440 3-suiters from your openings. They tend to confuse parter, and are good hands with which to shut-up and later surprise declarer. "A defensive shape" as Reese once put it. Several experimeters seem to have reached this conclusion independently.


Traditional Ekren(s) 2 diamonds (also seen as 2 hearts)

note Defined 2D or 2H = 5-10 points with both majors. Some play 4/4, others 5/4.

Bjørn Ekren's original version which was 2D as 4+/4+ and just 3-10 points. The Swedish contingent at the 2000 European Mixed seemed to be playing mainly the 2H flavour; and seemed quite happy to open it vulnerable (as was Bjørn)

Responses vary Pass/correct into suitable major is ubiquitous. Other response styles perm from ..

3C/D = invite H/S respectively
3H/S = preempts
3C/D = weak takeouts
3H/S = invite
3C/D = natural forcing
3H/S = preempts
3C = Nat NF
3D* = Invit values & 3-3 in majors
3H/S = preempts
(original mid-Norway version)
To 2NT enquiry An alternative scheme (best with {3} above) Ekren's own method
3C = 4-4 in the majors
.. 3D asks:
.. .. 3H =4441 3S = 4414
.. .. 3NT=4405= 3C = 4450
3D = 4/522
3H = 4/531
3S = 4/513
3NT = 4504
4C = 4/540
3C = poor 4/5 in majors 3D asks:
.. .. 3H = 45xx 3S= 54xx
3D = poor 44xx
3H = good 45xx
3S = good 54xx
3NT = poor 55xx
.. 4C invites 4D=55sx or 4H = 55xs (NF)
4C = good 55xs
4D = good 55sx
(where "s" is splinter - singleton/void)
3C = poor hand
3D = any 55xx GF
3H = good 45xx GF
3S = good 54xx GF
3NT = good 44xx

Helness-Helgemo are credited with the 2D - 3D*
response showing 33 majors and invitational values.

It is important in such systems to agree what to do over intervention! I might use fit jumps in the minors in support (of unspecified major)
Frequency 2.6%
Pro points Frequent and preemptive, they say it works well in practice
Licences 2H is considered "natural", 2D artificial/restricted {eg UK level-3 5-4 majors only}
Keywords fourside tight

Defence See link for discussion amd further ideas The defense problem has come up a few times in r.g.b and Dane Lauge Schäffer recommends just his standard Multi defence (making allowance for the known bad break in any major). Remember that your game may be in a major. At least you'll play it properly!

There was a good writeup of Ekren in Petter Olsen's Supernatural system. Another version on the Woodgrove site

"Andrews" 2 clubs

NOTE! Defined 2C = 4 spades exactly, and another 4+ suit
pass: Does not promise length in clubs, a tactical bid made so opponent cannot pass with good hands
2D: Pass/Correct, opener rebids 2S if his second suit is clubs
2H: Non-Forcing, 5+ hearts
2/3/4S: To play (sometimes may pick a 4-3 fit)
2NT: Enquiry, with a weak hand opener bids his second suit,
     but with a max, bids 3S with hearts, 3NT with a minor

English junior Philip Andrews tried this out with success in the Prague junior internationals. It is not UK legal as 2C neither promises or denies the suit bid. Other styles asserting spades are Jammer and Cohen

"Bloody Mary" 2 diamonds

NOTE! Defined 2D = 0-10 (!) points with diamonds and hearts 4-4 or better
This is possible pre-date of Ekren reported from Tiawan in an r.g.b posting by B Yang
Frequency about 6%

"Cohen" 2 clubs/diamonds

NOTE! Defined These are similar to Andrews and Jammer in that they are anchored to spades
2C = 4+ spades, 3+ hearts, 3+ diamonds maximum 2 clubs
2D = 4+ spades, 3+ hearts, 3+ clubs maximum 2 diamonds
A 2NT response asks opener totransfer into longest suit, all else is natural.

I'd have cautiously preferred to call the minor I hold rather than the one I don't, but this scheme means that the hidden hand is usually unknown, and introduces ambiguity into opponent's double. The main bridge merit of the scheme is grabbing posession of the spade suit. Seen played by Alf Cohen at London's legendary Young Chelsea club by Greg Soloman.

Defence I'd play double of any assumed fit opening as penalty

"DOBTO" - a complete two level method

note Defined 2C/D/H = 5-9 points 4-4+ with the suit bid and a higher ranking suit. This extention was evolved by Eric Debus of Leuven, Flanders , who claims some success with playing both in Belgium, and in the 199 Lille World Championship. I have played a restricted version at pairs I term rough diamond but went back to Multi taking the view that assumed fit works best with both suits defined.

Eric calls his system D.O.B.T.O standing for "Disturb Opponents Before They Open". (perhaps the alternative Flemish acronym didn't look so nice), and says it is predicated upon the American D.O.N.T method over 1NT. I prefer to classify it with this group because of its 4-4 nature. This is high risk/high payoff pairs stuff in my opinion but it gets in hard and fast at the two level, working because of the roughly 85% likelihood of a 4-4 fit. You will also gain on leads agains their contracts but lose thay most dilectible of contracts of 1NT not vulnerable - you takes your choice! See also New Zealand's Smeg twos below as an extention

Note that all assumed fit bids work more powerfully when you hold the suit bid. Otherwise a second hand opponent can afford to pass with marginal hands and come in later.

Frequency very high - up to 16% of hands!
Pro points The frequency!
Against Occasional -1100 scores
Licences considered "natural"!
Keywords fourside tight
Defence See link for discussion amd further ideas

Flemish style

note Defined 2C = 5-10 points with both majors or a big hand.
I have had reports of this style from Johan Longueville and Steven Gielen, both of Belgium, and this writeup comes from an Email from Steven, who plays 2C as either game forcing, 23-4 no-trump or the weak both major hand. He says this is presently (1998) pretty popular there. The follow up system seems pretty complicated to me, but then the opening is not uncommon. In response to this chimera:

2D Equal length in majors (less than 14p)
.. Opener will bid a longer major, 2NT natural or 3 any game forcing
2H preference for hearts (less than 14p)
.. Opener passes or bids 2S trial bid with 5-5 moderate major hands. Others as above
2S preference for spades (less than 14p)
.. As above except that the trial bid is not available - (3H is needed for the GF type)
2NT Artificial relay on 14+ (forcing) - with opener's coded rebids ..

3C min(6-8)
.. 3D further relay
.. .. 3H = 4-4
.. .. 3S = 5S + 4H
.. .. 3NT = 4S + 5H
.. .. 4C = 5-5, short C
.. .. 4D = 5-5, short D
.. .. 4H = 5S + 6H
.. .. 4S = 6S + 5H
3D = max(9-11) with 4-4
3H = max with 4S + 5H
3S = max with 5S + 4H
3NT = 23-24 balanced OR GF in minor
4C = max with 5-5, short C
4D = max with 5-5, short D
4S = GF
4H = GF
3C/D = forcing with 6 card suit
3H/S = preemptive
3NT to play
4C/D = splinter (with 4/4+ in majors)
4H/S to play

Frequency 2.6% (weak moïty)
Pro points Nice combine
Against Complex follow on
Licences Restricted (level 4 UK)
Keywords transfer multi fourside tight
Defence I would use the same defence as for Ekren, assuming the commoner weak type


Frelling Twos

NOTE! Defined Closely related to Flemish/Smeg twos

2D = diamonds and a major - 4+/4+ weak (common and a nuisance)
2H = both majors 4+/4+ *or* 4 hearts and 5+ clubs
2S = Spades (4+) and clubs (5+), or Weak two (6) in spades

Frelling openings deny 4441/5400 shape

A "Flemish" variant: A strong point of Frelling twos is their unusually complete constructive responses which I have pasted as received in a separate page. Incorporation of a standard 2S with the 5/4 blacks, and inclusion of {hearts+clubs} into 2H opening are further neat tricks. IMO the latter makes for more nuisance value, but you lose that deadly 2H-4S! response. Up to you.

Frelling responses were developed by Richard Willey, correspondent of "while hiking in Spain"

Responses Complex: see separate page
Frequency 6% (2S) to 19% (2D)
Defence See link for discussion amd further ideas
Licences considered "natural"

Frequent Twos

NOTE! Defined 2D to 2S show suit bid and suit above 4/4 shape or better. Except 2S=S/D
5-10 points, rule of 15 (both suit lengths + point total > 14)

I wondered whether to include this variant which uses assumed fit principles, but may take you to a 3D with inadequate trumps.
But it seems it is played - at least in New South Wales! See also Smeg twos below.

"With waves a crashing down on us, the wind a blowing gales
I'd rather have drowned in misery, than gone to New South Wales".
.. Jim Jones: Traditional Australian{!) folk song
Response Unknown
Frequency 7.8% - perhaps not all that frequent!
Pro points Previously illegal as non 5/4 in Britain they were 'acceptable in Australia' says correspondent, Sean Bentley.
New EBU regulations define these as natural with 4 cards in the suit bid and non-strong .. level two.
Against the 2S opening may force you too high
Licences considered "natural"!
Defence See link for discussion amd further ideas


NOTE! Defined The Bridge Buff site discusses assumed fit preempting at length, and looks at a series of "Jammer" styles. Essentially you show ability to play in 3 suits, and usually anchor to a holding in one specified suit. See Andrews and Cohen twos, which also assert spades. Mythical dog Cerberus had three heads
They recommend 2D as "playable in 3 suits including spades"

Responses Scramble a fit. See the Bridge Buff link above

Frequency high - up 20% but depends on style chosen

Pro points As with DOBTO the idea is to force opponents to start at the 2 level

Defence Bridge Buff recommend a mixed double/natural 2NT defence but as the main downside of such methods is lack of fit I'd suggest double be more penalty orientated and that you agree some way of counting trumps.

Perhaps doubles 13+ and 4+ in the anchor suit in immediate position. Thereafter double showing 4 cards over a bid suit and 3 cards under it, passes forcing. Suits natural and 5+. A late 2NT as "takeout" (opener has shown some spades).

There is more discussion and further ideas on my generic defences page. Always bear in mind that these scrambles are imperfect - they may end up in 3-3 fit to your profit! :))


Lyric 2 hearts

NOTE! Defined 2D = "weak" hearts and spades 4-4 or better
Another one from Tiawan reported by B Yang. It is said they played this one (identical to Western Ekren) in the 1980's.
Frequency about 6%

micro Roman

Defined 2{suit-of-your-choice} = 4-9 and three suited. True 4441/5440 shapes are rare, but if you relax to 4531 and other shapes to gain frequency the bid is brown stickered as no suit is always 4+. You may of course counter by playing say 2C as 3 suited guaranteeing 4 spades, which is generally legal higher levels. Curiously if the same opening guarantees 4 clubs it is level 2 (beginners) here in UK as it is a "natural weak opening". Opening your shortage is a weaker method.
Responses Scramble a fit. My experience playing the similar Cansino 1NT defence has been that a fixed 4+ suit helps avoid those tricky 3-3 trump suits!
Frequency high
Pro points You have 3 landing points, and hard to penalise.
Against Reese said (and I agree) that the 4441 hand is better defending. Keeps you out of 1NT which may be your contract, and hard to judge w.r.t 2/3NT.
Defence See Jammer above ...

Luis Argerich (Argentina) claims +4.5 IMP per hand on this one. I put this one here as it is a 4 card pre-empt, scramble fit method (most of these methods are 2 suits). Best played as 2C={3 suits,4+clubs} in my view.


mini Precision

NOTE! Defined 2C = Either 5 clubs and a major; or 6 clubs "weak"
2D asks for major (bid naturally) or 2NT/3C showing bad/good in clubs
2H/S to play, inviting support with three cards.
2NT=shape enquiry: 3C min with clubs, and 3H=major suit above, 3S max with clubs, 3NT = 7 clubs
3D GF with a 5 card major. 3H denies 3+ hearts, 3S shows 3+ hearts, 3NT denies a major, 4D = 3/4 majors
3H/S = GF natural 6+ cards
Frequency High

This is another dish from Eric Debus's bubbling Belgian pot. Tom Huybrechts emailed me and he plays this in combination with 2D Multi, 2H assumed fit majors and 2S Muiderberg. They use strong inclusions in their 3 level transfer pre-empts to cover those occasional awkward GF hands!


Rough diamond

NOTE! Defined 2D = 5-9 points with diamonds and a major.
This is a sub-set of the Flemish style I developed independently (not all that original)! Joan and I played it as 4/4 or {5/4} non-vulnerable only. With 5M4D hands we would open an undisciplined major pre-empt and with 4M5D prefer this one. Always with a view to the lead. The principle is that you can wriggle a 4-4 fit in about 85% of hands. We purposely keep this one just below our 1NT mini range, and play it at pairs when mini NT is active. The usual comment about actually holding the suit bid applies {q.v above}

I would add that I have personally switched to the more direct 2H in part because we tended to forget this version and open a Multi late in a long session - with poor results!

Responses Raise if you can, but be careful of that 4-4 fit doubled at the 3 level. Diamonds can be raised more freely as they are more likely 5 card.
We used 2NT enquiry quite simply:
.. 3C/D Weak hand with corresponding major
.. 3H/S "Sound" hand with diamonds and this major
Frequency 5.2%
Pro points Frequent and preemptive
Licences "natural" opening
Keywords fourside loose
Defence See link for discussion amd further ideas
Examples Ben Cowling ( club) has been playing rough diamond for several seasons season and has emailed me his experiences. Ben has made a PDF archive of some 60rough diamond deals (presently offline); also useful and well considered system and competition methods (which I have mirrored here).


Smeg Twos

NOTE! Defined 2C to 2S show suit bid and suit above 4/4 shape or better. Except 2S=4S+5C "weak"

As the 2C=minors variant is intrinsically feeble, Smeg afficionado Keiran Crowe-Mai prefers this to show the black suits, using 2S as spades and diamonds, and 2NT for the minors. Peter Gill of says Smeg is from New Zealand. Smeg is closely related to frequent and Flemish styles.

Kieran says Smeg can be played so light that there is a gap between its upper range and an opening! The same principle is used constructively in the Dutch Lorenzo and the inference that passed partner has 8-11 points can be useful

Response 2NT enquiry. (2D over 2C. Other unshown suit generally "to play"
Frequency Around 17%. But note that the 2S=4/5 may be less common than the very effective weak 2S it replaces - and carries more risk. Good opponents will chose to defend often knowing they don't have the spades
Defence Double and lead trumps!
Licences considered "natural"

The term "smeg" is used by the character Rimmer in BBC's Red Dwarf series. It has smutty connotations.

Further reading specific to Ekren (Norwegian translations)

Thanks to Michael O'Connor of Galway, Ireland for originally mentioning "Ekren" to me when he visited Wirral, to Espen Gisvold has put me right on the early history of the convention, and to Ulf Nillson for his Nordic advice on defence.

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