Polling You #37: Penalty Doubles and Preempts, Day 3, February 7, 2011

Doubles after Preempts: For Takeout or Penalty?

Over the last three weeks in our journey discussing doubles, we’ve covered Takeout Doubles, Negative Doubles, Penalty Doubles against misfits and Balance of Power Penalty Doubles.  Now enters the cursed preempts, leading us to examine a few more agreements.  After opponents’ preempt, sometimes a double is for penalty, sometimes it’s for takeout, and sometimes we’re all on our own.   Who said Bridge was only a game for black-white thinkers, anyway?

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For our discussions, we will assume the opponents are playing Weak Two preemptive bidding.  So in first, second and third seat bidding, opening 2D, 2H or 2S shows a 6 card suit typically headed by 2 of the top 3 honors with no more than 1 useful honor in a side suit (5-11 HCP).   Similarly, three level preempts normally contain a 7 card suit with a weak hand.    First let’s explore doubles in the direct seat after the preempt bid.  Except in high 4 level contracts, doubles in direct seat are normally for takeout:

(2D) – X     This is our classic Takeout Double over opponents’ Weak Two preempt
(3H) – X     Despite the 3 Heart preempt, this double is also intended as a Takeout Double
(4D) – X     While the oxygen is getting thin, again the doubler’s intention is typically a Takeout Double (check your partnership agreements)
(4H) – X     Showing “cards,” partnership agreements vary

Poll #37, Hand 1a

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
♠ K J 3 2
A K 3 2
♣ K Q 8 5
♠ 6 5
A K J 6 5 4 3 2
♣ 3 2
♠ Q 7 4
7 6 5 4
10 9
♣ J 7 6 4
♠ A 10 9 8
Q 10 9 8
Q 8
♣ A 10 9

West North East South
4 Dbl Pass 4
All pass

Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th
1. W A 7 9 8
2. W ♣ 3 5 J A
3. S 8 J A 4
4. N K 5 9 6
5. N ♣ K 4 9 2
6. N 2 6 T 2
7. S ♠ 8 5 K 4
8. N ♠ 2 7 9 6
9. S Q K 3 T
10. N ♠ 3 Q A 3
11. S Q 4 ♣ 8 7
12. S ♠ 10 5 J ♣ 6
13. N ♣ Q 7 T J

West opens 4 Diamonds with a great 8 card suit.  With an excellent 4=4=1=4 shape and 16 HCP, North makes a Takeout Double (not for penalty by most players). Coming around to South, with 2 Aces, 1 working Queen and 4=4=2=3 shape, South somewhat pessimistically bids 4 Hearts.   North assumes South has a minimum hand, accepting the modest 4 Heart game.  On reflection with 2 primary honors and excellent shape, South should jump to 5 Heart, allowing North to accept a slam contract.

Play is fairly straight forward, however the declarer should first split the trump HA-HK honors, not beginning with the HQ just in case East has 4 Hearts to the Jack.

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Warm Regards,



  1. BridgeHands says:
    Greeting Bridge Pollers,
    On today’s poll, we seem to have quite a wide range of views regarding which of the folling doubles are for penalty:
    20 percent…1C – (P) – 1D – (2H); X
    3 percent……(3C) – X
    32 percent…(3C) – P – (4H) – X
    15 percent….All of the above
    30 percent….None of the above
    The problem considering the first hand as a penalty double is the lopsided risk-reward. Doubling may or may not gain a bonus score. But should the player make 2 Hearts, the player has been doubled into game – a huge bonus compared to the undertrick bonus.
    .Yes, when one opponent preempts and the partner bids a new suit, impying a misfit, any doubles by you or your partner should be intended for penalty – never some kind of takeout bid.
    With our wide range of votes, it’s no wonder why so many Bridge players can become confused with the various bidding scenarios, trying to determine what is for penalty versus what is for takeout. Bottom line – it’s always a good idea to take the time to communicate with your partner BEFORE an “incident” occurs at the table.
    Good luck, Michael

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