Monday, May 12, 2003 6:02 PM

Psychological Penalty Doubles

 

PITBULLS:

 

          Using an article by Zia Mahood as a basis for this strategy

 

“You love bridge, just like the rest of us addicts. But have you ever thought about which part of the game excites you most? It could be a delight in fine bidding, the indulgent pleasure of a well-played hand, the artistic beauty of a killing defense, or perhaps a combination. They do all have an irresistible charm.

 

Actually, for myself, there is a fourth, even greater attraction: the psychological game. I find it fascinating. Surprisingly, although countless books have been published on bidding and play, almost nothing has appeared on this subject.

 

Psychological bridge can come in many guises but the satisfaction from a successful coup is always jumbo-sized. Just ask any player who ever deflected the opponents from attacking his weakest suit by playing it first. Or any adventurer on his way to slam who cue-bid a control he didn’t have and successfully stopped the killing lead.

 

What bliss, incomparable ecstasy that lingers on long after the event. The great advantage of these plays, unlike improvements to card play technique which can take years to perfect, is that they can be adopted instantly by any average player. This is a psychological penalty double, based not on the evidence of your cards but on ‘other’ factors: the timing, the opponents’ bidding or their table action.

 

You can use the double whenever the following 5 situations exist, and you have the slightest excuse. “

 

1. The impossible-sounding auction

 

As West you hold:

 

976

AQJ103

8

10842

 

South

West

North

East

RHO

You

LHO

Partner

 

 

 

Pass

1

Pass

2

Pass

Pass

3

Pass

Pass

3

Pass

4

Pass

Pass

DBLE

 

 

 

The opponents stopped in 2 and now North has punished South for competing. Something went wrong; double them. You have a great lead and the one time in ten they make will be compensated amply by the juicy penalties of the other nine.

 

2. You want your opponents to run

 

This is great for poker players. It starts with a familiar auction where the opponents struggle into a contract where you know they are about to get lucky and make: DOUBLE. The fear of a large number will help remove them to a ‘safer’ resting place.

 

I was playing with David Berkowitz, the American champion, in the Vanderbilt tournament. He held:

 

J43

K103

J104

J1095

 

Sitting East, with South the dealer, he heard the following auction:

 

South

West

North

East

 

Me

 

David

1

1

2*

Dble

2

Pass

3

Pass

3**

Pass

3

Pass

4

Pass

Pass

Dble^

5

Pass

Pass

Dble^^

All Pass

 

 

 

 

* Club fit, forcing but denies 4 spades

** Looking for 3NT

^ a complete bluff

^^ much happier

 

David could see that 4 on the 4-3 fit would make with the friendly trump break. He also knew that the opponents did not know this, so he doubled. A bad break might mean losing control and conceding a large penalty, so South reasonably ran to the ‘safety’ of the known club fit.

 

Brilliant — yet all he needed to do was listen carefully to the auction and have the courage to make a Panther Double. You don’t need to look as sleek as a panther to bid like one.

 

3. Invitational auctions

 

This is my personal favorite. Whenever a limited hand accepts an invitation, the Panther should be ready to pounce at the slightest excuse. That excuse may be as flimsy as the fact that the last bid was made after a lengthy hesitation, suggesting an overbid, or at least a tight contract.

 

South

West

North

East

 

 

 

You

1NT

Pass

2NT

Pass

3NT*

Pass

Pass

Double

All pass

 

 

 

 

*after a pause

 

The double, by increasing the stakes, places considerable pressure on the declarer who will proceed to misplace the high cards. In addition, his mind, filled with images of ghosts and bad breaks, will be unable to function clearly.

 

If the sequence above is for the more adventurous, the more common limited auction where the defender can foresee bad lies or breaks for declarer, is impossible to resist. Now the prey is helpless; it almost feels unsporting to pounce.

 

Armed with your new toy you decide to sit in on a high-stake rubber bridge game. Naturally you pick up our typical hand:

 

6

J982

Q1063

KJ98

 

And hear this auction:

South

West

North

East

 

 

 

You

Pass

Pass

1

Pass*

1

Pass

2

Pass

3*

Pass

3NT

Double^

4

Double

All Pass

 

 

* the boring collection becomes a little less boring when North bids clubs.

^ the Panther Double: the auction is limited and more, both suits break badly. It’s time to pounce, maybe they will run.

 

This is fun because the complete hand is:

 

E-W vul

South Deals

A72

A3

J84

AQ1032

Q1094                                6

Q7654                               J982

A5                                     Q1063

74                                      KJ98

KJ853

K10

K972

65

 

Partner leads the seven of clubs and declarer finesses, losing to the king. South wins the heart return in hand to play the ace of spades and another spade. When you show out he wins the king while you throw a diamond. He now tries the ace of clubs and a club ruff and partner overruffs. West cashes the queen of spades and exits with a heart to dummy’s ace. Declarer, desperate, and with no more entries to dummy, tries a diamond to his king. West wins and South’s only other trick is his last trump.

 

South ends up making three spade tricks, two hearts and one club; down four and +800 for East-West. Perhaps declarer could have done better but most humans don’t perform well under pressure.

 

Now be honest. If you had picked up that insignificant looking East hand before reading this article would you have allowed your 800 to slip by? Life has no guarantees and I admit that sometimes the Panther Double can backfire. But you don’t have to worry. If your partner screams after such a disaster, blame me.

 

4. The Psychic Double

 

          I have played with partners that have made psychic doubles of Blackwood responses to keep the opponents out of bidding their makeable slam . Doubling the opponents to keep them out of them slam is quite the coup if you have a resting place to go to if they redouble . This normally happens when partner pre-empts and you have length in her suit . The opponents have a fit and your 10 HCP in your suit is wasted for defensive purposes . You have the advantage that you know this but they do not . Doubling a game to keep them out of slam is a reasonable gamble . Even if they redouble and they bid again it is very hard for then to get to their grand slam when you have doubled them in game !

 

5. Leading declarer to misplay the Trumps

 

          This type of double requires an “ear to the bidding” . The opponents are having a slow invitational auction and they are about to get a horrible trump break .                                                   1      1NT

                                                                                                              2♣      3

                                                                                                              4       ?

   

v

J

Q

J

o

x

J

10

i

x

10

9

d

x

9

8

 

 

x

 

       The odd are that partner has 5 trump . Delclarer does not know this and might start the trumps from the wrong hand . This is an invitational sequence so why  not play with declarers mind and double ? If partner doubles with her 5 trump  it might give the show away and declarer will play the hand accordingly and might get lucky and make it .

 

 

          I made this double in an IMP match a while back and had Pitbull Lorna as a kibitzer . Lorna started to laugh when she saw my double card so she had to leave the table . When the smoke cleared , declarer went for +800 and could have made it if he played my partner for 5 trumps !!