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Feb/MarArticle by Steve RobinsonJun/Jul
ArticlesLead Directing Doubles (Apr/May 2009)
Your Left Hand Opponent (LHO) opens 1NT and your Right Hand Opponent (RHO) bids 2 (Stayman). With what types of hands would you double 2? What types of hands would you double a 2 transfer?

The prototype double of Stayman or a Jacoby Transfer is KQJ10x of that suit. It shows at least five cards in the suit. There are three reasons why you double a low-level artificial bid. The number one reason is for the lead. The second reason is to compete. Suppose you hold AxKxxxxxxKxxx. Your RHO opens 1NT and you pass. Your LHO bids 2 Stayman and your partner doubles. You can compete to at least 3 and maybe 4. If LHO bids 2, transfer, and partner doubles you can compete to at least 3. The third reason, and only a few experts play it, is that when the 1NT is a weak notrump, double of artificial bids shows a strong hand and you think that the opponents might be stealing the hand.


Larry Cohen: I am on the extreme end--I double with just about "anything." Our partnership historically consists of two people that make the wrong lead on every deal, so we do everything possible to help partner. For a lead directing double on the two-level, we almost always have at least five cards, but would do it with a great four-card suit such as KQJ10 or maybe even KQJ9. We would make such a desperate double only if we could not stand any other lead. With a five-card suit, we would have at least two of the top three - probably a little beefier. AQ432 would not be enough, but AQ1032 might be. Again, it depends on the other suits. I wouldn't go out of my way to make a lead directing double if I had, say, Qxx in other suits that might get led.

One reason not to make a lead-directing double is that you can stand the lead of all suits. This is especially true of doubles of high-level bids.

Karen Allison: I think it is so risky to double 2 that it should be done only with a one-suited hand where clubs is the only safe lead. The least hand I would double with is one where I do not expect a penalty redouble so: xxxxxxxKQJxxx. To double a 2 transfer, I would need a similar hand to the above: xxKQJxxxxxxxx. These doubles call for a lead. They show good length in the suit doubled and therefore can suggest possible saves as well. No empty suits, no short suits, this is a bid that should be used only for very specific hand types. Clearly there are stronger hands that will want to make these doubles and compete further.

The biggest disadvantage of a lead-directing double is that they might redouble and play it there. Having the opponents make a redoubled contract against you would not be good for your score. Any bid you make can always backfire. The odds are that you will not get punished.

Marty Bergen: Depends on opponent and event. I do believe in doubling aggressively KQJ10+ if only a four-card suit

Kit Woolsey: It has nothing to do with hand strength. Suit strength and need for the lead is all that matters. I would double either artificial bid with KJ109x and out.

Jill Meyers: I would double either of them with KQJTx, maybe a spot or two less than the ten.

The following three experts play that if the notrump is weak, then double of Stayman and Jacoby shows a strong hand. I disagree with that. I think that the lead directing hand comes up more often than the strong balanced hand. With a strong balanced hand you will get another chance to show a strong hand but if you hold xxxAxxxxKQJ10x you will not get another chance to double clubs.

Bobby Wolff: Assuming I am playing against strong notrump (minimum being at least 14 HCP), I would double 2 with perhaps KQ10xx and probably out at matchpoints since overtricks are so important for decent scores. I would also double 2 with AJ9xx in clubs and not much more, perhaps another Ace, at all forms of scoring, but since many IMP's could be at stake, it depends on whom I am playing against also. This is a very subjective subject though quite important. I am also a believer in lead directing doubling when playing against Bergen raises, and, of course, transfers and other artificial conventional bids when faced with choices about adding another conventional double instead of lead directional.

Summing up, I lean to being in favor of helping the defense rather than having more than one bid (usually a cue bid) in defending transfer responses and other artificiality. From another perspective, because of the above belief, I am in favor of having as few constructive artificial bids as possible which enables the defense to get off to better opening leads both by either doubling or not doubling. Finally, against weak notrump openings I believe that doubles of Stayman and Transfers should show cards, , rather than leads, since I think an even bigger danger is having the opponents steal from us. Some pretty dangerous nameless partnerships seem to handle this problem by the subtle use of tempo, especially at matchpoints when playing against average to poor competition. That, of course is the most effective way to deal with it, but not yours and my method of choice.

John Carruthers: Much depends on whether the 1NT is weak or strong. I play lead-directing over strong but card-showing over weak. Over strong the worst would be KJ10xx or similar; over weak, about the top of their range would be the worst.

Marinesa Letizia: For both I would need good five-card suit. I would double 2 with good four-card suit and other cards. If it was a weak notrump bid I play double is just a strong notrump type hand.

Lynn Deas: I would double with KQ109x and nothing else. I assume that is what you are looking for. I would always have five cards in my suit but whether I would double would depend on what my outside cards are. I would double 2 with xxxxxxxxKQ10xx, but would not with QxKxxJxxKQxxx.

Since you can stand the lead of partner’s best suit you might not double with a tenuous suit especially if you have a hand that’s not good for offense.

Kerri Sanborn: The fewer "cards" I own, the chunkier the club suit should be for a double. I can imagine doubling Stayman with QJT9xx and nothing else. If I hold scattered values and an iffy club suit, I would normally let partner lead from his own strength. As an example, KxQxxJxxKJxxx, I have no reason to think that a club lead would be more productive than whatever partner's normal lead would be. To double a 2 transfer, the same rules should apply. You can frequently get away with shorter length, since the notrump opener is less likely to have a redouble of a major than of a minor.

Eric Greco: I think doubling is not about your hand strength so much as it is about having a good suit and maybe some shape. I would want at least five good cards say KQ10xx would tend to be my minimum for the bid or a medium six-card suit say QJ10xxx. It certainly is risky against certain opponents without anything else in your hand so you have to pick your spots carefully. I may not double with that hand if I was 5-3-3-2. Having some shape makes it much harder for the opponents to make their redoubled contract and hopefully prevents your partner from hanging you. Also, strangely enough the double can be more risky at matchpoints because if they make redoubled you get a zero but at IMPs they need to make overtricks for the double to really cost. The key is to just pick your spots and your opponents.

Barry Rigal: I would double 2 (Stayman) with xxxxxxxKQxxxx and with xxKQxxxxxxxxx, I'd double 2.

Mike Lawrence: Assuming it is a strong notrump opening bid: double of 2 is lead directing. Can double with as little as: A4343743QJ1075. Double of 2, a transfer bid, can be made on a slightly better hand. A43KJ1084543J4. I do not feel strongly about these distinctions. Should be a matter of style as much as anything else.

Drew Casen: I am an aggressive doubler in this situation. I would double with as little as these holdings: QJ9xx, KQ10x, QJxxxx and maybe even Q109xx(x), if I had nothing outside.

There are some experts who will double with four-card holdings. The problem is that partner expects you to have five. I would probably double 2 if I held AKQx of clubs. If I become dummy, I put a heart in with my clubs and apologize for missorting my hand.

Mark Lair: KJ108x and outside Ace after 2 Stayman. I need KJ98x after major-suit transfer and outside KQ or Ace. Playing matchpoints would depend on the circumstances. Could surely be risky, particularly in a stratified open field.

George Jacobs: KQ10xxx or AQJ9x plus an outside ace or king. You can be a little lighter doubling a transfer as often they have no agreement about pass or redouble. Could have as little as KJ10xx with an entry.

Billy Pollack: Each question gets two answers since, at matchpoints the right lead is so essential, it's worth taking more risk than at IMPs. Also note that there is slightly less risk doubling the transfer, nowadays, against an expert pair, since many play, as I do, that accepting the transfer shows three hearts with a poor hand, but redouble shows three trumps with a forward-going notrump opener, so you get nailed less often than by doubling 2. Minimum doubles of 2 are QxxxxxxxKQTxx at matchpoints, AxxxxxxxKQTxx at IMPs. Minimum doubles of 2 which is a transfer to spades is xxxKQTxxxxxxx at matchpoints and xxxKQTxxxAxxx at IMPs.

After a double of the 2-transfer, the notrump opener is supposed to pass the double with two spades and accept the transfer with three or more spades. Some play that bidding 2 shows a minimum notrump opener with at least three spades and redouble shows a maximum notrump opener with at least three spades. These pairs give up the possibility of playing 2 redoubled.

After a double of the 2 Stayman, some play if the notrump opener doesn’t have a four-card major he passes with a club stopper and bids 2 without a club stopper.

Zeke Jabbour: When the advantage of obtaining the 'best' opening lead seems to outweigh the obvious risks of doubling, I double. 

Frank Stewart: At matchpoints, I might risk a double with KQJ9x and no other high cards. At IMPs I would prefer to have an additional ace. As a matter of principle, however, I am reluctant to make lead-directing doubles except in extremely obvious situations. I have seen (in the literature) too many lead-directing doubles backfire when the next player was able to redouble.

Eddie Kantar: I would double 2 with five clubs to three of the top five honors including the ace or king. At matchpoints I'd double with four clubs headed by 100 honors or a bit less, i.e. AKQx, AKJx, AK109, AQJ9, AQ109, or KQJ9-against weak players KQ109. I would double 2 with five hearts to a 100 honors or with six hearts with two of the top three honors or three of the top five honors.

Jon Wittes: For a double of 2 or 2 transfer, the better my hand, the less I would need in the suit to double. I would be more inclined to double with a lighter hand at matchpoints, if it looks as if that lead is all I can stand from partner. After all, at matchpoints, it's only one board if I'm wrong. At IMPs, defending a part score doubled or redoubled making could be a disaster that we might not be able to recover from. As I said, if all of my values are in that suit, and I can't stand any other lead, I would be more inclined to double than if I have scattered values in the other suits that partner might lead.

Jeff Rubens: At matchpoints, any hand where it seems worth the risk to direct a club lead. At IMPs, the same plus reasonable assurance that the opponents won't bid and make 2 redoubled. I would double 2 with a light opening bid plus same IMPs condition.

Opening leads are very difficult. The more help you can give your partner the better your results will be.
Don Berman, Web Master.