Saturday, September 18, 2004 6:16 AM

Hand Evaluation -  Penalty Conversion




            With so many doubles now  being “responsive” in nature or D.S.I.P.  , you need judgment when deciding whether partner’s double should be converted for penalty. The main judgment factors are “duplication of value” in their suit or your own suit , length in partners suit (s) , controls & balanced distribution . Also the location of your HCP’s . Are they in the suit that partner expects them to be ? Are these HCP’s located behind or in front of the opponents suit ?  With the penalty doubles of old ( circa 1920’s to1980 ) you do not need judgment . You just close your eyes and pass as the double was for “business” so there is a trump stack over there.  Doubles in competition today , even if you do not play D.S.I.P. doubles as a system , still require judgment whether they be pulled or not. 


Maurice & I  had an auction recently where this  judgment comes into play . Klimo opened 2♣ which was alerted as showing clubs with a minumum opener . Maurice held ♠Axx Qxxxx AKx ♣xx & overcalled 2 . Tom G competed to 3♣ so I doubled with ♠QJ10xx J QJ10x ♣Kxx . I did not want to be shut out of the auction with my 10 HCP with 5-4 in the unbid suits so I doubled thinking that partner can not interpret this as a “trump stack” double . We were playing against expert competition who have announced they own clubs. The double must be responsive/D.S.I.P. Bidding 3 is too singlehanded so deprives partner of the option of converting for penalty or finding the diamond suit.


  O.K. what do you bid with Maurice’s hand & why ?  At first glance this might be a hand just to leave the double in. You have controls & a balanced hand but wait a minute !  Where are your HCP’s ?  All but 2 of your points are in the suits that partner is advertising with his responsive double. If your points were in hearts which is probably opposite partners singleton ,  there is no fit with duplication of value . This would the main factor for leaving the double in. Also apply patterns taking the bidding into consideration to help in your decision. The opponents show up to 9 cards in clubs so partner may only have a doubleton club . Partner is short in hearts or else he would not have doubled. This gives him 9 or 10 cards in spades or diamonds.  If you pass , the opponents cards ( HCP’s)  are all in clubs and hearts which is a recipe for a lucky make for them. You bid 3 ( taking the club ruffs in your hand ) so +140 results as I am all in with my double. A pass nets you –470 as with two hooks onside for them & all 10 of our HCPS in diamonds wiped out by a singleton they make their contract. 

Here is another hand that shows the principles involved in converting partners double for penalties. If your points are concentrated in the suit that you bid ( which partner assumes they are with his double ) then that is the factor for leaving the double in.    O.K. I held a hand with Tom against the Bartons  that I think the D.S.I.P.  principles apply. I held ♠Ax xx AK ♣KJ1098xx  with everybody vul . I opened 1♣ , Tom bid a spade & RHO bid 2♣ . This was alerted to be a two suiter in hearts & diamonds with shortness in clubs . I felt like leaping to 4♣ but I did not want to go past 3NT so I bid 3♣ . LHO bid 3 so around to me again . O.K. one last desperate attempt at 3NT so I bid 3 which LHO doubled & Tom bid 4♣ . RHO bid 4 . I wanted to bid 5♣ very badly but why take such a single handed action ?  I have 4 booked in my own hand & I am short in his spade suit so why not put partner in the picture with a D.S.I.P. double ? This has to be a competitive double so a try for a 5♣ game. If you wanted to “punish” the opponents you pass as you already have shown a big hand so partner can act accordingly.

If partner holds ♠Jxxxx x xxx ♣Axxx        4 makes and 5♣ makes

If partner holds ♠KQxx Jxx xx ♣xxxx        4 goes for 500 and 5♣ goes for 500

If partner holds ♠Jxxx Jxx xx ♣Axxx           4 makes and 5♣ goes 1 down

            Here the judgment factor is where are your HCP’s concentrated & what is the length in your partners suit ? . If your points are in spades where partner expects them there is duplication of value as partner has no spade fit in this auction. A penalty pass is automatic with all your points concentrated in that suit. If your points are not in spades , they have a “two suited fit” so to speak so the hand will play well for them. You pull the double & get rewarded as it makes ! Their doubled contract also makes so your judgment was essential.

            I made two D.S.I.P. doubles playing with a Tormentee who wants to try them out but the required judgment resulted in a disaster both times. ♠KQ  Kxxx xxxxx ♣Qx   I opened 1♣ , they overcalled a spade which the Tormentee doubled . The bid 2 so I bid 3♦ . They bid 4 which came around to me so I doubled saying I wanted to bid 5 but I had defense. I had 3 quick tricks  , partner held the KQ of spades wasted 10 HCP’s & shortage in my first bid suit. This is an easy conversion which nets us +300. The Tormentee bid 5 which went for –100 . Tonight I opened a weak 2with ♠xx Ax KQxxxx ♣xxx nv vrs vul opponents . They overcalled 2 , the Tormentee bid 3 so they bid 4 which I doubled ( action ) saying I wanted to sacrifice in 5 but I had defense in case partner was not interested. The Tormenee held ♠xxx Qx J1098 ♣KQJx  so again an easy decision. I can hold at most 2 defensive tricks for my double , she has excessive length in my suit with only one defensive trick , so the pull to 5 is automatic. 5X goes for –300 against their +650 which is a top . Our result was –990 which was also a top but their way.

Anyway , D.S.I.P. doubles are not a tool for beginners as there are no rote rules for their application. You need experience and judgment to know when to pull partners doubles or convert them for penalty. Doubled contracts making are still defined as a Bridge natural disaster.