Troubles with Redoubles Ė Part I  (September 2003)

Years ago, I entered a national event with a new partner, Phil Warden of Madison WI. I knew Phil was a fine player, but I didnít know how great his ďtable feelĒ was until this deal:

East-West vulnerable

   West      North     East      South
   Pass        1S            2D          Pass
   Pass        DBL       RDBL      Pass
   Pass        ???

As North, what would you call holding  S- AKJ965   H-K104  D-2   C- K83 ?

If you chose 2S, you made the same bid as our opponent. This was the final contract, which made an overtrick, but a pass would have scored +1600! South, who held QJ1096 of diamonds, was planning to pass the double for penalties. He thought he was communicating the same intention when he passed the redouble, but his partner misunderstood.

Phil, who was East, had made a psychic redouble holding AK853 of diamonds and a balanced 13 points. He knew he had made a risky matchpoint overcall, and when he heard the ominous Pass-Pass-Double, he guessed that he was about to pay dearly for it. He tried the desperate redouble in the hope that the opponents would be confused and let him off the hook, and thatís just what happened.

Would Philís gamble have paid off at your table? Itís true that psychic redoubles are rare, and you may never have to contend with one. This auction, though, is a good example of the type of disaster that can ensue if you arenít clear on the meanings of your calls after a redouble.

What does a pass of a redouble show?

Many redouble auctions are fairly common and your calls have standard meanings. Still, some pairs have problems even with these simple auctions:

       RHO      You        LHO       Partner  

(1)    1D        DBL       RDBL       Pass

(2)     --          --            1D           Pass
        Pass      DBL       RDBL        Pass

Is partnerís pass for penalty, showing a desire to defend 1D redoubled? Or is it noncommittal, showing no preference for a trump suit?

You may know players who swear the pass in (1) shows a diamond stack. If your partner is one of them, do your best to talk him out of it.

The widely accepted meaning of this pass is that itís noncommittal, suggesting a weak hand without significant length in an unbid suit. It could even be a hand with no biddable suit at all, such as  S-J62  H- 1053  D-9843  C- K75. This pass is forcing, and if your RHO passes, you should bid your cheapest 4-card suit.

Note that if partner bids a suit here, he does not promise values. With  S-J6  H- 10532  D-9843  C- K75, heíll bid 1H to show his preference for a trump suit. He canít afford to pass the decision to you and hear 1S.

In (2), partnerís pass should be penalty. Heís telling you he was going to pass 1D doubled, and now that itís redoubled, so much the better. A good partner will never pass here out of sheer fear. If he didnít have strong diamonds, he would bid something.

So how do you tell the difference?  The meaning depends on where the passer is sitting in relation to the opponent who showed length in the suit. If you make a takeout double and an opponent redoubles:

The theory here is simple. Youíre more likely to want to penalize a low-level contract if your trumps are offside (over the opponentís suit). In (1), partner is under the diamond bidder, so his trumps are onside. In (2), his trumps are in a stronger position, making a penalty pass more attractive. This is the principle that would apply to the auction at the beginning of this article.

These guidelines work best in low-level auctions. If the bidding is at the 3-level or higher, itís safer to agree that all passes of redoubles say you want to defend.

Test your skills

Here are more auctions where partnerís pass has put you in the hot seat. Do you bid or pass?

         LHO      Partner     RHO      You

(3)     1D           Pass         1H          DBL
         RDBL      Pass         Pass          ?

(4)       1S         Pass         2S            DBL
         RDBL      Pass         Pass           ?

(5)      --             1C          1H           DBL *       * (negative)
         RDBL       Pass        Pass         ?

(6)     --             --            1NT         Pass       
        2D*          Pass         2H           DBL           * (transfer)
        RDBL       Pass         Pass          ?

(3)  Bid your longer suit (or 1S with equal length). Partner is under the heart bidder, so his pass is noncommittal, which suggests equal length in your suits.

(4)  Pass. Partner is sitting over the spade length and wants to defend.

(5)  Bid something. You can also apply these principles in negative-double auctions. Bridge logic tells you itís unlikely partner wants to defend, and the guideline confirms this. Unless you have a heart stack, you should make your natural rebid, keeping in mind that partnerís ďnothing-to-sayĒ pass suggests he does not hold 4 spades or 6 clubs.

(6) Pass. Although partner is under the hand that actually bid 2H, his trumps are over the hand that showed the heart length.

 ©  2005 Karen Walker