Roger Lee on Doubles Part 2

Mark Feldman, Roger Lee, Billy Pollack & Nik Demirev
Mark Feldman, Roger Lee, Billy Pollack & Nik Demirev

Source: BBO NEWS    Want to read Part 1 Click here

NOTE: This lesson is for intermediate-advanced level. In many cases, this is going to fly against what old-fashioned textbooks about bridge have to say. I don’t mind this, and I don’t mind if you do not adopt what I have to say. It’s more important to listen to the thought process and decide what style of bridge you would like to play. The most important thing about bidding is to keep an open mind. Bridge has changed a lot in the last 30 years. For me (as you will see), my preferred style happens to be a very aggressive style where I like to bid on lots of hands.

Today I want to talk a little bit about bidding over preempts. I’ll be going over some basics that I think are important and what kind of things I look at when deciding if I should double (or bid).

Bidding over preempts can be very difficult. No amount of system or judgment is going to save you from the occasional silly result when they preempt.

When they preempt, we have four goals, roughly in order of importance

  1. Compete for the partial (in our best strain)
  2. Bid a game or slam (in our best strain)
  3. Penalize them
  4. Sacrifice against their game (applies most when they preempt 4M)

If you prefer to play a style with a lot of penalty doubles when the opponents preempt, you can do so somewhat effectively, but I would advise against it, since it stresses goal 3 while ignoring the others.

Let me start with a hand I played offline recently that we did not do particularly well on. North was Michael Seamon, west was John Diamond, and east was Geoff Hampson on this deal — three of the best players in the USA:

Would you double with the south hand?

The major suit holdings are attractive, but at the end of the day we have a balanced 10 count. I think pass is quite clear, since not having a singleton club is a huge negative — if partner also does not have a singleton club, and does not have the values to act, we very likely should be defending.

This is one of the biggest things to realize when bidding over preempts:

  • When we both have length, it is better to be a little conservative since we have losers in their suit
  • When one of us has shortness, it pays to bid if it’s reasonable.

Move one of my clubs to diamonds and now doubling is quite clear. This may surprise some of you, but the onus on bidding is the one with shortness. When you are short with strong major suit holdings, it pays to stretch a little.

Notice I did not even discuss the possibility of bidding 4. While it is normal to show a 5 card suit rather than double, when they preempt, it’s a good idea to make the most flexible action. Doubling allows the possibility of defending 4X or playing in diamonds, hearts, or spades — all of which we would be okay with if we had 4=5=3=1 pattern. I will talk a bit more about this later.

West now made a great pressure bid that I don’t think most people would find… 5!

Now look at it from north’s side.

  • Partner has failed to act and the opponents have bid a game. It’s true that we have two aces, but it’s not 100% that they are cashing, and it’s also unclear if we were making anything anyway.
  • Double also risks partner pulling to 5, something we definitely do not want to hear.
  • Bidding 5 or 5 aren’t serious options with such bad suits.
  • All in all, pass is a reasonable option, which is what happened.

The table result is we defended 5-3 while we would probably make 6 had we been in it. Bridge can be a tough game.

Two things to take away from this hand were

  1. When both you and your partner are conservative over a preempt, you pay the price. This is why it’s good to aggressively compete after they preempt, particularly with shortness.
  2. Spades plays significantly better than hearts on this hand. This is why we double rather than bid a suit if it is at all reasonable to do so.

When should we double their opening preempt?
In direct seat, a very rough, general rule is that if you feel you have a very normal double (where you aren’t stretching) at the 1 level, you should double the preempt.

The west hand is what I would call a pretty minimum but normal takeout double of a 1 opener, so I would also double 2 here but consider it an absolute minimum.

However, I would pass a 3 or 4 opener with the west hand, our hand is just not good enough to enter the bidding at that level. I would need about an extra queen to double 3and another to double 4.

Notice on the actual hand that doubling is a…Click here to continue reading.