Tuesday, November 29, 2005 3:07 AM

Scrambling 2NT




            Some people play the game of Bridge by way of rote rules or platitudes. One of the worst of these platitudes is “do not pull my penalty doubles” . Beginners are told to live by this rule as they have yet to develop any Bridge judgment. Penalty doubles must be pulled if the situation warrants it ! You use criteria like vulnerability , expected compensation & possible bigger & better things as considerations for pulling a penalty double. You leave in doubles if based on your bidding you hold what partner can reasonably expect . I was playing with a tormentee who opened 1 vul on AKxxxx KJxx void Axx   and RHO bid 2NT also vulnerable. I doubled and the bid went around to the 2NT bidder who bid 3 which I doubled. Do you leave in the double ?


          3X is definitely going down as you have 3 defensive tricks. You have a diamond void so they are getting a bad trump break. With the penalty compensate for your sure vulnerable game or possible slam ? Diamond duplication of value will probably prevent a slam . Can you make game your way ? Probably guaranteed as you have extra and partner shows a good hand. Therefore the set must be in the +800 range for a good board. You have an offensive playing hand instead of a defensive hand. The void in diamonds is a deterrent in defense as you can not switch to a trump and probably more diamonds are going to appear on the board. I pull this double and apologize to partner if it is wrong.


 Many players pull doubles because they are ashamed of their opener. This is the last reason to pull a penalty double. This could be your only chance for a plus as game is now iffy. If you opened on 11 HCP but you have your defensive tricks this is an excellent time to leave the double in. You pull doubles with offensive hands not weak hands. Partner can not “reasonably expect” that you have a 5-5 or a 6-4 or a 7 card suit which are playing hands. These are the hands where penalty doubles are routinely pulled. Partner announces shortness in your 1st suit but she may have length in your 2nd suit which kills your hand defensively. Partner can reasonably expect a light opener as they come with the territory.


You open 1♣ with a nice playing hand and your 2 playing tricks xx KJxx x AKxxxx and LHO overcalls 1NT which I doubled. Do you leave in the double ? Do you have a hand that partner can reasonable expect with a 1♣ opener ? You have an offensive playing hand. If partner leads a diamond or a spade she will not be happy. Discretion is the better part of valor so I pull to 2♣. I held AJxxx Axxx Ax xx and thought that 1NTX was in the 1100 range when my partner passed. A 6 card diamond suit appeared on the board and they did not pull the double to 2 . They made +180 when my spade lead was a disaster. We have a shot at 6 our direction !


I play 2NT as an impossible bid in these auctions where partner has pulled your double of 1NT. You never want to play a hand in 2NT invitational with a strong 1NT to your right. If you wanted to invite to game you would simply bid 3♣. A jump in a suit should be forcing and a simple bid at the two level non forcing. I would bid 2NT as saying “describe your hand further” and lets scramble to our best spot . You bid 3 and I would bid 4 and we get +650 instead of –180. Pulling doubles is “scrambling” in any sense of the world


I was playing with BJ Trelford against the wiley Lee Barton . In 3rd seat Lee opened 1NT which BJ doubled for penalty and Lucille made a punitive redouble. I held xxxx Qxx KJ9x Ax so the auction had a distinct odour to it. As expected Lee pulled to 2 which got passed around to me . I doubled and Lee bid 2 and around to me. Doubling 2 is not a good bid as it appears that his escape suit is quite solid when BJ could not double. Enter the scrambling 2NT bid . I could not have spade values or they would be playing the contract doubled. You do not have the luxury of a natural invitational 2NT in these auctions.  BJ bids 3 after your 2NT , which described the nature of his double so I carry on to 4 for +620.


If they escape to a suit and neither one of us can double , a 2NT bid is also scrambling saying lets find our fit. We bid are suits up the line until we find our fit as in all scrambling auctions. 2NT & 2♣ are the two most widely known bids for scrambling purposes. The SOS redouble is another tool of the scrambling trade.