Thursday, May 13, 2004 6:10 AM

Hand Evaluation -  Green Light




            One of the dumbest things about traditional  trump stack doubles in Bridge is the so called “green light” understanding. If in a competitive auction , one partner does not double a contract with a trump stack it signals that partner can bid again . This contract theoretically will make because no duplication of value exists or it will be a cheap sacrifice. This thinking is blatantly stupid. Overcalls , openers , takeout doubles vary so much in strength how does one partner  single handed with his Q109x of trump thinks that he should double their contract to warn partner not to bid again ? I have heard so much “noise” over my Bridge career where one partner bid their hand again , went down badly because partner had the wrong hand . Their contract could have been defeated.. Bad luck the partner would lament. Why didn’t you double to prevent me from bidding ? I did not know I could beat the hand & I did not want to tell declarer how to play the hand came the reply. This usually did not end the argument & they just lost 12 IMPS in a silly misjudged  contract.


            This “green light” ideas also applies to pre-empts. If partner does not double for penalty it somehow gives the pre-empter permission to “St Albert” or bid your hand again. Absolute single handed nonsense. My partners are allowed to bid their pre-empt again but by an “action double” only. At least this is less single handed , as partner does have some say in the final decision. Without pre-empting if you have described your hand to partner , you have no business bidding your hand again. Playing D.S.I.P. doubles you can though. With the appropriate defense , you are allowed to bid your hand again with a D.S.I.P. double.


            The problem , of course ,  is that trump stack doubles as a tool for competitive bidding just do not work. It is not so much better to play D.S.I.P. doubles in competition at high levels up to & including 4 ?  If you want to bid again with a good hand after they reach game & you have some defense , double to ask partners permission. With Q10xx of trump coupled with your good defensive hand ,  the partnership now  knows the contract can not make . The old style of partner giving the green light by passing  is just plain gambling which may or may not work. A pass in a competitive auction in Bridge may not be a green light situation. It just means a minimum , or a defensive type hand or a minimum with a trump stack. If partner has a maximum with a trump stack , the old style of double works . However , that hand also works with D.S.I.P. understandings also . He just passes the double when partner signals he wants to bid again with a double. In fact ,  they really go for a number as both hands are maximum with a trump stack in one of the hands.


            The “green light”  pass is positional also . If they bid the game in front of you,  you must guess if partner is maximum or minimum for his previous bidding. This puts pressure on partner  to pull the double , if he has a minimum or unsuitable defensive hand . He pulls to the 5 level , goes for a horrible number himself as he was really minimum for his previous bidding . The duplication of value is no help for him at the 5 level. Trapped by your own partner !. The trump stack double was quite often a choice between death by water or death by fire . They make the doubled contract or  you go for a number yourself. The culprit of course is the trump stack double.  Contrast that situation with D.S.I.P. theory . You pass with your Q10xx of trumps as you want to defend. If partner wants to play the hand , he doubles with defense. If partner had the weak distributional hand , he is warned by your pass that you do not want to bid & play the hand . Therefore , he just puts the green card on the table so no disaster occurs. These are non forcing pass situations ,  so D.S.I.P. theory takes effect.


            The decision to pull “trump stack doubles” was the hardest bid in Bridge. The proponents of trump stack doubles got so exasperated that they just made a platitude . “do not pull my penalty doubles” . That is even more stupid. Penalty doubles quite often made because you tipped declarer how to play the hand or partner just did not have enough defense to beat the hand. Worst still,  ambiguous penalty doubles were sometimes bid with no trump stack & just lots of HCP’s . This was really a disaster as now you can make a slam or vul game your way so you get robbed collecting your +100 or +300. I have had partners who just chalked that up to “bad luck” . A price to pay for the luxury of trump stack doubles in your repertoire. J


            I got into a bidding argument with my ex partner Peter Jones that he took it serious enough to e-mail the Gartaganis & Gordon Campbell to reprimand me for my bad bidding. My partner had ♠x xx AQJ10x ♣AKxxx  ,RHO opened 1 vul so she bid 2NT nv unusual for the minors. I dislike these conventional bids being bid on intermediate hands as it puts partner in a bad position . These bids should be either weak or strong but that’s beside the point. Anyway my RHO bid 3 , I held ♠Q1098x xx xx ♣Qxxx . I decided to muddy the water with a nv 4♣ bid . The auction went P-P-4 so I passed not knowing if they could make 6 . 4 was passed but my partner took my pass as a ”green light” to bid 5♣ which got wacked . We went for –300 but they go for 800 . I suggested that partner could double with such strong defense to give partner an option of passing.  Ridiculous they said .  You gave partner the “green light” to bid 5♣ by not doubling 4.  To defend myself,  I said “well I did not know how strong partner was on the auction” . If I had known that partner had 3 defensive tricks , I would have doubled.  Peter Jones said you mean the singleton spade has to double & the 5 card suit has to pass !!. Yes , I said as since the bid showed two suits  , the double can not have spades. Anyway the e-mail reply from Calgary dripped with sarcasm & they were all over me for my lack of Bridge sense. This hand along with other disasters showed me that trump stack doubles with the “green light” concept was stupid so the system needs to be fixed. 


            Trump stack penalty doubles are ambiguous . This ambiguity confuses competitive auctions at almost every level. We are in the midst of developing something better. Stan Cabay , Tom Gandolfo , BJ Trelford  & I have bought into them big time . We just need more research to clarify all the nuances & shortcomings of a new theory . Stay tuned.