Poll #9, Opening lead or bid in live auction, 12/3/2010

We finish this week with our same 2=5=4=2 hand. By this time, you are either getting to think of this hand as your old friend or ready to move on to one with better values.

As you will recall, on Poll #7 the opponents played in a 3 Notrump game, while on Poll #8 the opponents jumped up to a 6 Notrump slam. So let’s go the other way and finish this week with a competitive auction. RHO again starts with 1 Notrump and, no surprise, we pass as always. But this time Lefty makes a conventional 2 Heart call – a Jacoby Transfer requesting partner to bid 2 Spades.

However the fun has just begun! Now partner doubles the conventional 2 Heart call, certainly having something to say about opponents artificial bid. Next RHO freely bids 2 Spades and the bidding comes back to you. Will you continue to pass, having an idea what to lead? Or then again, based on your partner’s double, should you bid something yourself? (favorable vulnerability)

Okay, consider LHOs requirements to make a Jacoby Transfer – what do you know about Lefty’s length? What about LHOs strength? Consider what prompted partner to double – what’s that all about? Think about why opener RHO freely bid 2 Spades after your partner doubled – is RHOs bid mandatory or optional in some situations?

Thankfully, you do not have to answer all these pesky questions. However, you may want to ponder a deeper meaning before you decide on your lead… or make a bid over Righty’s 2 Spade call. Good luck!


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  1. nekthen says:

    I had this hand at the club:
    S AKJTxx
    H x
    D Axx

    Playing 12-14 NT the bidding went 1N-p-2H-p-2S-p-p-?
    I tried double which partner assumed was take out. We finished in 4D down 1. I did not like to pass because I did not think the plus would be enough, but maybe that would have been best. I felt that as I failed to double 2H, the double of 2S should be penalty. If I want to make a take out double of 2S then I should first double 2H then double 2S. Comments welcome!

  2. BridgeHands says:
    Hi Nekthen,

    Yes, you really were in a predicament, weren’t you?

    1. You don’t want to double RHO’s 2H transfer – that would signal partner you LIKE Hearts. Certainly pard has lots and lots of Hearts, so don’t dare make a double or you’ll find pard either keeps bidding them or immediately jumps to 4 Hearts!

    2. In a Spade contract, you have 8+ tricks all on your own. Sadly, the opponents have stolen the suit away from you. Actually, I would wonder if these opponents make a psyche bid! Let’s say the responder is bust with a long worthless Heart suit. A psycher, knowing the opponents can find a 4 Spade contract, might be willing to go down 5-6 tricks (undoubled) when playing Non-Vul versus Vul. Hopefully that wasn’t the case but it’s highly unlikely the Spade suit distribution was 6=5=2=0 (you 6, RHO 5, 1NT opener 2, pard 0). Incidentally, if your partner read your double as penalty, the psycher will quickly bid 3H in the passout seat. If so, now you can easily bid 4 Spades.

    3. With most partners, passing and setting the opponents 4-6 tricks is not a bad proposition – particularly with neutral vulnerability. Yes, since they are playing 12-14 NT range, it’s quite possible pard has a trick or 2 in hand and you might make 3 Notrump (pard has lots of Hearts so no problem there. But it’s all a gamble at this point and if you did bid Notrump, don’t be surprised when pard pulls the contract to Hearts – good grief!

    Actually, if you are lucky enough to play with a very thoughtful partner that has a great “table sense,” you could probably double their 2 Spade call for penalty. Since partner has a void and hardly any points, pard SHOULD be thinking, “What in the world is going on here? How could my partner be really short in Spades, I have zero myself, and partner is not bidding Hearts himself? Why aren’t the opponents bidding more Spades if they have 10-11 of them?” So while your partner is technically correct that your double of 2S is for takeout in passout seart, having basic “rules of thumb” does not automatically take away our personal responsibility to continue thinking in a unique situation where something is obviously wrong.

    So bottom line – pass and take your positive score. Playing duplicate Bridge, even if the other openers are not playing weak 12-14 1 NT openers, others will have the same problem with your cards when the bidding begins 1x – 1S… And finally, the next time your partner doubles and you can detect something is wrong with the auction – don’t automatically assume it’s a takeout bid. Your partner’s will appreciate YOU being a thinking Bridge player!

    Perhaps others can offer their wisdom and have other opinions to share…

    Good luck, Michael

    • nekthen says:

      LHO did have xx
      Partner was void
      RHO really did have Q9xxx
      I think LHO may have shaded his opening as there were a few players in my position in 1S or 2S making.

      If we take the above as a typical hand that would double 2H can you envisage a hand that would pass 2H and then double 2S for takeout? I suppose the bidding is consistent with a strong hand with 2,3,4,4 say Ax, Qxx, AJxx, AKxx, but that would mean that LHO only bid 2S holding Kxxx in spades and RHO has 7 spades to QJ, and is the theoretical hand really willing to double for takeout knowing his partner is going to have next to nothing and has to play a contract at the 3 level?

      I suppose that if LHO has 12 – 14 hcp and RHO can have 0 – 10 then I am stuck and have to pass and pray that p wants to make a re-opening double because of his void

      • nekthen says:

        no silly me. I am in pass out position! I hate the idea that I have to let the opps play this undoubled!

        It would be interesting to give this one to a computer program to see whether double for take out or double for penalty scores best in the long run if everyone has their bid! My guess is that the take out double is going to be more common and sometimes you will find p with a spade stack himself!

        • BridgeHands says:

          Thanks for the update. While we do frequent computer-based Bridge simulations, it would be difficult to model your stated criteria due to the massive number of scenario (which would be extremely difficult to construct). However, we certainly can refer to the probability of suit patterns. The chance of a 6-5-2-0 split happens less than one in one hundred deals:


          Thus, it’s easy to see that if you were developing a useful system of bidding methods, you would quickly agree that under “normal circumstances” the system should favor the benefits of a takeout double (based on shortness in opponents suit). For instance, in passout seat you the odds of the player holding a singleton or void are (in excess of) the odds associated with these splits: 5-4-3-1, 5-4-4-0, 5-5-2-1, 5-5-3-0, etc.

          Additionally, as you suggest, making a takeout double in passout seat allows PARTNER to pass the takeout double, converting it to a penalty double (although caution must be used when LHO holds a 5+ card suit *OVER* the player).

          It sounds like you have a very good understanding of these concepts and have profited from your recent experience. That’s one of the joys of Bridge – a game of perpetual learning. Who knows, maybe sometime you and a partner will want to experiment with weak Notrump yourself so you’ll have a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of those methods (including escapes, pre-escapes, etc.)

          Good luck at the tables, Michael

  3. BridgeHands says:
    While more votes are still coming in, this time we have a very clear majority. In the early evening with 73 percent and over 120 votes ahead of those who led the forth best Heart, the most popular vote goes to:

    …. Based on pard’s Double, bid 3 Hearts

    So when an opponent makes a artifical bid and partner doubles the call, the common meaning is:

    …..”Partner, I have length and strength in the suit – either lead the suit or, better yet, bid our suit with support”

    And with at least a 9 card fit (partner should have 4 or more and at least 2 of 3 top honors in opponent’s transfer suit, your side should not have difficulty making 9 tricks. And for our BridgeHands FREE Membership Subscribers who access our Protected Content, we show an illustrative hand that makes 3 Hearts our way and 2 Spades their way.

    This time it’s better to receive than to give, right? That is, unless you’re playing against a family member…

    For those who voted to lead a Heart based on partner’s Double, we do profess your Heart *is* in the right place! And if we didn’t have so many Hearts ourself (and overall strength), indeed lead your Heart. On that note, here’s the general guideline one which card to lead (High or Low):

    Without supporting partner’s bid suit (or implied if partner made a double), lead:

    – Top of your doubleton
    – Low from a 3 card suit

    When supporting partner’s bid/implied suit (bidding it yourself), lead “BOS-TON, Bottom Of Something – Top Of Nothing”:

    – As always, top of your honor sequence
    – Top of the suit without a useful honor (typically a King or Queen)
    – Low from the suit with a useful honor, however…
    when holding an unprotected Ace, it’s often best to lead another suit (hoping to pin RHOs possible King)

    And as far of leading the Club Ace, hoping partner has the King and you will soon get a ruff – the odds are very low of gaining a trick and quite high of losing one OR MORE tricks – your Aces are meant to take opponent’s Kings and Queens. We do agree that sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures – just not now with plenty of other choices. Besides, if you want partner to like you and continue playing with you, it’s always a good idea to lead the suit partner calls for in a loud voice (Double). Then again, if you are playing with your spouse, who are we to inervene?

    Have a great weekend. Next week we will consider bidding some marginal hands, wondering if our BridgeHands friends are frisky.


  4. W A Wolff says:

    My Pard must have ~ A J x x and an outside trick. Smallest heart lead; we use 3/5 leads. Do not think the
    hand will make 3 H – – a close call.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hopefully partner would not double with skimpy honors as ~ A J x x in opponent’s artificial/transfer suit. The declarer might hold ~ K Q 10 x x and redouble, informing responder a strong interest in playing 2 Heart Redoubled!

      So when we sit in the advancer/sandwich seat, we should either have solid honors or at least a suit headed by ~ A Q with 5-6 cards in length (i.e. when non-vulnerable, asking partner to support your implied suit at 3/4 level).

      Thank you for bringing up this topic and be sure to discuss these proposed methods with your partnerships:
      1) Advancer/sandwich seat honor requirements to Double for lead direction and/or compete/sacrifice bidding
      2) 1 Notrump opener requirement to Redouble contract “to play”


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