Thursday, August 8, 2019

Thinking ahead

In a recent Daylong IMP tournament on BBO, I picked up the following hand: AKT742 AQJ62 void KT. We were vulnerable vs. not vulnerable and my robot partner dealt and opened 1. RHO bid D. What's your bid going to be?

You've got both majors, so how about a negative double? Predictably, LHO now bids 4 and when it comes back to you, you can offer a choice of majors by bidding 4. Did you land on your feet? Hardly! You can surely make slam and possibly a grand slam. How are you getting there when partner passes 4? So, you're kind of obliged to bid 6 now.

In other words, just thinking one move ahead in the auction tells you right away that double is a bad idea. Actually, it could be even worse. Suppose partner's hand is xx xxx AQx AKxxx? He might even pass 3X and you might score only 500: not even compensation for game.

I've seen some abuses of negative doubles in my time, but I think this one takes the cake. The primary purpose of a negative double is a bit like Stayman: opposite a relatively balanced opener, let's see if we can find a 4-4 fit. Opener is reluctant to bid a three-card suit opposite a negative double. How many cards in the majors do you really expect partner to have here?

At my table, I bid 3 over 3 and, after my LHO predictably raised to 4, my partner was able to raise me to 4 with his Q96 holding. Roman keycard Blackwood did the rest: I found out that we had all six key cards (including the A in case I wanted to bid 7NT) and I didn't really have to think too long and hard to bid the grand. But which grand? If it had been MPs, I would have probably bid 7NT. But at IMPs, you should maximize the chances of making by using your nine (hopefully) trumps.

Here's the whole hand:

The contract was lay-down. I scored six spades, five hearts, two clubs, a diamond ruff, and the A. I'm kidding as that adds up to 15 so I never scored a diamond or the fifth heart.

There were five others in 7 (we won 12.5 IMPs on this hand), ten in 6, ten in a spade game, and one unfortunate fellow in 7 down six. To say that he (or she) was hoist by their own petard would be an understatement: South never bid either of his majors: he began with a negative double then, after his partner doubled 4, he chose 5 (which the robots interpret as showing club support).