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.