I asked my expert panel --- Your Left Hand Opponent (LHO) opens 4
and your partner doubles. Your understanding is that the double is not a penalty
double. What are the minimum hands you would need in order to pull the double? What
difference would vulnerability or type of event make?
There are three reasons to bid over 4
doubled. They can make 4
and you have a
good save. You can make something at the five or six-level. You can’t make anything
but you push them up. There are two reasons to pass 4
doubled. You can beat them
and can’t make anything at the five-level. Letting them make 4
doubled is better
than bidding at the five-level, getting doubled, and going for at least 800. Sometimes
there’s no correct solution. If you pass they will be +790, if you bid you’ll be
Point # 1: Pass the double with balanced hands.
Most balanced hands I pass. I need a long suit
to pull or two places to play, so that I can bid 4NT saying I have two places to
play. Pretty much the same at all forms of scoring.
Obviously we all pass with trump tricks. I pass when
balanced 4333 or 4432 or 5332 with the expectation of scoring more then in our side’s
contract, or when my best hope of going plus is to defend and hope to scramble four
tricks. With a one-suiter I'd need side shape to bid; 6331 I probably act. A hand
is delicate; I tend to remove to 4NT here. That is on the cusp. Take away
or make it
J and I pass.
Point #2: Some experts bid only when they expect to make a plus score.
I would pull when my strength was such that a five-level
contract seems certain and a slam is possible, or with extreme distribution, such
as 6-5 or a seven-card suit, which might reduce the defensive tricks available.
- double - Pass, I play 4NT shows playability in at least two suits.
Point #3: If you’re going to pull, you should have understandings about how to get
to the best strain. 4NT should show at least two suits and asks doubler to bid his
lowest suit. If you have a very good hand you can bid 5, a slam try asking doubler
to bid a five-card or longer suit. Doubler can then hedge with 5NT denying a five-card
Point #4: When in doubt, pass the double when holding a doubleton spade.
My feeling in general if it is close, to pass with two spades and
bid with one or three. This is of course a general rule as distribution comes into
play. Many times at unfavorable it is right to pass unless an action is very clear
as if you are wrong and they make it - or overtricks - it could still be your cheapest
minus. On the other side of the coin I have had much more success bidding in direct
seat instead of doubling with big hands where double would seem like a choice
I prefer bidding 5
as we might make it opposite many flat hand where partner might
be passing and collecting 100 or 300 or going minus 590.
after partner doubles 4
, I bid on virtually all six-card or longer suits, all 5-5's,
and on most semi-balanced 12+ point hands with at least ten points outside spades.
The exceptions can be when holding the kiss-of-death doubleton spade. Partner's
hand shouldn't be too shapely, since he had a 4NT takeout bid available. With the
semi-balanced hands, vulnerability makes a difference. I am more apt to pass when
Point #5: Pass if you think that bidding will lead to a large minus
score. –790 is better then –1100.
I would need either enough HCP that I think we can
make a slam or distribution (at least a six card suit). I would sit on a 4-3-3-3
Yarborough, since if they make it, our number from bidding would be greater. Type
of event doesn't matter.
Some players would always pull assuming they don’t have a spade stack.
I would pull holding
xxxxx. If opponents are vulnerable
I am FAR more likely to pull.
Mostly am bidding to make or have significantly more
offense than defense. So bid on almost all seven-card or longer suits, most six-card
suits (unless a weak suit with side honors, or a slow spade trick). With a
five-card suit rarely bid unless 5-5 or a pure 5-4. Also, if non-vulnerable versus
vulnerable, I’m much more likely to bid since the 4
-bidder usually has it, and I’ve more to gain even if I go down.
Holding a stiff spade (or void) is positive for bidding, holding a doubleton is
I think mainstream expert treatment is that the
double shows mainly convertible values. Not a penalty double, but also not for takeout
unless bidding primarily to make. So I’d pass the double with
xxxxx, bid 4NT with
Point #6: Unless you’re playing with Kit Woolsey who plays penalty doubles, you
can’t double 4
KJ10xAxxxxxxxx. Partner is very likely to pull your double.
Pass and hope partner reopens with a double.
I'm an extremist on this one. Many years ago, after
a succession of -790's and -590's, I deduced that pulling was frequently right,
certainly in the majority of marginal cases. I wasn't necessarily expecting to make
what I bid, but I was pretty sure that the opponents were going to make what THEY
bid. My results have been very good (I can't say perfect) with this philosophy.
The most important feature is the NUMBER OF SPADES. With zero or one, pulling is
automatic, even with
xxxx. With two, pulling is usually
right, unless the holding is AK or KQ or something similar. With three I will more
often sit, but I would still usually pull to a six-bagger or if I had 5-4 in two
A secondary point is that partner can't double with random strong notrumps, unless
he is prepared to see me bid. The more spades partner has, the greater the chance
that I can't sit. Bidding has many ways to win. The obvious ones are (1) making
what you bid, and (2) finding a good save. But also there are (3) pushing the bad
guys up to where you can set them and (4) reaching a good slam.
I recall a great example from a late-round team-trials match a few years ago. Two
famous players had (approximately)
Jxxx and faced this problem. One of
them passed and went -790 (double-dummy defense could have beaten it). The other
player bid 4NT, reached a 5-4 diamond fit, and escaped for -200, to win 11 imps
in a match that was decided by that very amount.
With almost all balanced hands holding 14 or fewer
points, I pass. The exception being
Kx and vulnerable vs. nonvul where
I would bid 4NT, because of the prime values, and convert 5
. But with a good, reasonably
long suit particularly hearts, I bid. With
x, I bid 5
. Without hearts,
Kxx I bid 5
. Holding xx in hearts and Qx in clubs instead of the 3-1
distribution, I would probably pass.
Much of it has to do with one's opponents. If a very gentle lady or an older
gent was the 4
-bidder, I would
respect their hand much greater than I would a young up-and-coming whippersnapper.
And, of course, tend to take out my partner's double.
Summing up, this type of bridge question embodies a strong poker element into our
bridge game. Very little is right or wrong and the only important thing to consider
is being right on that particular hand. When you and your partner are actively ethical,
something we should all strive for, it is one of the prices straightforward players
have to pay.
I need either a) extreme shape or b) possibility our
side has a slam. With a bad hand (say, 0-7 HCP) I'd pull only with at least a six-card
suit - and even then probably not a 6-3-2-2 hand. If opponents vulnerable, I'd be
more likely to pull - I find that vulnerable 4
openers (especially if unfavorable) are quite sound and often make.
Point #7: Vulnerable 4
openers are more apt to make then non-vulnerable 4-openers.
Double is not "penalty", and 4NT is, of course, pure
takeout. There's lots of ground to cover between the two. My minimum pull is more
based on shape than HCP. I would certainly bid with -any- non-hopeless six-card
suit, i.e. 5
Q10xxxx. Vulnerability makes some difference, since
I'm more likely to play for penalties if they are non-vulnerable, since vulnerable
bids are supposed to be pretty good. With a five-card suit, I need both a reasonable
suit and some values to bid especially if they are not vulnerable -- perhaps
x is minimum. At matchpoints,
where going plus is so important, I sit a bit more.
With a spade void or any strong two-suiter, my tendency
is to bid 4NT or pass. If I have a more balanced hand I tend to double. I need to
see some offensive potential to pull doubles.
In my own favorite partnerships, I play that double
direct is takeout. The level starts too high for accuracy, however. Your partner
has the tool of 4NT available to make sure that you bid a suit, so double is more
penalty than that. I think that in order to sit the double out, you need no fit
or a reasonable expectation of going plus and defeating 4
doubled. Given a hand such as
Qxx, it would not occur to me to bid
a suit when partner doubles for takeout. I have to have a good expectation that
I will do better by pulling than by passing. For example, given
Qxxxx, partner could fit either minor, so I am
happy to takeout with 4NT myself. Vulnerability counts too. If I am vulnerable against
not, I might decide that -590 or -690 looks better than -800 or -1100. Preempts
work. The average player should use them more often and discuss with his partner
what their partnership should expect at the various vulnerabilities.
I would tend to sit for the double on nearly all balanced
hands, unless I had so many points that I felt we were odds on to make a slam. Even
then, I would tend to sit at all but unfavorable vulnerability. On unbalanced hands,
5-4-3-1 minimum distribution, I would be more inclined to consider bidding, the
more distributional, the more I would be inclined to bid. I would also be more inclined
to bid at matchpoints, if I thought we were a favorite to make our contract at the
five-level, and they were a favorite to go for less than the value of game. At IMPs,
I would be less inclined to bid, since the difference between +300 and +400 or +450,
or +500 and +600 or +650, is so minimal when compared with the risk of bidding at
the five-level and going down. I would also be more inclined to bid in an IMP event,
when we are down a significant number of IMPs, and need a swing our way.
I would pull with the expectation of making something
so I would be distributional, perhaps a reasonably strong two or three-suited hand
or a strong six or seven-card suit as partner does not promise support for all the
unbid suits, but figures to have at least three cards in the unbid major. You must
keep in mind that partner thinking you have something might up the ante and bid
six! More often than not, one passes 4
Some players always sit. Playing penalty doubles work when you have
KJ10xAxxxxxxxx. But what do you bid holding
xKQJxKQJxAKxx? If you have to bid 4NT with this
hand, you deserve to find partner with
QJ10xxxxxxxxxx. If you double for penalties withxKQJxKQJxAKxx, you deserve to find partner with
xxAxAxxxxQJxx. From my experience, the takeout
type hand occurs much more often then the pure penalty hand.
Sorry, but my understanding is that the double IS
a penalty double. Of course partner might just have a good hand, but he might also
have a trump stack. I need something pretty extreme to pull to five over four. A
so-so six-card suit and a stiff spade is not enough - I would sit with that. With
a spade void or a strong six-card suit I might pull, but then only might. Vulnerability
and type of event are irrelevant here.
Conclusion: There’s no iron-clad method of bidding over 4
doubled. Since this is a bidder’s game my final thought is - when in doubt bid.