Join Bridge Winners
Low-level Penalty
(Page of 13)

In a quarter-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have an immediate decision about whether or not to go for a low-level penalty.

None vul, East deals. As West, you hold:

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
?

1D: 11-15, at least 2 diamonds. If balanced, 13-15.

Your call?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
?

Your side doesn't have a game. It is tempting to simply pass and defend 1NT or wherever the opponents land, which gives you a good shot at a plus score.

Is it right to double? If partner is balanced his range is 13-15, which gives your side the majority of the HCP. If partner isn't balanced he will be pulling the double, and you will be able to compete to 3. There is some chance that you will be collecting 300 or even 500 on a good day. If 1NT doubled makes that isn't the end of the world, since it is only -180 vs. the -90 you would have gotten if you had passed.

One disadvantage of doubling is that it allows North to run to 2 if he has a club suit. If you pass he can't do that, since 2 will be Stayman. Still, the odds in favor of doubling look pretty good, and maybe partner can take care of clubs if they run there.

You double. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
?

Double by you would be penalties.

Your call?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
?

You have indicated to partner from your double of 1NT that your side has the majority of high cards. You don't have anything particular to say now. Partner doesn't have to have more than 2 diamonds for his 1 opening, so you can't bid 2. It is best to simply pass and see what partner thinks. He isn't going to sell out to 2 undoubled, since your side has the balance of power.

You pass. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
?

DBL: Penalties

Your call?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
?

Partner is expected to have at least 4 clubs for his penalty double of 2. It is clearly right to pass. 6 tricks in clubs will be easier than 8 tricks elsewhere, and you don't even have a fit which you know about.

You pass, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

Your lead. Third and fifth leads.

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

Clearly you are going to lead a major. The question is which one.

A heart lead looks slightly better for two reasons. While the 9 isn't a very high honor, leading away from the 9 could cost a trick with some combinations. The heart lead is completely safe in that it doesn't do anything declarer can't do for himself. The other argument for the heart lead is that you have 4 hearts, which decreases the chances that you are hitting a 4-card suit in one of the enemy hands. Also, if you do maybe that suit can be nullified if partner has a doubleton and can ruff the third round.

If you are leading a heart, there is no reason not to lead the normal third-best from your 4-card holding. If you lead the 6 partner won't know that you are trying to show nothing in hearts, and he may completely misread the position by playing you for two hearts higher than the 6.

You lead the 4.

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q108
6542
103
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

Dummy plays the 8, partner the 9, and declarer wins the ace. At trick 2, declarer leads the 4 towards dummy. Do you go up or not?

West
964
652
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q10
6542
103
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

While there might be some combinations where it pays off to duck so partner can capture dummy's 10, on balance it figures to be better to grab your queen. The queen is falling next round anyway, and if you duck you might not get it.

You win the queen of clubs, partner playing the 6. What do you play now?

West
964
652
AQJ7
8
North
J1072
Q10
6542
10
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

Continuing hearts is clear. Perhaps you hit partner with KJ9. If declarer has AK of hearts, a heart continuation won't cost. In addition, if declarer has 4 hearts you might be able to give partner a ruff or two.

As to which heart to play, the 2 is clear. That completes showing your count in the suit. In additiion, and perhaps more important, if partner gets in he may need to know whether to shift to a spade or a diamond, and the 2 gives him the right suit-preference signal. If there were a conflict here, suit-preference should have priority since the count of the heart suit can't matter much to partner.

You lead the 2. Dummy wins the queen, partner playing the jack. Declarer leads the 10 off dummy. Partner wins the ace, declarer playing the 2. Partner shifts to the 8, declarer playing the 10 and you win the jack. What do you return?

West
964
65
AQ7
North
J1072
10
654
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

Partner's jack of hearts looks like a doubleton. Giving him a heart ruff is clear. The 5 is the right spot to return, more suit-preference.

You lead the 5. Partner ruffs with the 7, and leads the 3. Declarer plays the 9, and you win your queen. What now?

West
964
6
A7
North
J1072
65
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P

It looks like partner started with a doubleton diamond. If that is the case, you want to cash your ace of diamonds before giving partner another heart ruff. If you don't cash it, you might not get it.

Something isn't adding up. If partner has a doubleton diamond, that gives him 9 cards in the black suits. If he has 5 spades he would have opened 1. If he has 5 clubs, that means declarer bid 2 with 2-4-3-4 shape, which doesn't make sense.

The conclusion is that partner started with Kxx of diamonds, in spite of his carding in the suit. Your ace of diamonds isn't cashing. You must give him another heart ruff.

You lead your last heart. Partner ruffs, and plays the king of diamonds. He still has a spade trick coming for down 2. The full hand is

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q108
6542
103
East
KQ53
J9
K83
A976
South
A8
AK73
109
KJ542
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
4
Q
3
6
0
1
1
2
Q
J
3
1
2
1
10
A
2
8
2
2
2
8
10
J
2
0
2
3
5
10
7
7
2
2
4
3
9
Q
4
0
2
5
6
2
9
K
2
2
6
K
9

How was East's defense?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q108
6542
103
East
KQ53
J9
K83
A976
South
A8
AK73
109
KJ542
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
4
Q
3
6
0
1
1
2
Q
J
3
1
2
1
10
A
2
8
2
2
2
8
10
J
2
0
2
3
5
10
7
7
2
2
4
3
9
Q
4
0
2
5
6
2
9
K
2
2
6
K
9

East did well to grab his ace of clubs on the second round of clubs. It is often wise to withhold the ace of trumps, but here East could picture the possibility of getting two heart ruffs.

East led the 8 of diamonds hoping to persuade West to give him a heart ruff rather than continue diamonds. Often this would be a good idea, but not here. West will know that East is after heart ruffs and that this is a profitable defense. It is better to lead an honest 3 so that West doesn't misread the diamond position.

Could declarer have done better?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q108
6542
103
East
KQ53
J9
K83
A976
South
A8
AK73
109
KJ542
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
4
Q
3
6
0
1
1
2
Q
J
3
1
2
1
10
A
2
8
2
2
2
8
10
J
2
0
2
3
5
10
7
7
2
2
4
3
9
Q
4
0
2
5
6
2
9
K
2
2
6
K
9

On a double-dummy basis, declarer could have used his dummy entry to lead a club towards his hand and play the king. This will prevent one of the heart ruffs. Without knowing the enemy cards, declarer's play of leading a club towards the 10 looks reasonable.

How was the N-S auction?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q108
6542
103
East
KQ53
J9
K83
A976
South
A8
AK73
109
KJ542
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
4
Q
3
6
0
1
1
2
Q
J
3
1
2
1
10
A
2
8
2
2
2
8
10
J
2
0
2
3
5
10
7
7
2
2
4
3
9
Q
4
0
2
5
6
2
9
K
2
2
6
K
9

The 1NT overcall looks okay. South would have opened 1NT. Since East hasn't shown a diamond suit with the 1 call, lack of a diamond stopper isn't a serious flaw.

Running to 2 looks percentage. South could get clobbered in 1NT with 2 doing reasonably well.

North is right to not scramble further. South wouldn't be bidding 2 without a 5-card suit. Looking for a safer home could be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Was East correct to double 2?

West
964
6542
AQJ7
Q8
North
J1072
Q108
6542
103
East
KQ53
J9
K83
A976
South
A8
AK73
109
KJ542
W
N
E
S
1
1NT
X
P
P
2
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
2X South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
8
9
A
3
1
0
4
Q
3
6
0
1
1
2
Q
J
3
1
2
1
10
A
2
8
2
2
2
8
10
J
2
0
2
3
5
10
7
7
2
2
4
3
9
Q
4
0
2
5
6
2
9
K
2
2
6
K
9

West announced that the hand belongs to E-W when he doubled 1NT. This puts the partnership in a force. East is not allowed to sell out undoubled, since West could be quite strong. Even though East has minimal values and doesn't have a strong club suit, he has 4 clubs. That is all he needs to double 2.

At the other table, the auction started the same way. However, when 2 got doubled, North chose to run with a rescue redouble, a questionable decision. North was fortunate to find partner with a good 4-card heart suit, and was even more fortunate when West failed to double 2. East naturally competed to 2, which made, but this was not as good as +300.

It is important for a partnership to know what low-level doubles mean. If in a force, all such doubles should be penalty. The key is how many trumps does the partnership have. If the opponents are in a 7-card fit and you have the balance of strength it is almost always correct to defend rather than look for your own contract. As long as the opponents don't have that eighth trump and you have them outgunned, it is going to be difficult for them to find 8 tricks. Conversely, if they do have an 8-card fit it is usually better to declarer rather than defend at the 2-level.

21 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top