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.

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