Jeff Lehman

Compared to the Box

Mike Lawrence has written about assessing one’s hand compared to “the box” to which earlier bidding has placed the hand.

An example arose in yesterday’s club game.

You hold AK62  6543  QJ3  63, all vul.

You hear the following auction:

West North East South
1 1 Dbl 2
2 3 ?

Your negative double showed four cards in each major and 6+ HCP.  Compared to “the box” of that description, how do you assess the attributes of your hand?  And how does that assessment lead to your choice of call?

You have extra values, and in the form of quick tricks of the AK.  Your four cards in your side’s potential trump suit are horrid.  You have an unexpected probable trick in the opponent’s suit which is likely to be wasted on offense.

Taken together, these attributes lead you to double 3.

Dealer: West #10

Vul: All





















+800 would be the result of your double.  The cards lay luckily for your side, for sure, but the reasoning for doubling was sound.


Jeff LehmanNovember 6th, 2011 at 4:45 am

Just had a fresh thought about my own blog entry …

If one is playing maximal doubles — a pretty common treatment these days –, the double of 3D would be a game try for hearts. So … perhaps Pass is a better way to express the defensive orientation of your hand … at least when the opponents are vulnerable so that the reward is 100 per trick. If the opponents were not vulnerable, the choice might be between pass and 3H.

Steve McDevittNovember 9th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I don’t think this is a maximal double situation; opener’s hand is too well defined. Double should strictly be penalty.

1S-p-2S-(3H); double here as a game try makes more sense because opener could have a bunch of hands.

Jeff LehmanNovember 10th, 2011 at 1:29 am

Interesting thought, Steve. I would tend to go the other way around on both your example and the hand in the main blog.

Mike Lawrence in his book Double! New Meanings for an Old Bid suggests a rule that I try to adopt in my partnerships: that the double is a maximal double when the opponents have shown a fit (that is, one opponent has bid the suit and his partner has raised that suit) and not a maximal double when the opponents have not shown a fit.

Page 53 gives your example auction and Page 57 gives an auction that one might argue is analogous to the blog auction.

If playing the convention (and remembering it) I might make a maximal double with responder’s hand if, for example, the QJ values were in hearts rather than in diamonds. Opener, with pure values — that is quick tricks and no wasted diamond values –, might accept with his actual hand but reject with some other minimum hand with four card support.

Of course, all of this is dependent upon partnership agreement. And, as usual, any agreement is better than no agreement!

RobinDecember 9th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

A very interesting article (and comments). I’m a big fan of “the box” (as I am of pretty much everything Mike Lawrence has written).
The question of what the double means is interesting. Playing with several of my partners, I don’t promise four hearts on this auction but subsequent calling should clear that up. Pass by me over 3D would guarantee four hearts and a relatively minimum hand. Bidding 3S would be game-forcing with a good spades. 3H would suggest more than a minimum with four or five hearts. What would double be? It would be two-way (because hearts haven’t been truly agreed). I’m actually the wrong shape for that so I will have to pass and hope that partner has extras and can reopen with a double which I will pass for “only” 300.

Jeff LehmanDecember 9th, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Isn’t the negative double of 1D overcall promising at least 4-4 in majors pretty standard stuff? To play that such call does not promise four hearts seems pretty unusual to me, because with spades only responder can simply respond 1S (neither promising nor denying a five card suit). The assumption that responder has at least four hearts from his negative double also affects the meaning attached to all subsequent calls by responder.

I also think the (what I believe to be) standard meaning of the negative double is best, too, because if responder does not have both majors then any bid by advancer can serve to either freeze the opening side out of its fit or cause them to guess the wrong suit, no?

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