Tuesday, March 23, 2004 9:35 PM

Demise of Penalty Doubles




          In the early days of Bridge , penalty doubles were invented to punish bad bidders. The penalty double was ambiguous as it was done on a trump stack or HCP values - it did not matter. The message was “opponent you bid badly” and you are to be punished. In today’s game , in match points and rubber bridge , weak Bridge players and bad bidders still exist . The traditional penalty double should probably be employed in those games.


          Should these penalty doubles still exist in IMPS ?  No , for a variety of reasons .1st reason is the IMP scale does not reward you enough for the “home run” penalty doubles . Say your partners are in 2♠ making for +110 . Your opponents bids badly and play badly in 4♠ and go down three vul . You win 410 which is 10 IMPS . O.K. instead  you double them and beat them –800 . A disaster for them in any game but IMPS . In IMPS it just cost them –910 which is 13 IMPS instead of the 10 IMPS they were going to lose anyway . A paltry 3 IMPS !


          The 2nd reason for not playing “trump stack” doubles in IMPS is that they are ambiguous for pulling doubles. Partner does not know if they based on HCP’s which might help his decision to bid more or a trump stack which is bad duplication of value for bidding purposes. It’s a crap shoot on when to pull penalty doubles. Advocates of trump stack doubles usually threatened partner with a “never pull my penalty doubles edict”. This is of course is stupid in IMPS as penalty doubles should be pulled in many situations but it is just a gamble either way. Doubling 4 for –300 when you can make +1370 is a huge loss for your side.


          The 3rd reason for not playing “trump stack” doubles in IMPS is the caliber of the opponents. In good IMP matches , they do not bid badly with bad suits . They take advantage of the “law of total tricks’ and make things difficult for you with minimum risk for their side. Using an unambiguous double just to “show cards” simplifies many auctions for you as they use their fit for pre-emptive value. The opportunity for juicy trump stack doubles are very rare. So why waste the bid when you can use D.S.I.P. doubles instead ? Partner can still convert with a trump stack.


          These D.S.I.P. double understandings only apply to non forcing pass  competitive auctions where we do not know who owns the auction. Normal forcing pass theory has precedence over these understandings. In fact one of the benefits of D.S.I.P. doubles are correct decisions in sacrificing situations. With forcing passes , the opponents must play their contract doubled or you play it. In D.S.I.P. theory , they could own the hand and of course play it undoubled or you may sacrifice.


          O.K. throw out trump stack doubles in IMPS and watch the difference. Doubles and pass reverse their traditional meanings in non forcing pass auctions . In fact many of the top world class players put on their card that the meaning of a pass and a double is reversed in competition. Tom Gandolfo put this theory into action with this hand.


x Qxxx J10x AK10xx      Tom passed and I opened 1 in third seat and LHO overcalled 1 . Tom bid 2♣ and my RHO bid 2 bringing 3♣ from me and 4 by my LHO. Tom likes his hand for offensive purposes . He has a stiff in their suit and a possible two suited fit with me . He wants to bid 5♣ so in our D.S.I.P. style he doubles ( forcing passes are not on with Tom being a passed hand ) . I have AQx of spades and I say no thanks and we get +500 ! If I had no values in spades I would have bid 5♣ as per Toms request. Without these understandings Tom would have to make a single handed decision and bid 5♣ directly over 4♠ which gets doubled for –300 . Unlucky as I had AQx of spades and 4 doubled goes for +500.


          What if Tom had AQx of spades instead of me ? Tom would have passed saying that he would like me to double with the appropriate hand . With a good opener and I want to bid 5♣ , I would double and Tom converts from the other side. The only time we lose and it is not much of a loss is that I have a real dog and refuse to double. But is it much of a loss ? We can not make anything since my hand is bad so we take our plus 100 gift and on to the next hand .


          In the old days ,  a double in competition said I have duplication of value so do not bid partner. In D.S.I.P. theory its just the reverse. Since doubling out of turn is not allowed in Bridge , reversing the two bids covers all situations ( positions ).  If you want to bid then tell partner that by doubling. He will comply most of the time except when he has duplication of value.


 These understandings prevent pseudo sacrifices which is the 4rd reason to play D.S.I.P. in IMPS . if you have all the cards then forcing pass theory applies. Sacrificing by you of course does not factor into the equation in forcing pass theory. They own the hand so D.S.I.P. theory applies.


          This D.S.I.P. theory applies in all auctions where forcing passes do not apply . This includes slam auctions . You hold void J109xx xxxx xxxx and RHO opens 1and LHO makes a conventional bid at the 4 level showing spades and partner bids 5♣. RHO bids 6 and you want to sacrifice . You do not get rich doubling freely bid slams for penalty so why not use D.S.I.P. theory ? You double saying you want to bid 7♣ . With the actually hand , partner held KQJ of spades and somehow found the pass instead of sacrificing !!  Quite an example of preventing pseudo sacrifices. Many people single handedly “sacrificed” to 7♣ holding that hand when it was played in a local sectional.