Jeff Lehman

Beware the Newbies

At the club matchpoint game, we are facing a pair whom I have not before seen.  The vibe I receive is that they are novices.

Their auction proceeds 1NT (convention card in my sight reports 15-17, although there is no announcement), 2NT, 3NT.

In passout seat, I hold 



From the auction, I think I know that the opponents do not have extras.  With the bulk of my side’s strength lying over declarer’s, I do not think this hand will play well for declarer (although I am somewhat concerned with partner’s being on lead, because his leading from strength might give away a trick).  I decide to double.

When dummy shows with:



I begin to ask the meaning of the (unalerted) 2NT bid.  But I reconsider, given my read that the opponents are novices.  I’ve been had.  -950!


Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 19th, 2015 at 8:56 pm

HBJ : Why double. If the opponents have underbid or landed in a poor inferior contract a good score is almost guaranteed. Moreover, partner may well make an aggressive perhaps costly lead if he believes you have genuine values to justify the double.

Jeff LehmanDecember 19th, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Howard, why should I feel the contract is an inferior contract? The bidding sounds normal to me – even if conducted by inexperienced players –, and so, if the contract is going down, could not the double be the difference between an average and a top?

As far as the lead goes, if the contract is normal, partner can project my strength and would not be expected to do something rash on opening lead. I am, however, concerned that even a normal lead will blow a trick … but was hopeful/expectant that even if that happened, the position of partner’s inferred 11 or so HCP behind declarer’s 16-17 would suffice to set.

(If partner held the DKJ instead of dummy holding them, even best declarer play would not land nine tricks.)

PhasmidJanuary 2nd, 2016 at 2:41 pm

I sympathize, Jeff, but only a little bit, I’m afraid. I had a similar situation just yesterday. The opponents were a pair I didn’t recognize and appeared to be novices. We were silent. LHO: 1D — 1H — 2D — 2H — 3D. My hand was 9754-KQ63-3-AK73. Wow! Obviously my partner had a stack of diamonds but couldn’t bid. These opps were going down at least two tricks. Double?

I sat there for quite a while during which time the little devil kept same “double” and yet my table feel (and assessment of the opponents) told me to stay quiet. I ignored the little devil and was very glad that I had. They took 10 tricks in diamonds. Neither of them had misbid although both had take slightly conservative actions.

It turned out that double would have been OK if I’d been playing with a DSIP doubler, my partner would have taken it out and we’d probably be allowed to play 3S making (or 4C making). Worst case, they’d bid on to 4D and we’d be no worse off. But my partner likes these doubles to be for penalty.

But Jeff, how was your double going to help partner with his lead? If he leads his own major suit (likely on your hand) you’ll be thrilled. If your double suggests finding your supposed strength and leads a minor suit, you won’t be at all happy 😉

Jeff LehmanJanuary 6th, 2016 at 12:23 am

Phasmid, on an invitational auction, why would a double have unusual lead connotations? Can't one just be doubling to increase the penalty? Let's say, for example, that the doubler held JT98, x, JT98, JT98, a three count. Yes, partner may well give away a trick on opening lead, but don't you feel confident that the contract won't make?

Jeff LehmanJanuary 6th, 2016 at 12:32 am

Phasmid, with respect to the hand you played at the club: shouldn’t you just double 1H? (You do not even want to hear what I think about the argument that the third round double is somehow DSIP!)

Also, with respect to the auction you heard vs the one I heard, I think there is a big difference. What my opponents held notwithstanding, the 1NT-2NT-3NT auction sounds like one that will result in normal contract. What your opponents bid, I would have much less confidence that others would replicate their bids. The difference suggests to me that double has more to gain on the normal auction, at matchpoints, than on the less common auction, where inexperienced opponents are highly undependable and the double can either backfire or prove superfluous.

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