Are You a Doubler?

I mean double in the old-fashioned sense, to increase the penalty.

Low-level doubles are very much on the wane at all forms of the game. Even at matchpoints most players are willing to believe that light initial actions gain in ways other than trapping the opponents. While an overcaller may be taking a risk, with wider ranges, it is hard to decide who has been 'economical' with their values. Better to use those doubles to find your own contracts.

But at higher levels, say when they have stretched or you have pushed them, doubling cannot be easily dismissed. This opportunity arose in an early round of a knockout teams tournament; these are the East cards, fourth in hand, only opponents vulnerable:


You have an ace, an excellent chance of making two trump tricks (ruffing a heart and by force) and they surely are not making overtricks. If partner has top hearts perhaps declarer will lose control and be several down.

But the daemon on the other shoulder is not so sure. Doubling may give away the trump position and allow a contract that might otherwise be defeated to make. And even if four spades fails a trick, it is only the difference between +200 and +100, just 3 IMPs. Often, warned of the bad break, declarer is one down doubled against two down undoubled – for the same score.

East was a doubler and this was the full deal.

NS Vul
Dealer South
  • 1074
  • A1094
  • QJ3
  • A96
  • ---
  • KQJ8762
  • 94
  • K842
  • J9853
  • ---
  • A108
  • QJ1075
  • AKQ62
  • 53
  • K7652
  • 3

West led the heart king; ace, ruff, low. So far, so good; East played diamond ace and another, waiting for her trump trick but I expect you can see what happened, the next tricks were.

South had a heart to lose but ten tricks, +790, a gain of 13 IMPs. But this is more than a caution about unwise doubles. True, East should realise she holds exactly the type of trump holding vulnerable only when declarer knows the distribution – and doubling without clear tricks outside reveals it. Doubling alerts declarer who will not make routine plays and you must defend well. Here, East was too hasty with her play at trick two.

It was a relief to see the spade ten in dummy but unlike a holding such as Q10x, when East could relax, North's actual holding meant the three top spades were in South. Therefore three leads from North would pick up East's trumps. For that declarer needed three entries; releasing the diamond ace gave him two in that suit plus the club ace. East should simply exit with a club and use her ace to kill one of the queen-knave, preventing both being used as entries.

Published Saturday 25.Jan.2020