Saturday, November 30, 2002 5:20 PM
Competitive Doubles




          The term “competitive doubles” refers to a class of doubles not just one type of double . Negative , responsive , maximal ( game try ) , support , Rozenkranz doubles are designed to help the partnership compete better and are called competitive doubles . On the other side of the spectrum are penalty doubles and their close cousin cooperative doubles ( D.S.I.P. ) . The Pitbulls play all these competitive doubles and I think they are at a level where they can add cooperative doubles to their arsenal of bids.


          Susan had a hand a while back where she chose to open 1 with a flat 16 instead of 1NT . This was fine as she had a good heart suit and felt that 1 was a better bid . Anyway the opponents crawled into the auction and with her good hand she wanted to compete more . Afraid that if she doubled the opponents it would be taken as penalty she chose to compete in a 3 card suit and that landed in her trouble at a 4 level minor going down when the opponents could not make anything.


          The answer to these kind of problems ( established partnerships only ) is the cooperative or D.S.I.P. doubles . These doubles are quite often done with flat hands with lots of HCP’s but differ from true “penalty doubles” in that you do not have a trump stack . These co-operative doubles are from the penalty double side of the house . Partner has to field them and know when they should be left in . The meaning of these doubles are “context sensitive”.


          This is done by the usual guidelines of leaving in penalty doubles in general . Do I have my original bid ? Do I have some length in partners suit ? Do I have my points in my suit ?  Am I very short in their suit ? These cooperative doubles are very dangerous in non established partnerships . Most Bridge players just label these doubles as penalty and use it as an excuse for not thinking and blindly pass .


          In my mind , when both sides are competing for a contract , a double should be cooperative (D.S.I.P.) and give the message that I do not want to sell out at this level. Do something intelligent partner like leaving it in if appropriate and bidding if it is not .  If playing with a partner that you do not trust her judgment  these doubles turn into the very dangerous (do something stupid partner doubles )  and –530 emerge . Pulling cooperative doubles is a Bridge bidding skill and good established partnerships have that skill. Just taking your plus when you have their suit in competitive auctions is not the end of the world . Maybe partner might make a cooperative double as responder and you get a chance to convert.


          These doubles should come from either responder or opener who has values to compete more . Sometimes these work out as gold because partner does have a trump stack and converts .


            1 pass

1                      DBL  DBL                x AKxx xxx Kxxxx




QJ109  xx AKxx  QJx                 +500 range


The following from the net :

Here are some situations where many pairs like to play the double as cooperative:

        You      LHO      Partner    RHO       
(A)      1      1       2       2  
        Pass    Pass      DBL    

(B)      --       --       1      Pass  
        Pass    DBL       2♣       2   
        Pass    Pass      DBL   

(C)     --        1       DBL      1   
        2♣      Pass      Pass     2   
        Pass    Pass      DBL    

(D)     1NT       2       2     Pass  
        Pass     3       DBL 

In (A), partner is showing a maximum response with moderate heart length and probably only 4 diamonds:
A7  J64 J982  K1032 .

He's asking you to pass if you have good defense, but to pull to 3D if you have primarily distributional strength (extra diamond length or a singleton heart).

In (B), partner has bid two suits, so it's unlikely he has a heart stack. Instead, he's showing a very powerful hand -- most likely 3-1-5-4 -- that can beat 2H if you can contribute something on defense (perhaps because you're short in his suits). If not, you can pull to 2S, 3C or 3D.

Partner's takeout double in (C) suggested short diamonds, and his pass of your freebid denied great strength. His second double shows a maximum, probably with only 3 clubs and a doubleton diamond: AK76  A1093 J5  K102 .

In (D), partner's failure to double at his first turn gave you a strong clue about his defense against a heart contract. His double now says he has enough strength that he's unwilling to sell out to 2H undoubled. He might hold:
A10873  J6 Q104  765 .

Your decision is fairly easy. If you have a doubleton spade, you pass. With 3-card spade support, you should pull to 3S unless you have a strong heart holding.

Even without prior discussion, experienced players would probably be able to work out the two-way meaning of the doubles in the four auctions above. These situations are "obvious" enough that good logic and hand-evaluation skills would lead you to the right conclusion.

The message wouldn't be so clear, however, in:

        You     LHO     Partner    RHO   
(E)      1♣    1        1     Pass     
         2♣    2        DBL 

(F)      --     --        1       2♣  
         2    4♣        DBL    


Some pairs like to play these doubles as cooperative, but since neither auction fits the requirements above, I wouldn't try them without a special agreement.

Auction (F) fits another standard default: "It's a penalty double if we've already found our fit." My regular partner, however, thinks this double should also send a two-way message. Since the opponents have ostensibly shown a 10-card fit -- and the auction has been jammed so high -- he believes the double here is more valuable as cooperative, showing extra values and short clubs.

Several experienced players he polled said they might treat it this way at the table, so perhaps this auction should be an exception. I'm not yet convinced, but my partner has assured me that he won't try this until we develop an agreement.