Bridge Goth Bridge




Posted by BridgeGoth on June 25, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Today we are going to talk about a new term of mine... Dumbles!

Dumble is a cross between Dumb and Double, so all the situations and hands where be times where it is a very poor idea to make penalty doubles and why. 

Please note not all contracts that make were bad doubles, especially at matchpoints. Over time if in pair events your opponents don't make about 25% of the contracts you double, you more than likely are not doubling enough. 

I'm going to initially start with 7 situations, however I will add more as more arise.

#1: Doubling on high card points

Have you ever had this conversation with your partner after going -790?

Partner: Why did you double 4S? You knew I had nothing and it was cold!

You: But partner... I had 19 high card points!

The problem of course is that points do not take tricks, so no matter how many points you have, you can't set the contract if you don't have the right cards. This is especially true when the opponents are highly distributional. Take this hand and auction

You are in 2nd seat at favorable vulnerability

xx AKQJx QJx AQx

1S X 2NT* P

4S X

2NT = Limit raise or better in spades

What does partner have over there? NOTHING, probably no face cards at all. Also look at the vulnerability. They are vulnerable, and you are not, therefore they are not saving or preempting with their 4S bid, they are bidding this because they think they can make it. You do not have 4 tricks in your hand, in fact, it's very likely those 2 aces will be all you get. The opponents only have at most 21 points between them and have freely bid up to game, they must have singletons or voids somewhere.

Just in case you were wondering what happens if you bid 5H, partner has Jx xxxx xxxxx xx and you're down 800 after a diamond ruff.

#2 Doubling with trumps in front of declarer

This is a major no-no. When your trumps are in front of declarer, they lose significant value, and if you double, they lose even more because now declarer knows what to expect.

Take the following hand and auction, you are in 4th seat nobody vulnerable.

KQTxx xx xxx xxx

1S P 2C P

2S P 4S X

How many tricks is this hand worth most days? 

If these trumps were behind declarer, I'd say 3 and possibly even 4 tricks, however in front of declarer, this is likely only worth 2. If you keep quiet, declarer might misplay the hand, however once this is doubled, it will give the show away and he will play a spade to the 8 and 9 and hold you to 2 tricks.

#3 Doubling to let declarer know where missing cards are

This theme is touched on in other parts of this article, however I'm giving it it's own section since this hand inspired this writing. Click the link to see it.

Inspiring hand!

GIB S and I bid up to 4H and I am doubled.

My trump holding is QT9xxx opposite Axxx and I need to pick this up for no losers because I am missing the other 3 aces.

I decided the only possible 4th trick he can double on would be the king of hearts, and if it was singleton, he probably wouldn't double so instead of taking the percentage play of laying down the ace (wins if a stiff king is in either hand), I chose to lay down the queen from my hand hoping to pin the jack on my right.

It worked! I made a play that all things being equal is only half as good as playing the ace, all because he doubled and gave it away.

I was the only one to make 4H and I was doubled, a complete disaster for the opponents.

The lesson here, if you have cards that you know declarer will be looking for, or soft trump holdings such as Qxx or Jxxx, don't double and announce where they are.

#4 Doubling when the opponents have a place to run

This is one of the worst things you can do at the bridge table. Take the following hand and auction. You are in 4th seat nobody vulnerable

xx QJTxxx Kx xxx

1C P 1H P

1S P 2S P

4H P  P 

What the.... I can set this myself! DOUBLE!!!!!!!!! Right?


Are you both willing and able to double 4S and 5C if they run to that? Unless you are, then you cannot double 4H.

In fact, in this given hand, they are about to play their splinter and a 4-1 heart fit. Opener thought spades were agreed and that 4H showed shortness and responder did not take it that way.

This idea also holds true if they opponents reach 3NT and you have a long running suit to cash on opening lead. Even if you are sure you can set it, unless you are sure you can set everything they can run to, leave it alone.

These hands are known as "Did not double, did not have to, did not want to" hands. The definition is: 

"When the declaring side was in such a stupid contract that not only did the defenders not need to double to obtain a good result, they did not even want to because they opponents have a better contract. This usually occurs when the declaring side had a bidding misunderstanding and is going to play in a trump fit of less than 7 cards or in a no trump contract without stoppers."

So if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, just let them play it and take your good score.

#5 Doubling because they have a bad auction

You are in 4th seat non vul with the following hand

xxxx QJx xxx Kxx

1C P 1D P 

1N P 2C P

2N P 3D P

3N P 4C P

4N P 5H P

6C P P  ?

This has to be one of the worst auctions I've ever seen... Time to double!

Wrong again!

There are 2 possibility to consider here.

1: They are actually in a normal contract

2: They are not in a normal contract

If #1 is the case, then doubling 6C and having them make it is a sure zero, but if it the right spot, them making it will still about an average board. 

if #2 is the case, then doubling 6C cannot possibly help no matter what the situation is.

If they are in a stupid contract, how bad a score is 6C down 3 going to be? Do you really need a bigger top? Even in a team game, do you think your partners are going to play 6C down 3? I'd like to think not.

What if they actually do have big hands, but instead of 6C, they should have been in 6NT? Doubling 6C might turn a near top into a cold zero.

If 6C is going down, it is probably a "Did not double, did not have to" hand. The definition of that is "When the defenders did not bother to or even need to double the opponents contract in order to obtain a good result because they were going down so many tricks."

If 6C is going down and 6NT is making (always possible), or 6C is making, then you don't want to double for many reasons. 

So as you can see, there is zero upside to doubling here.

The most important thing to remember from this is: Just because the opponents had a stupid auction, doesn't mean they are in a stupid contract. Even the worst players land on their feet occasionally.

#6 Doubling on your partner's hand

This is especially true today because people are opening lighter and lighter. Take the following hand and auction, you are in 4th seat nobody vulnerable.

Ax Kxx xxx xxxxx

P 1D  X P

1S P 3S P

4S P  P

A double here would be very risky because partner didn't promise defensive tricks, and the doubler jumped to 3S showing a very strong hand behind him. Not to mention, do you have any idea what to lead here? It's also usually a bad idea to make a close double if you don't have a good opening lead ready to go. So don't double just because your partner opened the bidding or showed some points.

Here was the full deal.

x QJxx AQxxx Kxx

Jxxxxx x Jx Jxx  KQxx Axxxx Kx AQ

Ax Kxx xxx xxxxx

#7 Non equity protection doubles in team games

While doubling frequently in matchpoints is important, in team games the rewards are less for being right, and the penalties significantly greater for being wrong.

Take a normal competitive auction, you are in 4th seat, they are vulnerable and you are not.

1S 2C 2S 3C

3S  P    P   ??

I left the cards off on purpose because they are not important, what is important is the value a double here. In matchpoints, a 1 trick set doubled would score the "Magic 200", which is almost always at or near a top board, and if they make it, it's a bottom. So a 50/50 double is fair odds. However now consider what happens in a team game.

We will assume the law has 15 tricks in play, so if 3S makes, 3C was down 1 and vice versa.

Partners      Us

3C= -110   3S-1 +100  Push board

3C= -110   3Sx-1 +200 Win 3 imps

3C-1 +100  3S= -140     Lose 1 imp

3C-1 +100  3Sx= -730   Lose 12 imps

As you can see, doubling risks 11 imps for a gain of 3. Aside from the simple math, partners are usually not very understanding when you bring back -730 to the table in a team game. 

Do note that this applies to free doubles, like the one above. 4th seat could have just passed the hand out but chose to make a penalty double of 3S. 

There are 3 situations when it is ok to double in team games.

1: You have a solid and surprise trump stack on declarer and they have no where to go. (ie. doesn't violate the 1st 4 laws of this article)

2: It is clearly your hand and the opponents are trying to steal from you or sacrafice and you think you might have game.

3: The opponents are in a misfitting auction and you do not want partner to jump into the mess.

The summary:

Don't double just on points or just because you have 5 trumps, make sure you can actually set what you're doubling.

Don't make doubles that help the opponents by either telling them where important cards are, or my waking them up that they are in a bad contract

Don't double just because you think your partner has something whether it was done by his bidding or their bidding.

Don't double in team games, especially part scores into game, unless you think you have game or are positive you can set it.

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