Suppose North and South go through Blackwood and decide on 6 Spades making a Slam of 980 points. Their opponents decide to optimize the points. So suppose East decides that he has 6 Clubs including King of Clubs and calls 7 Clubs. Even after Double if they manage to make 5 tricks, North and South get only 800 points. However it does not happen in tournaments. Why is that?

Kindly note that I am not too good with Bridge Scoring so I might be wrong above in the counts. And thanks for your time.

4 Answers 4


In duplicate bridge, 6 spades making 6 is 980 not vulnerable, and 7 clubs doubled down 8 not vulnerable (5 tricks made out of 13 contracted) is -2000. With nobody vulnerable, you'd have to make 9 tricks to come out ahead bidding 7 over 6, scoring -800 for down 4.

Not vulnerable, doubled undertricks score accordingly:

  • -1: -100
  • -2: -300
  • -3: -500
  • -4: -800
  • -5: -1100
  • -6: -1400
  • -7: -1700
  • -8: -2000

with additional undertricks being worth -300 each.


As well as the two good answers already posted, you have to consider the 'phantom sacrifice' phenomenon. Just because N-S have bid 6 Spades, that doesn't mean they will score 980 points; they may go down on a misguess or a bad split. In that case, East's bid has converted a score of +50 to -800 even if he manages to make 9 tricks.

  • Yes we have faced the situation many times...but it is time to incorporate the original rules for down. Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 13:36
  • 1
    @ArghyaChakraborty: I have literally no idea what you mean. Was that comment misplaced? It may help to say that 4 down doubled non-vulnerable used to score -700, and is now -800. Commented Mar 5, 2017 at 15:13
  • What I meant was that many times say we bid 6 Clubs and they bid 6 Spades knowing they would go down. After the game we realize that our 6 Clubs would also have failed...just as you said in your answer. Commented Mar 6, 2017 at 8:12

As the other answers mention, sacrifices, especially NV sacrifices against Vulnerable slams, are common, for exactly this reason - 800 beats 1430. Because at IMPs the difference matters, it's more likely that they'll take the sacrifice when they expect it will be 800 into 1430 (1400 into 1430 gains 1 IMP, but if they're wrong and it's 1700 instead, it loses 7). At matchpoints, where 1400 can be almost as good a score as 500, provided the slam makes for 1430 and few find the sacrifice, you'll see more aggressive sacrifices.

But another reason why it might be more common in home games is that they may still be using the old scoring, because that's what's printed on their rubber pads from 30 years ago. In the old scoring, NV downtricks went 100, 300, 500, 700, 900... instead of 1, 3, 5, 8, 11.... In duplicate, that changed in 19871; in rubber it was years later. But it has changed, and any game should be using the new scoring.

1: The story goes that Edgar Kaplan bid 7H Vulnerable, and a young Jeff Meckstroth bid 7S on nothing. He took 2 tricks against the making grand, gaining a profit for -2100 vs -2210. Kaplan was outraged, and since he was on the Laws Commission, he got the law changed (now you have to take 5 tricks for -2000).


The reason is that the term "double" is something of a misnomer. It means "increased penalties" but usually more than just "double." Because your question would be "on point" if the penalties were for a doubled contract were exactly double those for an undoubled contract.Non vulnerable, that would mean penalties of 100, 200, 300, etc. for 1, 2, 3 undertricks, etc.

In actual fact,, only the penalty for the first undertrick is doubled, from 50 to 100. The penalties for the second and third undertricks are 300 and 500 (instead of 200 and 300). After that, each undertrick costs 300 points, so the fourth undertrick is 800 points and the fifth is 1100 points.

This penalty structure was set up to prevent just the kind of behavior you are describing. Under the "old" scoring, doubled undertricks cost "only" an additional 200 pounts (or quadruple 50) after the first, meaning that the sequence was 100, 300, 500, 700, 900, for the first five undertricks. Under these rules, it was worth going down five (win eight tricks) to stop a slam, now it is worth going down only four (800 points versus 1100 for the fifth undertrick and 930 for the slam). Whereas, if "double" meant exactly that, as in your example, it would indeed be worth going down eight (bid seven, make five tricks out of 13) for a penalty of 800 (twice 50*8) to stop a slam.

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