Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The tentatively penalty double

I have written extensively about cooperative doubles before in this blog. Here's a situation where none of the penalty triggers had occurred but I didn't feel that my double in the West seat was purely cooperative (DISP) but certainly not purely penalty either:

Dealer: E
Vul: NS
♠ 6
♥ QJT76
♦ Q862
♣ 974
♠ J75
♥ A3
♦ T9
♣ AKQJ83
♠ Q94
♥ 95
♦ AK543
♣ T62
♠ AKT832
♥ K842
♦ J7
♣ 5

p 1S 2C p
2D 2S X p
HTML Bridge Hand Layout Creator

Clearly, East had some values for his 2D call. So, it seemed like it was our hand. But where to play it? I didn't have a spade stopper, I couldn't raise diamonds. I could take a unilateral view and rebid 3C and maybe that was best. On the other hand, this was matchpoints and +200, if it was available, would be a much better score than +110 or +130. With a decent stop in spades, partner could even take my double out into 3NT.

Had I opened 1C, heard partner bid 1D, and then heard 2S on my right, this would (for me, at any rate) clearly be a cooperative double. Yet, when we have both made bids showing decent to good suits and not been raised, the needle on the takeout to penalty meter swings over a little more towards penalty.

In my humble opinion, having more or less denied the ability to raise clubs on his previous turn, partner should have given preference to clubs (over defending 2SX). That would be a relatively easy 130. Better still would be to take out into 3NT which rolls, as it happens. What actually happened was that partner passed 2S, assuming my double was pure penalty. Deep finesse says that 2S is cold but I think we had some chances.  High club, two high diamonds followed by a diamond ruff starts us out with four tricks. The HA is still to come and, if declarer doesn't try to finesse against the queen, we would defeat the contract. But it was not to be. -670 was of course an absolute zero. The exact same zero as 2S undoubled would have been.

So, on balance, I think that double was correct, showing that it was our hand. But the idea of the tentatively penalty double needs to be better understood.


  1. I don't like the double there. I suppose it is penalty oriented (no known fit) but with no shortness how do you expect to beat 2S? Even worse, what do you do if North runs to hearts?

    I think you are overthinking this one - just rebid your clubs and be done with it. You have extra length and strength. What more do you want?

    1. I want 200. This is matchpoints and it looks very much like 200 is coming our way, UNLESS of course East has undisclosed club length. BTW, I do have shortness (albeit doubleton): in partner's suit. If North runs to hearts, I will be able to rest in the knowledge that I've fully shown my hand.

  2. Not a fan of lots of calls here.

    East has choices between raising to 3C and bidding 2NT. Yet he chose 2D, when he had no assurance -- assuming 2D was not forcing -- of being able to later support clubs.

    I think I prefer 2H at South's second turn to 2S, too.

    And I do not understand West's double at all. Double is the call I would make on a hand such as QJ75, Ax, x, AKQJ83. Partner can only do something intelligent when the double communicates some information about the hand. To me, this double is looking for penalty, some trumps and a misfit for partner's allegedly good diamond suit. If you want to play it as extra values, fine, but needs an expected trump length, such as doubleton doubles. Can't see how it is playable for double to mean just about anything, partner you work it out.

    By the way, I have seen some of the crap the I-don't-want-to-defend crowd will rebid 2S on in the shown auction. I do not want to give up penalizing them.

    1. I'm pretty sure that in this particular partnership, 2D was forcing. Maybe I should have mentioned that, although it doesn't really affect the subsequent bidding.

      When we are bidding defensively, especially in this auction, we are already bidding good suits so the typical DSIP situation (essentially partner to show any extra length) doesn't really apply here. That's why I believe this is a penalty-oriented double. But as George Rosenkranz wrote in "Tips for Tops" you should pull penalty doubles with an unbid 6+-length suit. Here, I'm basically suggesting that you should pull if your partnership has a probable 9-card fit that doubler doesn't know about.