Squeezing The Dummy

Friday, June 24, 2005

Spec Doubles

Bridge is a different game than it once was. Games are being bid extremely aggressively, and most experts want to be in a 24 HCP 3N contract. Four of a major requires even less. These games often make when there is a little bit of luck, but if finesses are off and suits break badly they will go down more than 1 usually. No big deal, down 3 NV is only 150. No big deal unless they are doubled anyways.

The only defense to these extremely aggressive modern experts is to double their games if they are going down multiple tricks. Often you can tell when they have stretched to reach a thin game and a key suit is breaking badly. Don't hesitate to double them if this is the case.

There are a few important guidelines before issuing a speculative double:

  • Make sure the opponents have had an invitational auction. This ensures that they were stretching and do not have full values. If they power into game, they may have extra values and redouble. Without full values it is impossible for them to redouble.
  • It is preferable to make spec Xs at imps or rubber bridge. At imps if you double 3N and it makes, you are only losing 4 imps. At rubber bridge, it is only 150 points. If it is matchpoints, you are risking a bottom board which is much more costly. You also don't need to double a game that is overbid in matchpoints; you already stand to get a good board if it goes down. The exception is if it is a normal game that everyone will bid, now the upside is much greater.
  • Make sure you have quick values as opposed to slow values if you are doubling 4 of a major. Aces and kings are much better than queens and jacks. Also, having quick tricks in short suits is even better; it means they are less likely to get ruffed.
  • If it would normally indicate a certain lead, make sure that lead is ok. If you want a different lead you'll be better off just passing.
  • Having short trumps is much better than having long trumps. You don't want to give away your trump holding, and by doubling with short trumps you may induce them to misplay the hand.
  • If they accept a game try slowly, they are even more likely to be overbidding. Sometimes you can figure out they are stretching a lot just based on tempo.

Now that we've got that out of the way, lets look at some examples.

You hold: 5 9742 AQT8 AKT3 playing imps. Your RHO starts with 1 and you hear this auction from the opponents: 1-1-2-2N-3N. Here we know our diamonds lie favorably over the diamond bidder. There is no way they can use diamonds as a source of tricks. Partner must be holding spades over the spade bidder, as the opponents have not tried to get to 4. Neither of the opponents can have 5 hearts, and only RHO could even have 4 as LHO didn't try a 2 bid. So they have at most 4 tricks there. We have the clubs locked up. The opponents had an invitational auction where they might both be stretching. The situation is great for a speculative double; make them pay when the suits don't break well for them.

Ready for another one?

You hold: -- AKJ A832 T87532. The bidding start with your LHO and your side stays quiet. 1N-2-2-2-3-4. Here you should double. Since the opponents are not playing transfer extensions or anything else, RHO has shown a hand with 4 spades and 5 hearts with invitational values. Partner probably has 5 spades, potentially 4 if LHO has 5. You are 100 % sure your 2 hearts will cash, and on a good day 3 of them will. Your ace of diamonds is also a big favorite to survive. The opponents are obviously bidding a low high card game, and you've got to punish them.

This last one comes from an online BBO match.

I held: JT76 AK875 972 7. I passed and LHO opened 1N 11+-14. RHO invited with 2N, and LHO thought for a few seconds before bidding 3N. This was passed around to me and I doubled! Most people I have talked to about this hand think I am nuts, so I will try to argue my case here. We know from experience when we pass this out our partner always leads a small club. OK, not always, but it sure feels that way. He does rate to lead our stiff when we have one. LHO probably has a good 12 or 13 because he thought for a few seconds before bidding game, so they have at most 25 and probably less. A double asks for partner to lead his weaker major. RHO did not bid stayman, so he does not have 4 hearts. If we do get our heart lead and LHO doesn't have 4 of them, we are in great shape. Partner will probably get in with a minor suit entry and continue hearts. If LHO does happen to have 4 hearts, we can change plans and attack spades. If partner guesses the wrong major to lead, a spade lead is still much better for us than a club. On the actual deal partner did lead a spade from 953. He got in with the ace of diamonds and found the heart shift from Q94 so we got +500. His normal lead was a club, which wouldn't have cost if he won the diamond ace and played a heart. I'll leave it up to you to decide if I was lucky or good.

After doubling your opponents a few times like this, they may be scared to ever bid a close game against you. That's when you've got them.



  • Excellent post. Wow, this is terrific, thank you very much.

    By Blogger mike, at 6/24/05, 10:04 AM  

  • Very thought provoking. Thanks

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/24/05, 10:12 AM  

  • I am surprised about your claim that you shouldn't double at Matchpoints. If opponents have bid a game that noone else in the field will bid, doubling is a free shot at protecting your possible part score. If it makes, it is a cold zero anyway; if it goes down 2 non-vulnerable, it may just be av+. For example I always double when I know my partner has made an unusual preempt that has pushed them into a 22-23 hcp 3NT.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6/26/05, 12:09 PM  

  • Protecting oneself from spec doubles with evil intent is another good reason to invite less often.

    1NT-3NT-Pass is tougher to defend and tougher to double.


    By Anonymous Andrew, at 6/26/05, 9:21 PM  

  • Yes, this is why many expert rubber bridge players do not invite with some hands where it seems routine to. It is much harder to get a spec X off.

    By Blogger Justin Lall, at 6/26/05, 11:43 PM  

  • Avoiding invites is not just for rubber bridge players any more. Meckwell have popularized the blast to 3NT auction among the expert community. It would make a good topic for a future blog post.

    By Anonymous Andrew, at 6/27/05, 10:16 PM  

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