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Common Game 2018-05-09 Board 7
West
KQJ108743
J765
6
North
A95
Q4
AJ95
AQ94
East
62
K9832
K10
J652
South
A10
Q87432
K10873
D
7
West
North
East
South
1
4
X
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Analysis by Kenny Horneman

With a 6-5 hand, and no rebid problems, I would open the South hand, even vulnerable in first seat, but there will certainly be many who pass it. Assuming West bids 4 whether South opens or passes, N/S will not have any easy time getting to slam either way. If South passes and the bidding is 4-double-pass back to South, then I think it is reasonable for South to bid 4NT, showing two places to play, and then raising 5 to 6. On the other hand, if South opens 1, and West bids 4, then North will have to choose between doubling and just jumping to 6. You might be wondering if North's double is penalty or negative (i.e. takeout oriented). This is a question I am often asked when filling out a convention card with a partner for the first time, as there is a location on the convention card to indicate how high to play Negative Double . I know some experts who actually mark that spot on the card as 7. At first this may seem ridiculous, but it captures an important principle recognized by most expert players. That principle is that doubles don't just switch from being negative to being penalty at a specific level. A better description is to say that the higher the level you make a double, the more the double is based on general hand strength, rather than promising particular distribution, and the lower the level of a "negative" double, the more likely that the doubler has support for the unbid suits. The reasoning behind this concept is that it is rare when the opponents preempt at a high level for the next bidder to have a true penalty double based on a good holding in the enemy trump suit. Sure, it happens sometimes, but it is much more likely that responder to the opening bid has a good hand on general strength, but no clear cut bid available. So, the higher the opponents preempt, the wider the range of hand types that the responder will need to show with a double.

Now, some penalty double type hands will be included in those hands, but the current hand is a demonstration of how this principle plays out. If North's double of 4 is strictly penalty, then South is taking a big risk by bidding 6, as North might not have anything but good s. However, if North is showing a good hand, but not necessarily a penalty double, then South will have two reasons to bid 5. First, N/S might not even be setting 4 is North's values are concentrated in the minors. Second, N/S might have slam in a minor suit. In fact, it's quite possible on this hand that N/S are making slam in a minor, and E/W are still making game in s. Note that South should not pull the double of 4 with just a 5-4 hand in the minors. Pulling a high level double always implies a distributional hand, and thus North should be able to bid on with confidence, although North will have to decide which minor will be best for slam. As both minors make 12 tricks if declared by South, getting to either slam will be a great score for N/S. West might well sacrifice over a slam, holding no defense in the minors, but in general it is always difficult to find a sacrifice over a slam, and East does not have enough distribution to suggest bidding 6.

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