Bridge By The Lake

By Ken Masson


juegos-de-cartasDo you and your favourite partner have a clear understanding of the meaning of all bids made against your opponents’ pre-emptive calls? Herself and I believed we did until this hand popped up during a team game played in October at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club in Riberas.

Our opponents at the table were Dona and Skip Johnson who had been teammates of ours in another event earlier in the week.   Dona dealt and with her 9-card suit headed by the ace and king and nothing outside, she had a perfect 4 spade opening. Herself and Skip passed in tempo and it was left to me in the pass-out seat, with 15-high card points and a void in spades, to keep the bidding alive which I did by placing the “Double” card on the table.

My justification was that I had pretty decent hand and reasonable support for any of the suits my partner might bid. What I didn’t take into consideration was that my partner would take my bid to be primarily for penalties and would pass at her first opportunity! Needless to say this was not a success as Dona promptly drew trumps and took all nine of her spades plus the diamond ace to wrap up her doubled contract for a score of 590. Indeed, she could have made an overtrick by arranging to ruff a diamond in the dummy but perhaps she didn’t want to overdo the punishment she was meting out to her former teammates!

To add insult to injury, the players sitting North-South at the other table, Maggie Pye and Keith Coates, bid and made 5 diamonds for a score of 600 giving their side an advantage that was insurmountable in a short team game and we were well and truly beaten.

Naturally this disaster led to a long post-game discussion between Herself and me on how we should cope with similar situations in the future. I had been reading a number of articles by Larry Cohen on bidding over pre-empts. He insists that first doubles of opposition bidding at any level should essentially be for takeout but that the partner could pass with the right holding. For example in the diagrammed hand, if herself had held QJxx in spades and little else she would be justified in passing as that would be the most likely chance for a good result for our side. I believed we had discussed the Cohen philosophy and were basically on the same page. Not for the first time, it appears I was wrong,

Cohen’s premise is quite sound. When the opponents jump the bidding to a very high level, it is unlikely that you will have a holding with a trump stack that would justify making a penalty double. It is much more probable that you would be short in that opponent’s suit and holding high card strength elsewhere. You can read all of Cohen’s articles on takeout doubles by visiting:

So, my advice to all and sundry is to have a serious discussion with your partners about the meaning of doubles in similar situations. In may prevent you from having to eat a plateful of humble pie during the post mortems!

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