False Preference

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 12/04/2009
Level: Intermediate to Advanced

False Preference

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:

 1?  1NT
2?  2?

 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:

 1? 1NT
3?  3?

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 3
?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