Polling You #74, Leads After Belated Penalty Double, Day 5

Lead After Partners Double

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In previous lessons we have learned that when partner doubles an artificial/conventional bid by the Right Hand Opponent it typically asks for the lead of that suit, such as requesting a Club lead in these auction:

            (1N) – P – (2C) – X…

            (1H) – (2D);
(2S) – (3C) – X…

            (2N) – (4C) – X…

We also learned that depending on partnership agreements, when Right Hand Opponent makes a cuebid of a suit bid by your partnership, it typically means “partner, please lead the suit cuebid by the opponents” (some advanced partnerships invert the meaning, passing to request the suit, doubling to requesting the lead of another suit).  Using standard partnership agreements, the double of 3 Clubs asks for a Club lead.

            1S – (X) – 2C – (2H);

            2S – (3C) – X…

Now that we’ve covered all the basic lead scenarios, let’s take a look at peculiar situations where partner makes a double after the opponents made their final contract.  Depending on the bidding context, partner’s double could have a wide range of meanings:

  1. Lead the dummy’s first bid suit, i.e., the “Lightner Double”
  2. Lead your own first bid suit (regardless of partner’s bid suit)
  3. Lead partner’s first bid suit (regardless of declarer’s Notrump balancing bid)
  4. Lead dummy’s implied suit (suggested by dummy’s conventional bid)
  5. Lead your weaker suit without useful honors (typically a major suit)
  6. Lead something else – “D. S. I.” (Do Something Intelligent!)

Whew, who would have thought that a double by partner could have so might different meanings depending on the content of the overall bidding?  But fear not, regardless whether you learn best through memorization, understanding the logic behind a given lead, or a bit of both BridgeHands will provide you to answers to find the best lead.  Of course, it helps if your partner is on the same wavelength!

1.      Lightner Double:

–         Typically requires the lead of the dummy’s first bid suit, allowing partner to quickly take tricks to set the opponents contract before they can pitch losers on side suits.

–         Generally declarer has bid to 5 or 6 level (trump or Notrump), however Lightner doubles are still on against lower level Notrump contracts (3N, perhaps 2N).

–         Excludes normal suit lead (sequence, etc.) by opening partner.

–         Excludes the lead of the trump suit.

–         May call for the lead of the suit inferred by the dummy based on aggregate auction.

–         Excludes situations when the opponents have made a high-level sacrifice and partner has made a penalty double.


General guide for belated doubles:

– Without a double, favor leading the suit of stronger partner

– With a belated double, generally find a different lead

– Consider whether partner could have comfortably shown support but did not do so

– Occasionally, a belated double is “for business,” seeking a normal lead and looking for a juicy penalty.   Also, the double may confirm the lead of a long minor suit requesting the partner to lead the long, strong suit – particularly when opponents are in a high level Notrump contract and partner has an outside suit entry.

Examples (In all hands, South is the declarer, North the dummy):

South  North
(1H) – (1S);
(4H) – (4N);
(5H) – (6H) – X;    Requires the lead of a Spade

North  South
(1D) – (1H);
(4N) – (5H);
(6H) – X;                   Requires the lead of a Diamond

South  North

(1H) – (2S);
(3S) – (4H);
(5C) – (6H) – X;      Requires the lead of a Spade

North  South
(3H) – (3S);
(4D) – (4N);
(5C) – (6N) – X;       Requires the lead of a Heart


Polling You #74, Hand 1

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ 2
K Q J 10
A Q J 3 2
♣ K Q 3
♠ J 10 9 3
5 4
K 7 6 5 4
♣ 8 7
♠ 8 7 6 5 4
A 3 2

♣ J 10 6 5 4
♠ A K Q
9 8 7 6
10 9 8
♣ A 9 2
West North East South
1 Pass 1
Pass 4 N Pass 5
Pass 6 Dbl All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W 5 J 2 8

North opens 1 Diamond with a great 18 High Card Point holding and South responds 1 Heart with game going values and a square hand.  After hearing Hearts by partner South, North upgrades adding another 3 points for the singleton Spade and immediately bids 4 Notrump Blackwood with 21 playing points.  Actually North is double-counting a bit since the Hearts honors shouldn’t be counted for both honors and ruffing points (even still, South would have bid Blackwood anyway with 13 points when North shows 21 points).   South shows two Aces and with controls in all suits and one Ace, North presses to a 6 Heart slam.  But the bidding is not yet over as East make a double before the auction passes out.

On lead, West trusts partner East’s lead was a Lightner double requiring the lead of a Diamond, the dummy’s first bid suit.  And with West holding 5 Diamond in hand, the leader can easily envision that partner East must be void in the suit and eager to get a ruff before the declarer begins drawing trump.  Sure enough, any other suit lead and the declarer easily makes slam with the Diamond King onside.   In fact, after North heard East’s lead directing double for a Diamond lead (it’s okay for North to ask West the partnership understanding of the double at North’s turn to call), North should have considered retreating to 6 Notrump with such chunky honors – a contract that, as it turns out, makes a safe Notrump slam on any opening lead.   Yet with North’s overambitious ambitious Blackwood rebid, North would not anticipate partner South had 13 points with would necessitate either the Heart Ace or excellent Spade honors (North’s singleton suit).

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,




  1. doriander says:

    in hand nr 7 after 1d 1sp 2h i sugest for east not to bid 3cl but make a snapdragon dbl assuming they have it in their arsenal which would have shown at least 5 cards in the unbid suit in this case clubs and tolerance for partners spades it means 2sp and at this level 10+ points it would have been i think more flexible


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