This term is well-named, because "false preference" is exactly what it is.
One player (typically opener) has bid 2 suits. The responder takes a "preference" (by showing delayed support) for the suit in which he actually has fewer cards. That's a mouthful, but some examples will help:
Responder can take this "preference" to spades even with longer hearts.
For example, responder might hold the hand shown here.Q 2
8 7 3
A K 7 4
9 8 6 2
Why take a "false" preference? For starters, passing 2 could lead to a missed game. It's a good idea to keep the auction alive in case opener has extras. Furthermore, opener will often have only 4 hearts and a 4-3 fit is not attractive. A 5-2 (maybe even a 6-2) is usually better. If opener has 5 hearts and a decent hand, he can next bid 3 and responder can then raise to 4 and play in the 5-3 fit.
A false preference is often taken after a jumpshift, for example:
Responder could easily have longer diamonds than hearts. He does not want to go past 3NT with a hand such as:
Q 6 4
J 10 2
A 10 8 7 5
To bid 4 needlessly escalates the auction. Furthermore, the 3 bid could have been made under duress and could contain only a 3-card diamond suit (A
A Q 8 7 6 5
A K Q
J 4 2). As the experts say, 3 is the most "flexible" call.
Can the preference be "true"? Sure, sometimes, the responder will actually have as many (or even more) cards in the suit he prefers. For example, after 1-1NT-2, responder will bid 2 with two cards in each spades and diamonds.
False preferences are also common when playing forcing notrump as part of a 2-over-1 system. In my opinion, this is a good reason to play semi-forcing notrump instead.
Nothing discussed here is alertable.
Last updated: October 2020