Lead-directing penalty doubles


When the opponents reach their final contract and partner doubles, it’s usually just a normal penalty double that calls for a normal lead. This is the obvious meaning if the opponents are sacrificing or you’ve pushed them into game or slam.

The exception is a "surprise" double made after the opponents have reached a voluntarily bid contract. In these auctions, partner’s double is still penalty, but it may ask for the lead of a specific suit. Bridge has a number of widely accepted rules about the meanings of these unexpected doubles. Here’s a summary of the types of contracts and the lead that partner is requesting with his double: Do

 ♣  Doubles of suit games call for the lead of dummy’s first-bid side suit. This applies only to suits that have been bid naturally. In the auction below, partner wants a club lead:

  LHO  

 Partner

RHO

  You

1C

Pass

1S

Pass

4S

DBL

All Pass   

 

   Doubles of suit slams are Lightner doubles (devised in 1929 by Ted Lightner), which ask for an unusual lead. That eliminates a lead of the unbid suit, a trump or any suits bid by you or partner. The doubler therefore has one of two hand types: a strong holding in dummy’s first suit or a side-suit void, most often in a suit the opponents have bid. 

Based on the auction and your hand, it’s up to you to figure out whether partner wants you to lead through dummy’s suit or lead the suit he can trump. If it’s the latter, you have to work out which suit that is. Absent other clues, your best guess is to lead your longest suit.

The find-my-void meaning is most common when the doubler has preempted. It’s also the obvious conclusion when dummy hasn’t bid any non-trump suits. In most other types of auctions, assume that partner wants you to lead dummy’s first-bid natural suit.

   Doubles of notrump games have four possible lead-directing meanings, depending on the auction. You can figure out what partner wants if you know the standard priority for these messages.
The four types of lead requests, in the order you should consider them, are:

1 - Lead your suit. This applies in any auction where you’ve made a natural bid of a suit, whether partner has passed or raised or bid his own suit. In the auction below, he wants a diamond lead (your suit). Without the double, your natural lead would probably be partner’s suit (a spade), so he would pass if he wanted that lead. 

  LHO  

 Partner

RHO

  You

   

1C

1D

1H

1S

1NT

Pass

3NT

DBL

All Pass   

 

2 – Lead my suit. This meaning takes precedence when the doubler (partner) has bid a suit but opening leader (you) has not. It’s most valuable when partner has opened what could be a 3-card minor, and knows there’s a possibility that you won’t lead his suit without the double. Double says “Lead a club” in this auction:

  LHO  

 Partner

RHO

  You

 

1C

1NT

Pass

3NT

DBL

All Pass

 

One modification you may want to consider is to agree that “Lead my suit” applies only if the doubler opened a minor. In the doubler opened a 5-card major, you would normally lead his suit anyway, so the meaning of his double in this auction can be changed to “Find my other long, strong suit.”

3 - Lead dummy’s first-bid suit.  This is the message in auctions where you and partner have passed and dummy has made a natural suit bid. In the auction below, partner wants a spade lead:

  LHO  

 Partner

RHO

  You

   

1C

Pass

1S

Pass

1NT

Pass

3NT

DBL

All Pass   

 

This meaning also applies if dummy has shown a suit but hasn’t actually named it, as in this auction:

  LHO  

 Partner

RHO

  You

   

2NT

Pass

3C *

Pass

3S

Pass

3NT

DBL

All Pass   

 

Partner is asking you to lead a heart, not a club. LHO’s 3C response was Stayman, which is not a natural suit bid. The Stayman inquiry, though, implies that LHO has a 4-card heart suit, so that’s dummy's natural suit.

4 - Find my suit. When no natural suits were bid by you, partner or dummy – the opponents bid 1NT-3NT, for example -- partner’s double says he has a solid suit (or near-solid suit and an entry) and wants you to figure it out.

Some pairs agree that this unusual double always asks for a club; others specify a heart or spade. Without a prior discussion, though, the doubler could have any suit. Your best strategy is to lead your shorter major that has no honors.

Note that the primary message in all of these auctions is “Don’t make your ‘normal’ lead.” It’s possible that partner just thinks the opponents' game or slam is going down no matter what you lead, but he has to be ready for the unusual lead he requested.


 ©  2016   Karen Walker