Sunday, May 02, 2004 1:52 AM
Hand Evaluation – Overcalls  & Doubles




Modern overcall style is to show shape before strength . The old fashioned way was to show strength before shape. You would double to show 16 HCP’s or more therefore you were forced to make off shape take out doubles even with one suiters. The modern way is to overcall with pretty good hands. The limit of the strength of these hands is if partner were to pass , would game be missed ?


Since our overcalls can be quite strong , D.S.I.P. doubles are needed to clarify the HCP’s later on in the auction. Trump stack doubles are therefore thrown out of the equation with all overcalls . They simply do not exist right up to & including the game level. After you have opened the bid , responder can not make trump stack penalty doubles as you play negative doubles usually up to the 4 level or higher.. Now with overcalls,  you can not make trump stack doubles as D.S.I.P. theory kicks in.


♠AKJxxx x KQxx ♣Kx           1  ,you overcall 1♠ , LHO bids 2 & partner passes . RHO bids 4.


            I have seen players single handily bid 4 here , hit partner with ♠x QJ109 xxx ♣QJ10xx . –500 your way instead of +800 your way . A double by you should be D.S.I.P. because you would not be bidding or doubling  with a trump stack in their suit. Partner will bid 4 or leave it in at her discretion. It is not a T/O to the other suits. It is a T/O to my suit or pass. It can not be a T/O double as I already had that choice at the one level & I did not exercise that option. Say she had a hand too weak to bid 2♠ over 2 . ♠Qxx xxx J109xx ♣xx  is a hand that she will pull the double as cheap insurance & gets rewarded with +790 !!


            Tom & I had auction a while back that shows this point well . The vul opponents opened 1 vul in 4th chair . Tom decided to compete as a passed hand  not vul with AKxx xx QJxx ♣xxx so he bid a spade . The opponents bid 2 , I held a nice playing hand ♠Jxx xx Axxx ♣KQ10x . So I bid 3 , the opponents bid 4 so around to me . Time to bid a nice non vul sacrifice against their 620 ?  No , this is terribly single  handed . Let partner decide instead , by you doubling & asking partners permission to bid. Partner knows you do not have hearts on this auction as this is  a D.S.I.P. double situation. Tom passes 4 doubled so it goes for +500 . 4 doubled goes for -300 our way on a silly Moysean . Doubles in competitive auctions should never be trump stack doubles . The pass card is reserved for those types of hands after overcalls. Do not rescue bad bidding opponents by bidding . Preserve your options by doubling.


            Since we overcall on very good hands with expert opponents leaping to game on weak distributional hands quite often , a double of a game must be clarified . Having it never being a trump stack double when we are in the auction competing is an excellent understanding . If you do have some trump values so you feel you can beat their game, just put the green card on the table . Bridge is a partnership game so partner will go wrong in these auctions if doubles alternate between good hands or trump stacks. It is a hard habit to break but pass with trump stacks instead of doubling. You are playing IMPS in a strong field so it is not a loss . They will probably play the wheels off the hand so endplay you in trump anyway. The double now has a different meaning with D.S.I.P. theory.


In IMPS , I am a great believer in D.S.I.P. doubles as opposed to “never pull my penalty doubles” type of doubles . Why , well the IMP scale coupled with our style of overcalling on very good hands dictate this philosophy . Take this hand not vul vrs vul & RHO opens a heart . You have ♠x AK10 K1098 ♣AK109x  so decide to bid 2♣ . LHO bids 2  , partner passes , RHO surprises you by bidding 4. Should you double ? In rubber bridge it is clear cut . +800 gets you $40.00 at a nickel . In Match Points it is clear cut , you must double & get your +800 . Even if the field is not in 4♥ , there might be people doubled in 3 , so to go for the best score you should double . In IMPS,  put the green card on the table . Why ?   Assuming your intelligent partners are in a part score for +110 , you have these people in 4 down 3 for +300 you are winning 10 IMPS anyway . If you double & collect +800 you win +13 IMPS !  In effect , in IMPS you are excluding D.S.I.P. double strategy for a 3 IMP gain !!


            In IMPS , if you double a game after overcalling,  you want partner to do something intelligent which includes pulling your doubles. Take the same scenario as above but take away the HCP’s in the opponents suit . ♠x xx AKJx ♣AKJ10xx    . Again you double 4 after overcalling 2♣ . In other forms of Bridge you probably back in 4NT to say pick a minor. This is very single handed . Partner can have heart values , spade values , shortness in clubs & would love to play it in 4X . Why not pass the decision to partner with a double ? This is not a penalty double or you would have just quietly passed & taken your plus. This double is saying I want to bid 5♣ but because we are an established partnership , you can make the decision. A double of their major suit game does not mean you “forgot” to make a takeout double at a lower level . That is downright stupid ! The double should mean just the opposite. I overcalled with such a strong hand because  a flaw prevented me from making an original takeout double . Playing equal level conversion , we can make off shape takeout doubles. The above auction should send a red flag message that I do not have the other major so D.S.I.P.