Thursday, April 8, 2010

Preempting Life

In bridge, preempting is an attempt to prevent the opponents from bidding effectively – essentially, it is taking a chance that partner doesn’t have a good hand either and that by bidding higher right away, you’ll put yourself in a better position to score well. Life, however, isn’t a competition so you’re not trying to prevent anyone else from having anything but just trying to be prepared for the future changes that might or might not occur. Occasionally in bridge, it backfires and you go for -800 or so, occasionally you keep them out of game or slam or they get to the wrong strain, and sometimes it really doesn’t have much effect. In life, it can work the same way. Preempting life can sabotage the current state, make the future changes not so glorious, or it can help you move on to bigger and better things, or it can have no effect at all.

According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, preempt has these definitions:
1) to acquire (as land) by preemption
2) to seize upon the exclusion of others
3) to replace with something considered to be of greater value or priority
4) to gain a commanding or preeminent place in
5) to prevent from happening or taking place
6) to make a preemptive bid in bridge

So, what does it mean to preempt life? I define it as planning ahead to have activities to fill certain voids in life in the near future that inevitably will be there when some current activity ends. This can include preparing for a new job before you quit the old one, making new friends in anticipation of a falling out with a current friend or a current friend’s move, planning a weekend visit somewhere to preclude being home and alone and bored, trying to get involved in another social activity after it gets to be too cold to play tennis, or trying to develop a new partnership with the anticipation that a current partnership is going to end. Since this is the bridge blog, I suppose I should write more about bridge – if you want to read about more life preempts, see my other blog.

My philosophy on preempts in bridge has changed a good bit over the years. I used to preempt with almost any 6 card suit regardless of suit quality, but as I have improved and learned more about the game, I now insist upon having a good suit to preempt. It’s not that preempting on bad suits really goes for a big number too often but rather, the benefits of taking up a little bidding space does not outweigh the number of times it gets partner off to the wrong opening lead, or subsequent defensive plays, thinking you actually had an honor two in the suit. Now days, I am much more likely to open 2S on AKJxx and out than Jxxxxx with a side A. Defense really is the most important part of the game and your defensive bidding really should help guide the defense. Getting partner to lead a suit you hold 6 to the J in instead of a likely more attractive lead is generally not worth sticking in a bid just to be a nuisance. I could say the same thing about my overcall style now. I’d much prefer overcalling with a 9 point hand with an AQJxx suit than a 14 point hand with a Qxxxx suit. With the ladder hands, it seems to be better to pass for now and maybe compete later if they try to stop in 2D.

In bridge, they say you shouldn’t preempt with a good hand because it inhibits your side from bidding effectively, something that is more important when you have the good cards. Much the same with life – you shouldn’t preempt when it is going well. Or should you? Should you always have a “backup plan ready to be put into action” or does that jeopardize the current state of goodness?

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