This conventional defense method was devised by Mr. Harry J. Fishbein. During his bridge career he became irritated by the fact that there was no efficient or effective method to defend against the almost universal popularity of the preemptive opening bid on the three level. His attempt at resolving this issue resulted in the concept known generally as the Fishbein convention or Fishbein defense method.

A particularly unique feature of his devised defense method was the employment of the double. The partnership agreement, based on his developed method, was to view an immediate double as a penalty double. The partner is forced to pass. Studying the following example will help in understanding the logic of Mr. Harry J. Fishbein.

Opener Harry Fishbein

The concept of the Fishbein conventional defense method allows the player immediately following the preemptive opening bid on the three level, and this is important to remember, to double for penalty. The double in this instance is not a takeout double, but rather a penalty double. The double indicates generally a holding of the suit of the preemptive opener, which will result in at least two to three winning tricks. It is most important to remember that the advancer is forced to pass this penalty double.


The concept of the Fishbein convention does not allow the preempt to be followed by two passes, and then a double. Therefore, the auction 3 Hearts - pass - pass - Double is not allowed. Only the player sitting directly after the preemptive opener may double. If the opponent in the Pass Out Seat is holding enough values to make a penalty double, he may not bid. This would, of course, be aggravating, because it is definitely a disadvantage of the Fishbein convention.

In all fairness to Mr. Harry J. Fishbein the concept carries with it a unilateral decision by one partner of the partnership. The other partner has no choice in the matter, and many bridge players consider this a major flaw. The Fishbein convention also precludes the natural use of an overcall, which is also considered a major drawback.

Rectification of Conventional Defense Method

Whether it was indeed Mr. Harry J. Fishbein or other bridge players, who revised and altered the Fishbein convention to rectify this feature, is really not important. Important is that the concept was changed to fit the needs of the bridge players. The following illustration will help in understanding the changes made to the Fishbein convention.

Opener Harry Fishbein Meaning
3 Takeout Double

The 3 Spade bid of Mr. Harry J. Fishbein does not show a long Spade suit. Using the Fishbein convention, this bid in the cheapest, next available suit is a conventional bid, and replaces the Takeout Double.

Another example would be: North: 3 - East: 4 would be a takeout double over the preemptive opening. The auction North: 3 - East: 3NT is not allowed since a No Trump opening would show a balanced holding, values exceeding a normal No Trump opening, and a stopper in the preempted suit. Any overcall of 3 No Trump of a preemptive opening bid on the three level is to play. An example follows:

Opener Harry Fishbein Meaning
4 Takeout Double

The inclusion of this rather unique takeout double would show a minimum of 16 high card points and a three-suited holding, or possibly even a two-suited holding. This takeout double is unconditionally forcing and the partner may not pass.

It must be repeated that the concept of the Fishbein convention does not apply in the Pass Out Seat. Any auction such as 3 Hearts - pass - pass - 3 Spades indicates a natural bid. This bid is not forcing and partner may pass.


Depending on held values and distribution the responder has several options:

1. With a weak holding and fewer than 8 points, the responder bids his longest suit at the lowest level.
2. With values between 9-11 points, the responder bids game in his longest suit, even if it is a 4-card suit.
3. With stronger values, 12 plus points, the general consensus is to cuebid the suit of the opener.

An example held by the responder follows:

Opener   Intervenor   Responder   Advancer
3   3   Pass   4

The Fishbein conventional defense method was devised as a defense against preemptive opening bids on the three level. A Weak Two Bid is also assumed as a preemptive opening bid, and the Fishbein conventional defense method can also be applied immediately after a Weak Two Bid. However, this becomes a unilateral decision by the partnership, although the unique takeout double should still apply.


A variation of the Fishbein conventional defense method employs the cheapest overcall in No Trump after a preemptive opening, generally on the three level. This action is referred to as No Trump For Takeout.

The advancer must respond especially when the partner of the opener has passed because this No Trump overcall, even at the three level, is the same action as a takeout double

If the advancer holds sufficient values exceeding 8 points and the partner of the preemptor supports the suit of the preemptor, then the advancer should compete if he is able to name a suit on the same level but higher-ranking.

Whether or not a double in this instance, where the single raise by the partner of the suit of the preemptor may be considered obstructive in nature, is for penalty, is a matter of partnership agreement.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.