BridgeHands eMag Newsletter
When opponents begin and end the auction in Notrump and partner
doubles, what are your partnership agreements? Do you lead a long
or short major, certain minor, shortest suit, Spade, or something
else? Does it matter if opponents made suit bids en-route to their
game or higher contract? Read on – we’ll take a look at agreements
and a few situations where the top-dogs have shown their mortality
like the rest of us.
On the topic of lead directing doubles, what better time could
we find to review agreements when Right Hand Opponent cuebids our
suit? Be careful before smartly placing your double card on the
Turning to the Laws, the ACBL has recently clarified its
position when declarer begins to play a card from hand (L45C2). If
you are a tourney player, check out this article.
Just for fun - the “knee jerk” Amnesia Double is one convention
you do not want in your bidding arsenal! Also, “Holy Smoke, Batman
– are we playing with a Pinochle deck?”
Note: Viewing the hands below requires your EMAIL reader to use
"fixed fonts" (not proportional). If you have problems reading
this document, please view our online
web-based copy or
Adobe Acrobat PDF file suitable for printing at the
Partner doubles opponents Notrump game - now what?
Three Notrump Doubled and your lead partner! Gulp, we all
recall “war stories” where our opening lead is akin to Luke
Skywaker firing the proton torpedo at the Death Star’s
reactor shaft. One shot is all we’ve got. Is the Force with
you? Better yet, do you and partner have an agreement on
lead requirements for various auctions? Let’s take a look at
some common treatments used and a few hands where even the
professionals get their wires crossed.
First, let’s review the
Lightner Double – typically used when opponents have bid
slam based on strength, or our partner has made a preemptive
bid. Ted Lightner advocated his double to ask for an unusual
lead, never trump or a suit bid by defenders. Ostensibly,
partner’s unusual lead provides doubling partner a precious
ruff to set the contract. Hopefully, leader can deduce
whether the suit is dummy’s first bid suit (when other
partner supported the side suit), or perhaps even a non-bid
suit. Mike Lawrence’s “Conventions” software program
includes a nice sub-chapter on this handy tool. With the
Lightner Slam Double as a foundation, we’re ready to explore
new lead-directing doubles.
Lead-directing doubles for unobstructed auctions should
already be in our repertoire. After opponents' 1 Notrump
opener, a double of responder’s 2C Stayman asks for a
Club lead. Ditto on responder’s other artificial bids
(transfers, cuebids, step responses, etc), asking for a lead
in the artificial suit. In a competitive auction, here’s the
popular guideline described in Bill Root’s “Modern
Bridge Conventions”, requesting the partner of the
doubler to make the specific lead in this order of priority:
1. Leader’s bid suit
1H – (1N) – 2D – (3N);
X Partner should lead Diamond suit
2. Doubler’s bid suit
1C – (1H) – P – (3D);
P – (3N) – P – (P);
X Lead partner’s Club suit
3. Dummy’s first bid (or shown) real suit
(1H) – P – (1S) – P; No bidding on your side, so
(1N) – P – (P) – X Lead dummy’s Spade suit
4. If no real suits have been bid, lead weaker major suit
(1N) – P – (3N) – X; Lead your weak, short major
This treatment is fairly standard, also recited at the
ACBL website with the following twist: when no suit has
been bid, the double shows a solid suit which can take five
tricks if the opening leader can find it. Without a clue,
the opening leader will tend to lead a short major suit.
Mike Lawrence’s “
Double! New Meanings For An Old Bid” categorizes this
concept as a Lightner Game Double (as opposed to the
Lightner Slam Double), recommending this easy to remember
reatment: “You- Figure-Out-What-Suit-I-Want Double”. So when
the opponents bidding is purely Notrump and #1 through #3
above are not applicable, this treatment gains good utility
value over the more limiting request for leader’s weaker
major suit. Eddie Kantar expanded on this method in “Defensive
Bridge Play” and other works, noting the leader should
lead the shortest suit, preferably a major, but definitely a
suit that has no honor cards.
Before moving on, let’s clarify one point about #3 –
leading dummy’s first bid (or shown) real suit. What’s with
the “or shown” wording? Say the auction goes:
(1N) – P – (2C) – P;
(2S) – P – (3N) – X;
The suit shown, or more correctly, suit implied by
responder/dummy was the Heart suit. Thus, partner’s double
asks for the dummy's Heart suit, not the leader's shortest
suit nor the dummy's artificial suit (Clubs).
Incidentally, the Fischer Lead Directing Double never
caught on with the masses, but since a few cohorts advocate
its use, let’s discuss it briefly. When opponents avoid suit
bids en-route to 3 Notrump or higher, defenders normally
lead a major to defeat the contract. To find the killing
lead, the Fisher Doublers advocate the lead of a Club to set
the contract, or a Diamond if the belated doubler had an
earlier opportunity to double responder’s Stayman bid. While
this treatment has some merit, a greater audience enjoys the
more flexible leads using the Lightner Game Double.
Finally, here are a few advanced treatments for the
fearless, discussed in Eddie Kantar’s "Treasury
of Bridge Tips". Caution – these treatments pertain to
OVERCALLS when opponents open the bidding!!! They are
different from the above scenarios, where your side has
opened the bidding:
When you overcall and partner denies support at the 2
level and belatedly doubles opponents’ Notrump contract,
lead the dummy’s first bid suit.
(1C) – 1H – (1S) – P; Partner denies support so
(1N) – P – (2N) – P; lead a Spade, dummy’s
(3N) – P – (P) – X; first bid suit
However, when it was not feasible for partner to support
your suit at the 2 level (Left Hand Opponent bids above your
suit at the 2 level) and Right Hand Opponent balances in
Notrump, lead your overcall suit.
(1C) – 1H – (3C) – P; Pard cannot show
(3N) – P – (P) – X; 2 level support so
lead your suit (Hearts).
Partner has useful cards.
When partner bids a major and later doubles 3 Notrump,
lead your short unbid minor suit, ergo a lead inhibiting
double! Partner has a 2 suited hand, looking to promote an
honor sequence in the side suit.
(1H) – 1S – (1N) – P;
(2N) – P – (3N) – P;
(P) – X – AP
Lead a short minor suit
Here’s the finale – when all four players have bid a suit
and partner subsequently doubles their 3 Notrump contract:
1) lead the dummy’s first bid suit if it was at the 1
2) lead partner’s suit if the dummy’s first bid was at the 2
level. Memory Aid: Lead dummy's anticipated four card suit
(1C) – 1H – (1S) – 2D; Dummy 1st bid at 1 level so
(2N) – P – (3N) – X; lead Spade, dummy’s 1st suit
(1H) – 1S – (2C) – 2D; Dummy 1st bid at 2 level so
(2N) – P – (3N) – X; lead Diamond, partner’s suit
Whew, Eddie’s suggestions for penalty doubles after our
overcall do make sense but can easily lead to confusion with
our earlier treatments - save them for your long-term
partners. For Okbridge subscribers, the
October 2000 Spectator newsletter by Marc Smith
discussed lead direction in contested Notrump auctions.
This Notrump Game Doubled lead article is also posted here
Okay, it’s time to head for the trenches and see a few
mishaps by the pros.
The first hand we will kibitz was at the
2005 European Open Bridge Championship
Board 10, North dealer, All Vulnerable
A 7 4 2
9 4 3
A Q 7 3
K 9 8 J 10
6 Q J 8 7
Q 10 8 7 6 K 5
10 9 4 2 K J 8 6 5
Q 6 5 3
A K 10 9 4 2
A J 2
West North East South
3C* P P X * 3C - Weak Jump
P 3N P P
Okay, what should East lead? At the table against 3
Notrump doubled, Saelensmide led a club, allowing declarer
to make 9 tricks for 750. While a Diamond lead would set the
contract, we’ve learned that West’s double is not a Lightner
Game Double. With an agreed upon suit with partner, opener
obliges with their first bid suit, making a Club lead (Rule
#1). Perhaps West confused this auction with a treatment
used by some when making a Lightner SLAM Double, asking for
an unusual lead not in the bid suit. Watch out for this
costly mistake and stick to your agreements.
The 2005 World Team Championship Board 7. Dealer West.
J 9 8 4 2
A Q J
A K J 3
A 4 K 7 6
8 7 6 10 5 3 2
5 4 8 6 2
A Q 10 9 6 4 K 8 5
Q 10 3
K 9 4
Q 10 9 7
J 3 2
West North East South
1C X P 1N
P 2N P 3N
P P X AP
With Zia Mahood playing in 3 Notrump in the South,
sitting West what do you lead after partner’s double? Here’s
another instance of Rule #1 in action – first lead option is
leader’s bid suit, our Clubs. Ah, we see the “jokester” Zia
only held a half stopper at best with Jack-third in Clubs.
Without a stopper, the Club lead puts the declarer down 4
tricks for a “phone number” (1100 points). Yet for some
reason, West mysteriously lead the H7, setting Zia by only 1
trick and a paltry 200 points.
In the October 1987 Bridge World, the pros were asked to
vote on this one:
West North East South
-- -- -- 1S
P 2C 2D 2N
P 6N X AP
As West, what will you lead holding?
8 6 5 3
8 7 5 2
7 4 2
Apparently partner does not want a Diamond lead after all
– partner’s pass would let you make that lead. If you picked
a Heart, congratulations, your interpretation of the
Lightner Slam Double is confirmed by most of the
professionals. Still, a third of the pros went with the Club
lead, so take solace if you didn’t lead a Heart. The
majority didn’t like the Club lead since responder’s 2C bid
is based on length and strength – if partner has Club
tenaces, they should not go away.
That's it for Double-talk this month. And if partner gets
the lead wrong, remember
Eddie Kantar's levity:
1. Partner is void
2. Partner is leading a singleton, hoping for a ruff
3. Partner is leading a desirable sequence
4. Partner has the Ace, thinks opps' have the King
5. Partner has forgotten the bidding!
You can always refer back to BridgeHands archives
When opponents' cuebid your suit - Take that!
So, Right Hand Opponent cuebids our suit. If we double or
pass, should these bids have a special meaning? If you’re
playing against advanced opponents, the answer is an
unequivocal “yes”! Here’s why. Let’s say the bidding goes:
(1C) – 1H – (3C) – P;
(3H) - ?
Sure, it feels great to quickly thump the “big red X”,
i.e., “double” on the table, yet maybe that’s not the most
profitable action. Of course, we would never make an out of
tempo call or use gestures that could provide Unauthorized
Information, but how does the double help or hurt our cause?
First let’s explore how the opponents can make good use of
our indiscriminate double in the above auction.
Advanced opponents can use a redouble to show a
half-stopper and a pass to deny a stopper. Now isn’t that
nice for opponents when you double? Notice how Left Hand
Opponent can describe two hand patterns without taking up a
bit of bidding space! So perhaps we should go back to the
drawing board with our indiscriminate doubles.
A better conventional partnership agreement is that our
pass confirms the lead of previously bid suit, while the
double requests the lead of another suit. Here are three
A. 4 2 A J 9 8 4
Q 9 4 J 6
B. 4 2 K Q J 9 8 7 4 3 2
C. 2 K 10 6 5 4
K Q J 9 Q J 6
Taking a second glance at hand A, we note it barely
qualifies for an overcall. Yet with no better lead
proposition, we might as well pass to receive a Heart lead
(make opponents earn their tricks after an anticipated 3N
On hand B, we desperately want our Heart suit led so we
should pass; if opponents take the 3 Notrump bait, you’ll
love partner’s Heart lead and scuttle their contract. If
opponents fall into your trap and you feel they won’t run,
you can belatedly double for penalty.
On hand C, a Diamond lead looks more profitable so we
double this one to inhibit the Heart lead; we expect
opponents to bid 3 Notrump by either bidding it directly or
via their redouble mechanism so nothing is lost. Since our
Diamonds have lots of sparkle, what can we do to prod
partner to lead a lower ranking suit? Our first double said,
“don’t lead our Heart suit” and the belated double tells
partner to lead the lower unbid suit. How clever. If we
doubled and then passed, we’re not being bossy requesting a
higher ranking suit – this sequence simply empowers partner
to make their best lead with no plans to set the opponents.
In summary, when RHO cuebids your suit:
First Bid – Second Bid
Pass – Pass
Lead bid suit
Pass – Double Lead my suit,
Double – Double Lead lower bid suit, penalty oriented
Double – Pass Partner makes
Ready-Fire-Aim: Declarer begins to play a card from hand and
You are playing against a quick playing declarer who
begins to face a card, but alas, declarer rethinks the
situation and withdraws the card before it hits the table.
Is this a problem?
At the Pittsburgh Spring 2005 NABC, the
Laws Committee (LC) clarified its position when declarer
begins to play a card from hand (Law
45.C.2.) The LC was asked whether it matters how long a
face up card is maintained in position if it has reached the
point of touching or nearly touching the table. Must
declarer play a card if, while bringing it towards the table
in a face up position, it touches or nearly touches the
table even though the card is in constant motion?
The commission ruled that such a card must be played. The
word "held" is not synomous with the word "maintained" and
should be interpreted separately. The fact that a card is in
constant motion as it is being played and retracted is
irrelevant to the director in deciding whether it must be
Of course, the determination when the card is "nearly
touching the table" is still a matter of director decision.
But as the Duplicate Decisions cite, "In
close calls, the Director should rule in favor of the side
that did not create the problem."
Just for Fun, Part 1: Amnesia Double - For the hopelessly
On the lighter side of lead directing doubles, what does
this one mean?
(1C) - P - (1S) - P;
(2S) - P - (4N) - P;
(5C) - P - (5D) - X!;
(6S) - AP
Oops! The double over opponents' 5D cuebid was intended
as lead directing, but since the Right Hand Opponent is
declarer, the doubler is on lead!
You've got it - this is our (in)famous "Amnesia Double".
If you make this slip-up, tell partner you've been forgetful
lately and the double seems to help you remember what to
lead... Seriously though, avoid this feel-good impulse since
you've just marked honors in your hand - make them earn that
slam without easily finessing you (unless you are
"Machiavellian", psyching declarer into mistakenly thinking
you hold the honors not really in your hand).
Just for Fun, Part 2: Holy Smoke, Batman – are we playing
with a Pinochle deck?
Here's a delightful story from Peter (OBI at Okbridge)...if
you have ever felt like the bidding at your table is from
Mars, you'll enjoy this one:
"When playing a bigger regional tournament in Bavaria
some weeks ago, it happened - not far from the end of the
event. It had started at 10 in the morning -- now it was
about 6.30 PM and I was very tired. I was dummy with a very
good hand; my pard had to play some slam -- I think it was
I had to look for the restroom and it was a little bit
urgent, so I asked opps to allow me to leave the table for
that reason. When coming back some minutes later my pard had
won his slam. There were only some minutes left to play the
2nd board and so I took my cards out of the board very fast.
Again I had a wonderful hand with 24 HCP, 4 spades, 2/3/4 in
the other suits.
LHO opened 1S, pass by my pard, RHO's bid was 3D -
alerted as Bergen: 10 to 12 points, 4 spades.
I wondered a little about so many points in the deck, but
it was a forcing bid so I decided to wait and see what would
happen, and passed. And now LHO: 4NT - RHO: 5C (0 or 3 key
cards). I made a lead directing double now with AKJ in
clubs, LHO: 6 sp. After 2 more passes I doubled again and my
pard leads ... the Ace of clubs!!! Can you imagine that I
felt like I was in the wrong movie: 65 or more points in one
board and 2 Aces of clubs!!!
And now I saw it: I had taken my cards out of a board,
yes, but it was the wrong board, the one they had played
when I was looking for the restroom.
I called for the TD, now bewildering the other 3 players
at the table. Because my wrong cards have had no influence
on the opps' bidding they could play 6S ... for down 1; my
pard made 2 tricks. I had really nothing in this hand but
the 10 of hearts, so no real Yarborough but not the 24
points I had during the bidding!"
[BridgeHands thanks our friends at Fireside Chat for
allowing us to reprint this July 2004 excerpt - please see
We hope you have been enjoying the BridgeHands eMag Newsletter.
Feel free to forward interesting topics to your friends. We look
forward to hearing from you with your suggestions for future
Bridge topics as well as your feedback.