Thursday, December 22, 2011

Double disaster

At the club yesterday, partner and I were headed for first place when we ran into a bottom on the very last hand of the day (we ended up with a 61% game and a tie for second) .

I was sitting south and that was the auction at our table. Partner opens 1D, East overcalls 1S, I bid 2H, West jacks up the auction with 3S, partner passes and it is decision time for me.

Since partner didn't raise my hearts, he has at most two of them. And it appears that he has at most 2 spades. So, he must have 9 cards in clubs and diamonds. Since he has only two hearts, I should be able to get two heart tricks (most likely split is 4-2) and if he has the Ace of diamonds, there is a diamond cross-ruff also possible. We have the majority of high-card points. And so I doubled.  The double was cooperative; partner could have pulled it. But he had two good defense, so he didn't.

This was a disaster on two levels:

  1. As you can see, 3S makes. I played the Ace of hearts and seeing the establishable club suit in dummy, I played the king of diamonds, small diamond and partner later got his ace of spades. 3Sx and made was a bottom board for us.
  2. Our opponents on this table didn't play Michaels. At other tables, the auction went 1D-2D showing 5-5 in the majors. Now, the distributional nature of the hand would be crystal clear and since NT doesn't promise a stopper in *both* their suits, I can now bid 2NT. If West passes, 2NT or 3D makes (in fact 3NT makes). But West usually bids 3S and gets to play it. A heart lead is natural and South doesn't know who has the missing heart.  If he plays another heart, the contract makes with an overtrick.  So, my double converted what would have been an average+ board for us (3S making) into a bottom.
Other than getting opponents who play Michaels, I don't see what I could have done differently.


  1. I might well have duplicated your result and reasoning ... but I wonder if there were a preferred thought process that might have been pursued and led to passing out 3S.

    Within the box of your 2H call, your hand is not particularly oriented toward defense: you know that trumps are splitting and you would prefer for defense that your side king be in the other minor suit. You also expect that the opponents have a nine card spade fit. Most significantly, partner also did not double, as he likely would have had he had fewer than two hearts, and you do not have a stiff diamond.

    Considering all of the above, can you really expect the double to produce +300? And, if not, is the matchpoint risk of the double producing -530 worth the possible reward of converting +50 into +100?

  2. Jeff, valid point ... but when I created the hand-diagram on BBO, I forgot to add that East-West were vulnerable, so the matchpoint difference was really between 2H, 3D or 3H making (110/140) vs. 3S down 1 (-100).

  3. -730s like this one happen at matchpoints to any reasonably aggressive pair. However, I think this one is just a little too marginal to double. You don't really have extras. You have what you bid with 2H. Jeff's points are all valid (other than not knowing that the opps were vulnerable).

    One comment in your post I didn't really agree with is partner has fewer than 3 hearts or spades (and therefore 9+ cards in the minors). I agree that he would raise on many hands with 3 hearts, but not all. And if he had only two spades and extra strength, he would have doubled 3S himself.

    But the most important point is this: you say that your double was cooperative, yet you are sitting over the spade bidder. Unless you've explicitly agreed otherwise, doubles in this position tend to be penalty-oriented, while if your partner had doubled 3S, that would have been more takeout-oriented. If your partnership style is to make these kinds of "DSIP" doubles on both sides of the spade length (that's the style I prefer), then perhaps partner should be willing to pull with 6 decent diamonds (two more than he promised). You wouldn't make this kind of double without tolerance at least for partner's suit.

  4. Interesting ... our double agreements are pretty simple. A double is penalty-oriented if (a) we have found a fit OR (b) doubler has limited his hand already. All other doubles are "cooperative", by which we really mean that the double shows extras and asks partner to "do something intelligent" (I had to look up what DSIP means).

    Of course, on this hand, I do not have extras, so I had no business doubling.

    We do need to revisit our doubling agreements and make them better. Incorporating position (sitting above/below original bidder) seems like a good place to start.