Here’s your hand sitting east, EW vulnerable and you are dealer:
A pretty normal 14 HCP 1H opener. Here’s the bidding:
West North East South
Rdbl * 2D P P
Dbl P ?
*10+ HCP, implies no fit
What’s that? My partner, who is a teaching pro when playing with others, and I had only played a few times and hadn’t established enough rapport to know what ambiguous bids mean. Is it penalty or takeout or DSI (Do Something Intelligent)? I’ve got a run of the mill 14 HCP opener, a seven-loser hand. We’re vulnerable. Can we make 3NT? If we can make game we would have to set them four to get a good board (800 v. 600), which means we would have to take nine of the 13 tricks (in which event we could make 3NT). Was it worth the risk? If we only set it three we only get 500 for a certain bottom board.
North was in one of the most unenviable positions in bridge in this auction. Almost by definition in an auction that goes as this one did; 1 of a suit, dbl, rdbl, the fourth hand can’t have much. Two players, opener and doubler, are pretty much promising opening hands, at least 12 HCP each and redouble is promising at least 10 HCP. That’s a minimum of 34 HCP, leaving fourth hand with a maximum of six, and probably less.
However when you find yourself in that position in fourth seat, you must bid if you have an unbid four card suit. Why? Because if you don’t bid and it is passed around to doubler, doubler has to guess what is in your hand. Where is your longest suit? You have to tell her immediately by bidding your unbid longest suit if it’s got at least four cards in it. If you pass, you are telling partner you don’t have an unbid four card suit but can support any unbid suit she bids, so she may freely bid her longest suit, confident that you have at least three of them.
Here are the four hands:
♠ J982 ♠ KQ10
♥ A10 ♥ J8632
♦ QJ9 ♦ AK10
♣ A1032 ♣ J6
Sitting north was a teaching pro playing with a student. The student’s takeout double was dubious at best and this hand exemplifies why. When my partner redoubled, North was required to bid his longest unbid suit, but South should know he doesn’t have much, if anything. So he bid diamonds.
Have you decided yet what you would do? I had a tough call because I didn’t know exactly how strong partner was. We might be able to make 3N. If so, we would have to set them four doubled to get a good board. I decided to defend so passed my partner’s double, knowing that it was a top or bottom decision. South, who got her partner into this mess can’t do anything but pass with her three little diamonds. It was their longest suit at 4-3 because the other two suits were 4-2.
I figured that we had the bulk of the points and the only way they could make tricks was by ruffing, so I led the AK10 of diamonds and we took the first three tricks. It was downhill from there on for North. We took nine tricks (three diamonds, two spades [declarer got the ace and a ruff with his fourth diamond], two hearts and two clubs) for down 4, doubled, 800 for us and a top board.
The hand was played 12 times, nine EW were in 3NT, making three and four; two made four spades, although only one bid it.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s to be careful with your takeout doubles. With only two quick tricks and only 10 HCP, that’s not a hand with which to make a takeout double in second seat because it puts partner on the horns of a dilemma if LHO redoubles, which happens a lot. And if you are playing against experienced players, they double low level contracts more than the average player.
After the hand was over I asked my partner what his double was. He looked at our 800 point score and said, “penalty.”