Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Examples of doubling: good and bad

Starting with the bad. This hand was discussed on BridgeWinners. You hold K862 KQ4 QJ963 7 as dealer, all white, IMPs. Playing Precision, you open 1 and partner responds 1. RHO now doubles and you redouble to show three cards in hearts. LHO bids 2 ♣ and this is passed around to you.

Are you thinking of doubling?  I believe that there are three reasons that you should not double here:
  • You have a minimum hand; partner has shown a minimum response (theoretically, you should only respond to 1 with 8 hcp but that's very old fashioned so, let's assume partner has at least 6 points). This is not necessarily your hand so making a cooperative double here puts partner under a lot of pressure.
  • You have only a singleton club; if partner chooses to pass for penalties, the opponents will be playing at the two-level with an eight-card fit--that's anti-law.
  • You have a seven-card heart fit since partner would have bid 2 if he had five and there's no reason to suppose that you have an eight-card diamond fit (you might but the way to find out is to bid 2 and see if partner lets you play it there).
The bottom line here is that this is the kind of hand that gets cooperative doubles a bad name. At the table, this hand doubled, partner left it in with a 9-count including KQ92 of clubs and the ace, third of spades. The contract made for -180.

OK, now let's go to the good example hand. This occurred in a daytime game today, playing with my favorite partner. Everyone is vulnerable (matchpoints) and LHO, the dealer passes. Kim bids 1 and RHO, a good "B" player, overcalls 2. Our hand is 875 KJT54 KQ9 J4. Some people might start with 2 but, in a competitive auction, I like to show support right away. I therefore bid 2. LHO and partner passed and RHO bid 3. Now, I doubled. The play was straightforward and we ended up with 500, for all the matchpoints.

So, why is this a penalty double rather than a cooperative (takeout-oriented) double? I explain this in Update on Cooperative Doubles. But, basically, I have made a limited bid (2) and partner has nothing extra because she passed. It's impossible that we have sufficient strength for a cooperative double (see the first bullet regarding the bad example above). Therefore, it must be a penalty double.

Note that RHO did nothing too outlandish. He had 16 high card points and a fairly good six-card diamond suit (missing the KQ, obviously, and the ten which his partner had along with two small). He was just unlucky that his partner had only two queens that were not much help.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Lead-directing doubles

How good should your suit be to make a lead-directing double of an artificial bid? Let's think about what we're trying to achieve when we make one.

What we're trying to achieve is to get our defense off to a better start than partner might come up with on his own. The danger of course is that partner might have a very good lead of his own (Q from QJTxx, for example) which he will eschew in order to lead your suit. On other occasions, partner has no good lead and will be thrilled to get your suggestion, even if it turns out not to be the killer lead. At least, it will have been neutral.

So, in order to ensure that your suggested lead is at least neutral, apply this rule: can you guarantee that you will win at least one of the first two tricks of the suit?

I'm posing this question in a no-trump context. Against a suit contract, the second or even the first lead of a suit might get ruffed and you might have simply accomplished setting up a trick which can never be cashed. But you won't have lost anything.

So, what honor holdings would qualify for a lead-directing double?

  • AK? Obviously!
  • KQ? Yes: whoever has the ace you will establish one trick.
  • AQ? Yes: if dummy happens to have the K, you'll win two tricks.
  • KJT? I don't think so.
  • KJ? No, no, no!!
  • Anything else? Don't even think about it.

What's about KJT? You will build a trick with this holding even if declarer has ace and queen. But you may never get to cash it. Is it really worth risking the possibility that partner has a better lead? Maybe but, on balance, I think not.

What about accompanying length? How about making a lead-directing double of an artificial bid with AKx? What could go wrong? We almost definitely will get to cash two tricks. Maybe partner has a doubleton and can ruff the third round! There's just one little problem. The opponents, who nearly always have more high-card points than your side, might just decide to redouble!

How about AKxxx? The danger is still there (partner may have a void) but I think that you'd have to get very unlucky to find them redoubling and making. Plus, you will have some company at least.