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.