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44 - December 2023

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THE RED MIST – DOUBLE TROUBLE [PART 7]

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In the previous months, we examined Takeout, Negative, Responsive, Support, and DSI Doubles. This month, we wrap up with a few more doubles which are part of modern bidding.

Lead-Directing Doubles

Whenever the opponents make an artificial bid, your double should show that suit ‒ typically as a request for partner to lead the suit. Here are some auctions where the double would request the lead of the artificial suit being doubled:

WNES
1NTPass2♣(*)Dble
(*) Stayman
WNES
1NTPass2(*)Dble
(*) Jacoby transfer
WNES
1NTPass2(*)Dble
(*) Texas transfer
WNES
1Pass3Pass
4NTPass5(1)Dble (2)
(1) Blackwood response.
(2) But don’t ask any question about the meaning of 5.
WNES
1Pass1Pass
2♠Pass2♣(*)Dble
(*) Fourth suit forcing.
WNES
1Pass3(*)Pass
4♣Pass4Dble
(*) Control bid

The higher the level of the lead-directing double, the less stringent the requirements for suit length/quality. Don’t double a 2♣ Stayman response with only ♣AK2 (the opponents might redouble and play there). Length and strength are needed on a low level (such as ♣KQ1095). On the other hand, if Spades have been agreed by the opponents, you might double their 5♣ Blackwood response with as little as ♣K6 – suggesting Clubs as the best lead. The opponents are not likely to be able to play an 11-trick redoubled contract in a side suit.

Aside from doubles of Stayman, Transfers, Blackwood, fourth suit forcing, and control-bids, there are many other artificial bids which fit this category. Doubling an artificial 2♣ opening shows Clubs, but you are likely to be on lead. Doubling an artificial response to 2♣ is a much more useful place to insert a lead- directing double. A more extensive (but by no means exhaustive) list of situations in which a lead-directing double of an artificial bid is appropriate includes these relatively common cases: Bergen Raises (such as 3♣ or 3 responses to a major), Drury (2♣ or maybe 2 by a passed hand after a major), Gerber (4♣ after No-Trump), New Minor Forcing (2♣ or 2 after a No-Trump rebid) and Splinter bids (jumps showing a singleton or void).

The last (Splinters) is a bit tricky. If the opponents are playing in a suit contract, suggesting a lead of dummy’s singleton is usually not a good way to start the defense. So, after:

WNES
1♠Pass4(*)Dble
(*) 0-1 Diamond

many pairs agree that a double is not for a Diamond lead, but instead sends a message relating to the other two suits. One way to play is that doubles of Splinters ask for the lead in the highest unbid suit (in this case, suggesting a Heart lead). Failure to double might get partner to lead Clubs if he is 50-50 between a Club and a Heart.

On the other hand, if the opponents seem likely to play in No-Trump, for example:

WNES
1NTPass3(*)Dble
(*) 0-1 Heart

it’s best to play the double as showing Heart strength (such as KQJ97). You would want a Heart lead against an eventual No-Trump contract. If that’s not confusing enough, other pairs agree to use doubles of Splinter bids (especially 1-Pass-3♠) to suggest a sacrifice! Their double could be based on, say: ♠Q1087542 2 AQ2 ♣43. I leave it to experienced partnerships to sort out their exact agreements on doubles of all Splinter bids.

Quiz
Do these doubles suggest a lead in the suit doubled?

A

WNES
2NTPass4(*)Dble
(*) Texas transfer

B

WNES
2♣Pass2(*)Dble
(*) Waiting bid

C

WNES
1♠Pass3♣(*)Dble
(*) Weak

D

WNES
1Pass2NT(1)Pass
3♣Pass3♠(2)Dble
(1) Jacoby
(2) Cue

E

WNES
1♠Pass3♠Pass
4NTPass5Pass
5NTPass6Dble

Answers
A Yes. 4 is artificial.
B Yes. 2 is artificial.
C No. This would be a takeout double since 3♣ is natural. D Yes. 3♠ is not showing a Spade suit.
D Yes. 3♠ is not showing a Spade suit.
E Yes. 6 is King-showing, not Heart-showing.

Anti-Lead Directing Doubles

One lead-directing double which is growing in popularity with the expert community is actually an “anti-lead directing double.” The thinking is that once you’ve shown a suit, partner is likely to lead it. If the opponents then cue-bid your suit, there is no need to make a redundant double (to again suggest the lead). Accordingly, doubling a suit you’ve already shown suggests that partner try something else. For example, you hold:
♠KQ10 AJ8762 765 ♣3
The bidding goes:

WNES
OPENERYOURESPONDERPARTNER
1♣11NTPass
3♣Pass3Pass
3?

If the opponents land in 3 No-Trump (or maybe a Club contract), you no longer want a Heart lead. Surely, LHO has Hearts under control. A Spade lead now looks like a better idea. If you pass, you are saying you are content for partner to make the expected lead (your Heart suit). An unusual (redundant) double here would say, “I’ve changed my mind, I’m willing for you to lead something else.” A double would have a good chance to inspire an alert partner to lead a Spade. Of course, such an anti- lead double requires careful partnership discussion and agreement.

LIGHTNER DOUBLES

This is really a subset of “Lead-Directing Doubles.” This double is made when the opponents have reached a slam, and the partner of the doubler is on lead. The double requests an “unusual lead.” This could be because the doubler has a void, but it also could be that he wants the lead of dummy’s first-shown suit. It’s up to the opening leader to figure out which. Example of a Lightner double:

WNES
1♠
Pass2NTPass4NT
Pass5(*)Pass6♠
PassPass?

East has an Ace and can expect to set the slam if his partner finds a Heart lead. The Lightner double alerts West to do something unusual. There isn’t a first-shown suit by dummy in this auction, so West suspects a void and leads his long Heart suit as the best shot. East ruffs and cashes the ♣A for down one.

BIDDING

Double Trouble

1.

♠J42
K10972
8
♣K1062

WNES
1NTPass2♣(*)
?
(*) Stayman

A) 2
B) Dble
C) Pass

View solution

Pass = 5
Dble = 2
2 = 1

You are nowhere near strong enough to overcall 2 and your Club holding does not justify a lead-directing Double. Pass and await developments.

2.

♠1086
KQJ9

♣KJ10932

WNES
1NTPass2NT(1)
3♣34♣4
Pass4NT(2)Pass5♣(3)
Pass6♠PassPass
?
(1) 2NT Game forcing with Spades.
(2) RKCB.
(3) 1 keycard.

A) Dble
B) Pass
C) 7♣

View solution

Pass = 5
Dble = 4
7♣ = 2

Sacrificing is a dangerous move at any level, Sacrificing is a dangerous move at any level. You could double asking partner to find an unusual lead, frequently the first suit bid by dummy. That does come with the risk that your opponents will run to 6NT. Here, there is an excellent chance that your partner will find a Diamond lead without a Lightner Double.

3.

♠K10832
K
Q4
♣KJ852

WNES
1Pass1♠(1)
Pass1NTPass2♣(2)
?
(1) Denies a four-card major.
(2) Checkback.

A) Pass
B) 2♠
C) Dble

View solution

Dble = 5
Pass = 3
2♠ = 1

Your hand is too weak to overcall in Spades, while passing misses the opportunity to indicate that you have a useful holding in Clubs.

4.

♠Q765
93
AKJ9653
♣-

WNES
PassPass
3Dble4Dble
Pass4PassPass
?

A) 3
B) Dble
C) Pass

View solution

Dble = 5
Pass = 3
5 = 2

The objection to sacrificing is as previously mentioned – you cannot be certain that 4 Hearts is making, while passing is down the middle. A Double by a hand that has preempted almost always suggests the presence of a void, so alert partner to the possibility.

5.

♠KJ
Q10
KJ103
♣AK653

WNES
1NTPass2(*)
?
(*) Transfer

A) 2NT
B) 3♣
C) Dble

View solution

Dble = 5
2NT = 2
3♣ = 1

You need a longer and stronger suit to contemplate overcalling at the three-level, which rules out 3♣. 2NT is unsound with so many unsupported honors, not to mention that partner may expect it to show at least 5-5 in the minors. Doubling to suggest something useful in Diamonds is best.

6.

♠107
K109643
Q53
♣53

WNES
Pass
Pass1NTPass3(*)
?
(*) Transfer

A) Dble
B) Pass
C) 3

View solution

Dble = 5
Pass = 3
3 = 0

If you wanted to bid Hearts, you missed your opportunity on the previous round. Passing is a possibility, but in all probability a Heart lead will be a good idea whatever the final contract.

7.

♠Q5
K65
AJ106
♣KQ32

WNES
2(1)4(2)
?
(1) Multi.
(2) Diamonds and a major.

A) Pass
B) Dble
C) 4

View solution

Dble = 5
Pass = 3
4 = 1

It would be wrong to commit your side to the four-level with such modest holdings in the majors. Passing is a possibility, but a lead- directing double might get partner off to a good start against the major suit game that West is likely to be bidding.

8.

♠10874
A
Q9
♣KQ10875

WNES
1NTPass2♣(2)
?
(1) Stayman

A) Pass
B) Dble
C) 3♣

View solution

Dble = 5
3♣ = 3
Pass = 1

Passing cannot be recommended. Overcalling 3♣ is a possibility, but doubling to suggest a good holding in Clubs is less committal.

DECLARER PLAY

Problem 1

Contract: 4 Spades (West opened 1).
Lead: A.

What’s your plan?
a) Ruff and play a Club.
b) Ruff and play the A.
c) Ruff and play a low Heart.

View solution

Ruff and play a low Heart, c)

If you play a Club at trick two, West wins and continues with a low Diamond. If you ruff that and play the A, East ruffs, returns a Club, and you cannot hope for more than nine tricks. Playing the A at trick two is no better – East ruffing and returning a Spade. Playing a low Heart at trick two is best. East can ruff and play a second Diamond, but you ruff, ruff a Heart high and draw trumps, losing three tricks.

Problem 2

Contract: 4 Spades.
Lead: West starts with the Q and continues the suit.

Do you?
a) Ruff, draw trumps and play a Club.
b) Ruff and play a Club.
c) Ruff, draw trumps pitching dummy’s Clubs.

View solution

Ruff and play a Club, b).

Drawing trumps will fail if they are 4-2, even if you discard dummy’s Clubs (you don’t have the ♣8!). Playing a round of Clubs before drawing trumps leaves the defenders helpless: if West ducks, draw trumps discarding the dummy’s last Club and play Club.

Problem 3

Contract: 4 Spades.
Lead: Q.

What is your plan?
a) Duck, win the next Heart, cash a Spade and play on Diamonds.
b) Win, and cash the ♠AK.
c) Win, unblock the ♣A, cash the ♠A and play a low Spade.

View solution

Duck, win the next Heart, cash a Spade and play on Diamonds, a).

If you win and cash the top Spades, you will never reach dummy to cash your Clubs. If you try unblocking the Clubs then taking a high Spade followed by a low one, West wins and switches to a Diamond, securing a ruff. Ducking the first Heart is simplest. If West plays a second Heart, take a top Spade and then play on Diamonds. Ducking the Heart cuts the East-West communications, preventing two ruffs.

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Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen is one of America’s top writers and teachers, having semi-retired from top-level competition in 2009. His To Bid or Not to Bid; The LAW of Total Tricks is one of the best-selling bridge books of all time.

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