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The “Rule of Sixteen”

Sometimes - often - you can gain more by penalising the opponents than by making your own contract. This is particularly true when an opponent has opened 1 NT. Any hand, balanced or otherwise, with sixteen or more points should double 1 NT. This is a "Penalty" double and unless partner is particularly weak with a long suit (in which case he will remove the double) he is expected to Pass.

The carnage can be horrific, especially when the doubler has a long suit to lead…

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

There are those who would claim that South should not open 1 NT (12-14), as he holds two suits unstopped. I am not one of them - a 1 NT opener is by far the most descriptive opening bid and only occasionally results in trouble.

West led  A and played out all his five remaining s, East discarding ♠ 2, ♠ 3, ♠ 6 and ♣ 2, ♣ 3. By throwing low cards in the suits he didn't want, East signalled for s whilst retaining all five of them. West switched to  6 to  J and  Q, and East accurately returned ♠ 8. West beat declarer's ♠ 10 with ♠ Q. He cashed ♠ A and led  2. East beat dummy's  4 with  10, cashed  A felling dummy's  K, and took the last two tricks with  83.

Declarer had not made a single trick, losing 2000 points. Rather better for East-West than bidding and making their own contract!

THE RULE OF SIXTEEN: If an opponent opens 1 NT and you have sixteen + points, you must double - a penalty double.

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