The idea of making your opponents' lives difficult, in general, means that you will learn to take your tricks when you are the declarer, and when you are defending. Being difficult also means that you will be an active bidder.
Take Up Their Space
One of the best ways to be a challenging, respected opponent is to take up the opponents' bidding space. What does that mean? Well, let's compare a couple of auctions. Say this is your hand:
Assume the dealer is on your left. You have a pretty decent hand there. In fact, you are looking forward to a nice, straightforward auction. You don't really expect your partner to open the bidding, considering that you have 17 HCP, but if she does, all the better. Your plan is to open 1 ♣. If your partner responds 1 ♥, you will like that a lot. You can show your strength by raising your partner's heart suit to the three level. If your partner bids 1 ♠ over your 1 ♣, you have enough strength to say 2 ♥, describing this hand: intermediate strength, longer clubs than hearts, real interest in a game contract unless your partner is dead minimum for her response.
Now what if the dealer bids 2 ♠? Your partner passes and your right-hand opponent bids 3 ♠.
What's going on here? Welcome to the world of modern bridge.
No Longer Strong
You learned earlier in this book that opening bids at the two level were strong and showed lots of tricks. There's no reason why you can't agree with your partner that all your opening bids at the two level are strong, but the truth is that most modern bridge players have left that bidding system behind.
If you ever play at a bridge club or on the Internet, virtually everyone you play against will be using weak two-bids. Chances are that even your neighbors who learned bridge last year are using this modern system.
You may ask why. There's a good reason: frequency. The more you play bridge the more you will see that the strong hands are relatively rare, while the weaker ones come up often.
Before we get into the rudiments of weak two-bids, let's go back to that nice hand you held earlier — the one you were contemplating so pleasantly until the opponents ruined your reverie. Here it is again for convenience, plus the auction:
Now how do you like your situation? Do you really want to bid that club suit, with only one honor card, at the four level? If you do, you might catch your partner with this hand:
You can count on playing 4 ♣ doubled and going down a lot. If you pass, your partner might turn up with:
You can just about take a slam in clubs to the bank. So what do you do? Most players would probably double, knowing that a big penalty was a possibility if their partner bids the wrong suit. Remember, your double in this situation is for takeout. Your partner is almost certainly short in spades — the opponents are bidding and raising the suit, after all — but if she has a weak hand or length in diamonds, it could get ugly.
The bottom line is that you were put in a difficult position because the auction was at a high level before it got to you.
In bridge parlance, a “pre-empt” is usually thought of as a weak bid that takes up a lot of bidding space. After all, if your opponent opens 3 ♥ ahead of you, it's no longer possible for you to bid 1 ♠. It's a pre-emptive action designed to hinder your communication with your partner. Strictly speaking, strong bids at high levels are also pre-emptive.