This hand is discussed in the April 2021 ACBL Bulletin (p. 8) as a tempo issue, but I am interested in the underlying bidding issues


East North West South
2 S 3H 3S Pass
Pass 4C Dbl Pass
4S Pass Pass Pass

East hand

KTxxxx xx Txxx Q

West hand

Jxx AQx AQJx xxx
  1. Is West's double a reasonable action?
  2. Is East correct to pull the double?

Both sides vulnerable, duplicate match points, assume Am Std or 2/1 bidding.


I would never pull a double on that auction, regardless of my hand. "The book of rebids by preempter is 1000 pages long, and they're all blank," as the saying goes. Responder is the captain on this auction, and the double is not cooperative. If I'm not willing to sit this double, I shouldn't have opened.

West's double is a bit aggressive, but not terribly so at matchpoints. The AQx in hearts is a great holding, and the three clubs are at least trumps not held by the opponents and a good opening lead. The diamonds are also likely worth a couple of tricks. You're counting on a favorable layout or perhaps a trick from partner, not an unreasonable hope at these colors. The diamond king in dummy would be very unwelcome.


I agree with ruds - sort of. I play with my partners that double by preempter is "I want to sacrifice"; explicitly so that preempter's partner can say "I don't". Preempter doesn't get to pull (playing any standard system). If their contract makes, it's partner's misguess. So that's question 2 solved.

Having said that, the answer to "is the double reasonable", like every answer to questions about preempts, depends critically on what a weak 2 looks like vulnerable in first seat for this pair, not on whether anything is "right".

With one regular partner, this is not a good opener, but it's not a minimum either. In that pair, we don't double many games; and we miss a fair number of our own. But they're figuring out the hand at the 3 level a lot more often than the field. I wouldn't dream of doubling this auction; partner has a zero-entry hand and KD or stiff heart in dummy means they make it.

With my other regular partner, this is not only too weak to open, it's not even close. Our partnership philosophy is that we can defend better than the field, so don't lose the hand in the bidding. We bid (and double) very constructively after our weak 2s. But we pass several hands that others are preempting with, and the opponents get to better contracts, too. Here, I expect I'd double, and I know my partner would. And it's basically going to need a spade void, or Axx opposite stiff, and both kings in dummy to make.

Obviously, what you can expect from partner determines if this is a reasonable double. I expect to get both my aces and one of my queens (likely the HQ); and 200 is the magic matchpoint score. On the other hand, +100 beats -100 just as well as +200 does, and is 3S making? I think it depends on the red kings (as well as how good opener's suit is). If 3S makes, then 4C goes down; if 3S goes down, 4C likely makes.

Note: that they're willing to play 4Cx is scary. It sure looks like hearts are a source of tricks and a pitch for diamonds; and you need partner to lead diamonds even if the king is right. Will partner ever get in?

Another interesting question for the double - are you willing to double 4H if LHO goes back there? On this hand, yes - you're happier doubling 4H than 4C; at least you're not getting your heart Q ruffed out. But with a different hand - "Don't double the only contract you can set."

But preempters don't pull partner's penalty double. They have no idea what partner has. Unless, of course, partner makes it clear their double isn't a lock, say by tanking before doubling. Then preempter looks at their hand, sees no help, and maybe pulls it...triggering a TD call and an adjusted score if pull was right.


It seems to me that the double by W is reasonable. West would anticipate at least three tricks in the red suits, and since west is over the probable strength in the north, the red finesses have an above-average chance of working,so there might easily be 4 or even 5 red-suit defensive tricks.. One spade trick is plausible, so the double seems a fair choice.

As for East, well first of all I would not open this with 2 spades, particularly not vulnerable. If there agreement si to open a suit as poor as that, then the do0uble doesn't look as good. There is surely less defensive value here than partner might have expected, so polling the double might be the winning move, but for all East can tell West has this set cold.Ii would go with "trust your partner" here.

  • With 9 Spades assumed for West and East. the chance of Opponents getting a discard on a third round of Spades is small. Despite the very weak hand, West has the defense promised by his opening preempt and should be pleased by East's double - they stand to make more defending than Declaring. His preempt has worked. – Forget I was ever here Apr 9 at 0:24
  • @forget, I don't quite follow your point about A spade discard. NS have a 9-card club fir including the AKJT, an 8-card Heart fit including the KJ9, and the AQ9 of spades. I would expect them to have 4 or 5 Club tricks, 1D trick 3 H tricks, and 2 spade tricks. We don't know the distribution, but the original letter said that both 4Cand 4s were cold .as the cards lay. With the sort of spade holding I would expect from my partner as W, (2 of top 3 or 3 of 5) NS would get at most 1 S trick, if any. – David Siegel Apr 9 at 0:43
  • 1) If EW have 2 Spade losers and a Club loser then the red suits are solid with both finesses onside. Even with 2 Spade tricks and 6 Club tricks how is 4 Clubs cold with no red suit tricks available? 2) I never said I was happy with East's Double - I said i was happy to sit for it as West. 3) "Original letters" are rarely correct, and only serendipitously so, in their statements of what can and cannot be made. if they could assess playing prospects well they'd be writing answers instead of questions. – Forget I was ever here Apr 9 at 0:52

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