Friday, July 23, 2021

Believe partner, not the opponents

Here's an ordinary hand: J765 A3 T864 J93. It's an IMP pairs and no-one is vulnerable. You are playing vanilla 2/1. Partner is the dealer and starts proceedings with 1. After a pass, you bid 1. LHO doubles this and partner redoubles.  This is a support redouble so it says nothing about strength, simply that partner has exactly three spades. A support double mostly shows a balanced hand, but with the redouble, it's a little less clear since the opponents have claimed the other two suits.

The bidding continues with 1NT on your right over which you, naturally, pass, as does LHO.  Partner now doubles. What do you think is going on?

First, of all, you have to decide whether this is penalty or takeout. If it's takeout, what exactly would it be taking out into? LHO has both red suits apparently. Partner could be asking you to take a preference between the black suits, I suppose.

But, if you've been reading my stuff on penalty triggers, you will be in no doubt. Redouble is a penalty trigger. All subsequent doubles are for penalty. Added to that, RHO just made a competitive notrump bid and that's a trigger, too.

However, let's say that you've been reading lately that there's a kind of double called "intended-as-penalty." Partner expects you to leave it in unless you have an unbalanced hand. Would 5-5 in the pointed suits be sufficiently unbalanced? Maybe. It is IMPs. But the opponents are not vulnerable so, even in our worst nightmare, they might make an overtrick for 380.

There's another consideration. Partner opened 1 so either he has an unbalanced hand with 16+ and clubs, or a balanced hand with 18-19. Either way, I think we have a pretty good idea what to lead: a club!

You decide to show a weak, distributional hand, by bidding 2 and we end up in 2 making 170 for an average board. It's a shame though because we could have had 800 in 1NTX, 420 in 4, 430 in 3NT, or 920 in 6.

Here's the whole hand:

The moral of the story? Believe partner, not the opponents.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

More on the penalty-oriented double

One of my more recent blogs was on the Penalty-oriented Double. I feel that this is a legitimate clade in the zoology of doubles.

Here it is in action:

What will you call? Partner is suggesting trying for 200 and that looks tempting. But, could it be that partner is expecting a bit more meat on the bone of your hand? You did make a 2-level overcall and you don't exactly have the goods, do you?

And, you know that partner has exactly three hearts (well, it's 90% certain) and less than opening strength. If you do take it out to 4H, how bad could things be? -300 and -100 are the likely results. OTOH, maybe we are due 200. But, think about it. How many diamonds are we getting? zero. Other suits? three? There's a very real possibility of ending up with -710. That's sure to be a bottom while 200 is almost certainly going to be a top. Do we want to be risking a bottom for a top? If we had a diamond trick, that would swing the pendulum towards passing. But as it is? I think pulling the POD to 4H is the best plan.

The results?  4DX= was worth zero match-points. 4HX-1 was worth 64%.

In case the link stops working at some point, your hand (white vs. red) is 87 QT762 985 AQJ. Partner deals and passes, RHO opens 1S, you bid 2H, LHO bids 3D, partner bids 3H, RHO bids 4D, passed to partner who doubles.

Partner's hand? AJT6 J53 7 KT973.

Friday, March 5, 2021

When you really want it to be for penalties but it just isn't

 In a recent online club game, I picked up the following not very promising hand: QT874 75 Q9632 6 as West. We were at unfavorable vulnerability and partner opened 2H as dealer. RHO doubled and I quickly passed hoping that LHO wouldn't convert to penalties. Imagine my delight when LHO jumped to 4S. No, I didn't do anything foolish like double. 

Partner led the HT and dummy came down: 5 AQJ2 AK85 A953. A fine hand. Just not for playing 4S. Despite my good spade suit, this was a surprisingly tough contract to set but we did get our 50 in the end. This wasn't quite a top, because at another table, after the same start, South pulled 4S to 6NT, going down two.

Three other tables began with 2H double. In each case, the North hand bid a more modest 2S or 3S and doubler was able to call 3NT, which should take eleven tricks, and mostly did. One table began with 2H followed by two passes. North, didn't cooperate but instead bid 2S, converted to 3NT. Note that 2H doubled would have been worth 1100 for N/S.

The par result is 6C for 920, which nobody found, not even those that didn't get a 2H preempt. 

Here is the whole hand:

So, how should the South hand act over the 2H bid? I think this is a clear-cut trap pass. First of all, if partner has some nondescript hand and decides to pass, we might not even have a game, in which case 200, 300 or 400 will be a fine result. But, if North has some useful values, we can be sure that he will act in some way. He probably has only one or two hearts which will make him want to do something. If that something is double, we will of course sit for it. We only need to get the contract down two to beat any game that we can make. But what if he has his own suit and decides to bid that. No harm done. We just bid 3NT. 

A trap pass such as this is one of the most satisfying situations in bridge--that is when partner comes through. It can fizzle of course if partner meekly passes. But, even then, all may not be lost.