Poll #36, Balance of Power Penalty Doubles in Contract Bridge – Day 2, February 4, 2011

Balance of Power Penalty Doubles in Contract Bridge

   

Power lies in the balance, Balance Of Power, that is. So when the opponents get in the way of your auction and your side has the power, the “B.O.P.,” it’s time to follow the advice of Bridge author Augie Boehm: wield the axe with your “Demon Doubles!”

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On day one of Penalty Doubles we examined several scenarios where the opponents had bidding misfits, allowing us to invoke our Penalty Double. After all, if they cannot find a fit, neither can our side. With the Balance of Power Penalty Double moving into our war chest, we are adding another lethal weapon in our bidding arsenal.

Polling You #36 1a

Board 2
East Deals
N-S Vul
♠ 5 4 3
J 10 7
Q J 10 9
♣ 8 6 2
♠ Q 10 7 6
9 8
8 7 6 5 4
♣ J 7
N
W E
S
♠ A K 2
K Q 4 3
3 2
♣ A 10 9 3
♠ J 9 8
A 6 5 2
A K
♣ K Q 5 4

 

West North East South
1 N Dbl
Pass Pass Pass

While South may have full Notrump opening values, notice the hand has several defects:
1. Soft Spade values – questionable J 9 8
2. Doubleton Ace-King - “tight” values cannot setup extra tricks when the opponents are playing in Notrump
So while the hand has 17 HCP and is behind East’s 1 Notrump opener, 4-5 playing tricks falls a few short to set the opponents.    Thus, as nice as South’s hand first appears, it lacks the playing values to make a “balance of power” double over East’s Notrmp opener.   Without transportation to North’s nice Diamonds (if only South had a precious third Diamond), East actually makes 8 tricks with these hands.

Polling You #36 1b

Board 2
East Deals
N-S Vul
♠ J 5 4 3
J 10 2
10 9 7
♣ K 8 6
♠ Q 10 7 6
9 8 7
J 8
♣ Q J 7 2
N
W E
S
♠ A K 2
K Q 4 3
3 2
♣ A 10 9 3
♠ 9 8
A 6 5
A K Q 6 5 4
♣ 5 4

West North East South
1 N Dbl
Pass Pass Pass

Contrast South’s hand here with the previous hand.   South only has 13 HCP this time, yet the lovely self-sustaining Diamond suit more than makes up for the lacking honors.  With East promising at least 2 Diamonds, it’s unlikely any of the opponents will have four Diamonds to the Jack.  So South’s hand should generate 6 Diamond tricks plus the Heart Ace, enough to set West’s 1 Notrump opening bid.  Looking at South’s hand from a Losing Trick Count perspective, with 6 LTC (2 Spades, 2 Hearts, 2 Clubs) the hand is should be a champion to set the declarer - unless the opponents run to another suit.

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Warm Regards,

BridgeHands

Comments

  1. BridgeHands says:
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    /

    Greetings BridgeHands Pollsters,
    .
    As the curtains close on our third week of covering the ins and outs of Bridge Doubles, looking at our poll results on Balance of Power Penalty Doubles it appears that many are of mixed minds. After the first day, here were the cummulative opinions selecting the bidding sequence that is NOT a Penalty Double:
    .
    36 percent: None: all are Balance Of Power Penalty Doubles
    23 percent: 1D – (1H) -1S – (2H); X
    20 percent: (1N) – X
    12 percent: 1H – (1N) – X
    9 percent: 1H – (P) – 2C – (2D); X
    .
    For most Bridge players, the second item is not penalty oriented. When opponents bid and raise is the SAME suit at the 2 level, it’s seldom profitable to risk a Penalty Double. Not only might the opponents make the contract with a 8+ card fit, but the risk-reward cost benefit ratio is very poor here. Going down 1 trick only earns a small score while the consequence of the opponents making a doubled major suit contract grants them a GAME BONUS (double two tricks to four, i.e., game).
    .
    Regarding the third item (doubling RHOs 1 Notrump), some of you may play an artificial conventional treatment here such as DONT (Disturbing Openers No Trump) where the double shows a one-suited hand. And other conventional treatments have different meanings as well. Yet playing a double of RHO’s strong 15-17 HCP Notrump as “takeout” is very risky since the LHO has an equal chance to hold the remainder of the honors and could severly punish an ill advised takeout double.
    .
    In summary, it’s clear that the topic of Penalty Doubles is well worth a serious discussion with your regular Bridge partners. As Bridge partnership skill levels increase, accompanied by solid partnership understanding the pairs seem to know and use Penalty Doubles at increasingly lower bidding levels against unwary opponents. This is particularly true when the opponents are vulnderable, with a seemingly simple auction as:
    .
    (1H) – P – (1S) – P;
    (1N) – X – all pass
    .
    Most mortals would play this double as “takeout for the minors,” while top players will use sequences like this to extoll a juicy 200 or 500 point undertrick bonun (down 1 or 2 tricks, vulnerable).
    .
    With the hard stuff behind us, next week we will try to lighten your load with some practical tips to improve your general understanding with hands-on exercises.
    .
    Happy Bridging, Michael

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