Hi! I’ve actually been playing a lot, but blogging not so much (as you may have noticed!).
I asked about this hand in the post mortem on Bridge Base, and I also flogged it around at a recent bridge night. It seems like a poster child for the takeout double. Sitting South, you pick up:
All vulnerable, dealer North
Partner (North) passes, and East bids one diamond. Double, right? Some folks on Bridge Base bid one heart, but then they got left there after three passes. I doubled, but then West bid three diamonds. So far as I knew, this was trying to bully us out of the contract. North and East both passed, and I went into something of a natter. I didn’t want to double again – for all I know they could make three diamonds. I had first round control of their suit, but possibly three losers in clubs.
Finally, I threw caution to the wind and bid four hearts. West led the jack of spades, and dummy came down:
The three diamonds bid did good work – North would no doubt have bid one spade otherwise, leading to game in that suit. As it stood, game is cold in either. Not for me, of course – I mucked it up. I won the first trick, cashed the ace of diamonds, led the five to the jack of hearts, and cashed the king of diamonds, discarding a club. I opted to finesse the ten of spades but it turns out the jack was a singleton and not the top of a run and West ruffed. Club to East, another spade ruff, and another club set the contract.
So, bad decision not to draw trumps first. If instead, after the king of diamonds, I had played the three of hearts back to the ace, I would discover that the worst trumps could do was break 4-2. As it turns out, they were 3-3. So another round of trumps, everyone follows, king of spades, discovering that West is out. So East started with three, and the third one is the queen. After I lose the next spade, I can ruff a diamond, and I can only lose two clubs before being back in with a spare trump and a winning spade.
But that nine-card fit in spades was annoying, and I found myself wondering if Michaels wouldn’t have been better. So, pass, one diamond, two diamonds. As my teacher likes to put it, this is the “most descriptive lie” available. Over three diamonds, I think North (with second round control in opponent’s suit) would probably bid game in spades. Then the only question is whether West goes to game in diamonds (after all, I have represented a far weaker hand than I actually have). If he does, it’s an easy double, this time for penalties, and the result should be down some large number. If he doesn’t, then the finesse is right in trumps and it’s an easy game.
I think on the whole the double is the right play, because it more effectively describes your shape. But that jump raise by West was fiendish. At least two N/S pairs allowed the three diamonds to stand, and collected scores far underneath the top.
Depending on your agreements regarding Michaels (for example, you could adjust the acceptable minimum points to use it), it might be a pretty handy tool for just this type of situation.