Prof. Tony Campbell

THE use of the double can be confusing to many players. When is a double negative asking partner to bid his best suit or clarify his hand? On the other hand, when is a double for penalties, hoping to get the opposition off for a good score? Here is a hand that involves both types of double but led to a bad result for the doubler. It wasn’t helped by the wrong bid at the start of the auction.

The Auction

This was a competitive auction, where both sides were bidding. North should have opened one heart but chose to give partner the chance to bid one of the other three suits by opening one club. East, with six spades and being non-vulnerable, was quite entitled to over call one spade, even though he had no points in the other suits. South rightly made a negative double, promising some points and four hearts. West realised there was a chance to thwart to opposition, and even though he only had six points, bid two spades. North is now in a dilemma. With four hearts could he jump to four? In the event he chose caution and bid three hearts. East, knowing they were non-vulnerable against a vulnerable opposition bid three spades, expecting to make at least six tricks. South then decided to choose a positive score and doubled for penalties. When it came round to North, he hesitated as he realised that they needed to get the opposition four down if North/South could make game in four hearts. But, like his partner he opted for the positive score and passed.

The play

South began with the ace of hearts, followed by the two which North won with his king. North then played the ace and king of clubs, followed by a small club, which declarer trumped with the two of spades. East then played a small spade which he won with dummy’s queen followed by the jack, which drew the opposition’s last trump. Declarer could see the only chance of another trick was if South had the jack of diamonds. So, he played another spade back to his hand, North discarding a small diamond, and South the queen of clubs. East then led the two of diamonds towards dummy. South played the four, declarer playing the ten from dummy, which was overtaken by North’s jack. North has to be careful now, because if he plays another club this gives declarer the dreaded ruff and discard, allowing him to discard a losing diamond in his own hand by ruffing with dummy’s last trump. Also, North knew declarer had no more hearts left, as South must have started with four cards in that suit. So North decided to play the ace of diamonds followed by the seven, the trick being won by South’s king. East then claimed the rest of the tricks as he only had trumps left in his hand. The final result was therefore three down, doubled, East only making six tricks, for a loss of 500 points, North/South making two hearts, three diamonds and two clubs. However, at pairs this was a bad result for North/South, as they can make twelve tricks playing in hearts, since the diamond finesse works, for a score of 680.

What have we learnt?

1. As a rule, doubles up to the two level are for take-out or are negative. In a competitive auction doubles at the three level or above are usually for penalties. However, if someone opens at the three level, a pre-empt, the double will then again be for take-out, though partner may decide to leave it in for penalties if he has the right hand.

2. Doubling for penalties requires great judgement. First, at the two and three level it will double them into game. Secondly, it may not lead to a good score if you can make game yourself when vulnerable, or even a slam.

3. Here again we see the value of the negative double. After South’s double for penalties of three spades, North, seeing the vulnerability, should have bid four hearts for a better score as he knows from South’s first double of East’s one spade overcall that South must have four hearts. The double of three spades confirms South also has some points, probably ten or eleven. So, game in hearts must be on, as it was.

Penarth club news

Thanks again to my cousin Justin Cooper, a very good player himself, for checking this week’s hand before I sent it to Penarth Times. Peter Sampson’s ladder competition continues. It is aimed at members of the four local clubs: Penarth, Sully, Barry and Dinas Powys. The current positions are: in first place Peter Millar and Mick Green, in second place Patsy Cohen and Peter Millar, in third place Angela Hudson and Carolyn Matthews, and in fourth place Viv Duckers and Vernon Pearn. Well done all. Our membership secretary, Meryl Skipper, with the help of Sarah Amos at Cardiff, has done a brilliant job for members of the Penarth and Sully clubs by setting up a way of playing duplicate sessions online as a club, using Bridge Base online (BBO). The sessions will be on Wednesday afternoons and Friday evenings. Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue, triggered by an email from a regular Penarth Times reader. Let me know if you would like to join us. I usually use the Penarth Times hands as a basis for discussion.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Many of our bridge players have had their first dose of the COVID vaccine. So, it may not be virtual table up for much longer!