Quick summary

Generally think twice about doubling for penalties

Double when 90% certain they'll go down 2 if

Doubling is never for penalties after

Doubling is always for penalties after

Doubling is for lead direction after




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Doubles. For Penalty

"Ha! Ha! You're in trouble"

When you think you can get the enemy down in their contract, you can double them. Sounds like a good idea, eh ?

Sometimes though it's not such a good idea. First, your rewards for doubling might be pretty slim. One trick down doubled only increases your score by 50, which is peanuts. But it runs the risk of increasing the enemy's score by more than this if they make their contract. Sometimes much more, even by as much as 500 if they were in 2spade or 2heart and vulnerable.

Another problem with doubling is that it tells the opposition where the strong cards are. Yes, you've got them of course! So you are giving them useful information and helping them to make their contract, that they might have failed to make if you'd kept mum. And if they make overtricks, you are severely penalised.

Finally, by doubling you alert them to problems which might cause them to reconsider and opt for a better contract that they can make.

So when should I double for penalty ?

Double any 3-level+ bid when you are very confident they are in trouble, and they are going to go down at least two tricks, more especially when they are vulnerable. The two classic times for this is are (1) after the opponents have overcalled, or (2) when they have made a sacrifice to stop you getting a contract of (3) when they've had a blatant misunderstanding and have no way out of it.

Under these 3 circumstances, if the opposition bid again in a different suit after your double, the right policy 90% of the time is to double again. Don't let them off the hook as they dig themselves deeper and deeper into that hole.

It's worth expanding on the first of the 3 circumstances mentioned. An overcalled contract if often made as a disruptive bid, almost with the expectation of going down. If you can see that you have enough trump cover, and that they are unlikely to ruff the winners you're counting on, and you are confident they will go down at least two, then double, especially if they are vulnerable. That's 500 points in the bank, or 200 if you get it only slightly wrong.

When does a double not mean a double ?

Doubling a bid of one or two of a suit means a double for takeout, not for penalty. Think about the risk reward ratio of doubling a two level contact, and you can see why this is a sensible guide. The same applies when a preemptive weak 2 is doubled or a preemptive 3-level bid is doubled, it's for takeout.

But NT is different

Doubling a NT bid however is always for penalty, including a doubling of any subsequent bid by the enemy as they try to escape.

(But remember that a 1NT response to a suit opening - the so-called dustbin bid - is not really a NT bid. And so when the dustbin 1NT is doubled then it's for takeout, and partner is showing a three-suited hand).



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