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When not to make a penalty double

When the opponents have reached a contract that you do not think they will make, it might seem sensible to double, thereby scoring more points. But it is not quite so simple - what if they then run to an alternative contract?

South Deals
N-S Vul
A J 10 9
A 6 5 3
J 8 4 2
7
7 4 3
7
7 6 5 3
K J 9 8 3
N
W   E
S
K 8 6 5 2
Q J 10 8
Q 10 6 2
 
Q
K 9 4 2
A K Q 10 9
A 5 4
West North East South
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 4 
Pass 4 NT Pass 5 
Pass 6  Dbl Pass
Pass 7  Dbl Pass
Pass Pass

North bid aggressively to Small Slam via the Blackwood 4 NT convention which asked partner how many aces they possessed (5  showed two). But when East doubled 6 , North reassessed. It was clear East’s s were strong enough to defeat 6  so North tried the effect of making s trumps - even though it meant bidding a Grand Slam. East doubled again - perhaps less confidently - and West led  7.
South won  K, cashed ♣ A, trumped ♣ 4 with  2, led  4 to  9 (noting East discard - ♠ 5), trumped ♣ 5 with  8, and overtook  J with  Q to draw West’s remaining trumps (North discarding  65 to leave ♠ AJ109 and  A). He then led ♠ Q to ♠ A and ran ♠ J - a “ruffing finesse”. East covered with ♠ K (South would have discarded  2 if East had played low), so declarer trumped, crossed to  A and enjoyed ♠ 109. He had actually made his doubled Grand Slam! East was left to rue his double of 6  - he should have passed and quietly defeated the 6  contract with his two trump tricks.

ANDREW’S TIP: Do not double a contract unless you will be happy if they run to an alternative contract.

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