Question: In the above hand, South, the dealer, has a 20 count and opens up 4H, which is assumed to be preemptive. Upon realizing the point count of the south hand, it was surprising that no information was given.
Upon talking to North, he stated that opening up 4H could be anything; it was not necessarily a pre-emptive bid and that this was the common understanding that bridge players had of a 4-heart opener. Is this right, or should 4H be alerted if North has the knowledge that it may not be a preemptive bid?
Also, if north had no knowledge that 4H was not a pre-emptive bid would this bid be considered a psychic bid.
Answer: First, let me say that if you were to talk to “seasoned” bridge players, they would agree that a 4H opening in first or second seat would be a pre-emptive bid: a bid with up to opening points. It should be a hand of 7 to 8.5 playing tricks, depending on vulnerability. So, in this instance, the south hand is much too strong to open 4H. The reason is that it would not take much from partner to make either a small or grand slam and partner will never believe that the opening bidder has this strong of hand. In third seat, it is usually a pre-emptive bid, but, in some rare instances, it could be done with an opening bid where slam is unlikely given partner has passed. In fourth seat, a 4H opening bid could likely be something close to this type of hand. Probably eight and half plus tricks and opener is hoping to make game either by some magic cards from partner or the wrong opening lead or sloppy defence. But, again, a hand that can rule out slam opposite a passed hand.
This hand has 9 tricks (4 potential losers) and, if partner is a passed hand, this hand could theoretically be opened with 4H. One must remember that, even though partner is a passed hand, he could still have strength enough to make a small or grand slam. For instance, if North were to hold ♠Kx ♥xxx ♦Axxxx ♣Qxx, he would pass a 4H opening and a grand slam in hearts would be missed. As such, it is not a good strategy to open strong hands at the game level.
As to the question of being a psychic bid, a psychic bid is a bid that is a distortion of the high-card strength or the distribution of the bidder’s hand. It is meant to deliberately deceive the opponents making it harder for them to reach their optimum contract. In this instance, opening 4H with this hand deceives partner more so than the opponents. It may make it more difficult for them to defend, but as soon as the opening lead is made and dummy hits the table, both defenders should know that the 4H opening bid was not a pre-emptive bid. If partner had all those missing points, why did he pass? So I would not call this as a psychic bid.