The Extended Support Double

Zach Brescoll and I had the following defensive disaster at the club the last time we played together in what was otherwise a very good game.    See if you can do better than I did.

Playing West (the hands are rotated), with our opponents vulnerable, I picked up the following pretty collection:

180815_West_Only

Following 3 passes to me, I opened 1 (which in our system just showed 11-15 HCP with no 5-card major), South overcalled 1♠, Zach made a negative double showing 4+ hearts and North bid 2♣.  I made the obvious jump to 3 (showing 6+ diamonds and 14-15 HCP).  South passed as did my partner.  North, my right-hand-opponent bid 3♠.

What should I do know?

Obviously I’m going to bid again but what?  4 was the safe choice but did I have some other options?  In our style, I did.  A double here would show a sound opening and leave the decision to Zach as to what to do to.  I liked this option — having already showed 6+ diamonds by my 3bid, my double would give Zach the option of rebidding his hearts with 5, taking me to 4 diamonds without 5 hearts, or, if he thought we could set the contract, passing.  Defending the contract doubled with opponents vulnerable was particularly attractive so long as we could manage the set, since unless we could make 5, setting the contract at 200 a trick would be a top board.

So I doubled.  South passed.  Zach thought for an uncharacteristically long eight seconds and then passed.  So the final contract was 3♠ doubled.

Zach led the 3 and the following distressingly strong dummy came down:

180815_West_Dummy

I took the A and considered my options.  I counted 3 tricks only — my two Aces and a heart (presuming my partner at least had the Q).  To set the contract, I had to start by placing  Zach with at least the ♣A or A.  I was pretty sure he had one or the other, otherwise he would not have enough values for his negative double.

But that would not be enough.  That’s only 4 tricks.  I would also have to get a club ruff for our 5th trick.   How would I manage that?

Obviously, I had to get to Zach’s hand while I still had a trump.  So I shifted to the K, declarer taking the A, Zach playing the encouraging 4.  Good — Zach has the Q.  He must also have the ♣A for his negative double and so we are still in the running here.

Declarer played a low spade to the ♠K.  I took my ♠A immediately.  Here are the exposed hands after I’m in with the ♠A.

180815_After_4

Now I was at a cross-roads.  I needed to continue in a manner that Zach would know to shift to a club when he got in.  If he shifts to a club, it is down 1 for a top.  But if he does not shift to a club, it’s a bottom board for sure.  But how could I communicate that message to him?  The hand absolutely depends on me getting this right.  Click on the link below for the answer.

After some thought, I lead the ♥2, concealing the ♥J, in the hopes that Zach would figure it out.  He could not.  He played a 3rd heart expecting me to ruff.  When I did not, a dark cloud crossed his face, and the doubled contract made.  So much for a bottom board which cost us a 1st or 2nd place finish for the day.

What should I have done?  A confession.  When I asked you:  “But how could I communicate that message to him?” when deciding what to lead after the fourth trick, I posed a trick question.  Because by that time, there was no possible way I could communicate to Zach that I had three, not two, hearts, and that I was pining for a club shift.   It was already too late.

I would have had a better chance of persuading Zach to shift to a club had I led a low heart, instead of the K, after I took the A.  Then, perhaps, Zach would figured out to later overtake my next heart (which would have been the J) with his Q, and play a club as he would have known I started with a tripleton, not a doubleton, heart

But defending in this manner asks for alot.  Truth be told, Zach patiently explained to me that I had blown this hand during the bidding.  Let’s review the bidding:

180815_Bidding

My partner’s double of the 1♠ overcall was negative, showing 4+ hearts. 

Zach explained that instead of jumping to 3 after my right-hand-opponent had bid 2♣, I should have doubled the 2♣ overcall.  This would not have been a penalty or take-out double, but would have been a support double showing exactly 3 hearts.

When Zach explained this, it was as if a bolt of lightening struck me.  I had not heard of this expansion of the support double convention.  But it makes perfect sense.  Just as the sequence 1 – pass – 1 – 2♣ – dbl would be a support double showing exactly 3 hearts, so to should the sequence 1 – 1♠ – dbl – 2♣ – dbl show exactly 3 hearts.  My partner’s negative double over 1♠ shows 4 or more hearts (either 4 hearts with a weak hand or 5+ hearts with less than invitational values) exactly like his 1 bid does in the 1st sequence and so there was no reason why a double of 2♣ in this sequence should be anything other than a support double. 

But what about my 7-card diamond suit?  Shouldn’t that take bidding priority?  Not to worry.  My double would have been forcing for 1 round and so if we didn’t have a good fit in hearts, I could have always shown my long diamonds later.  A jump to 4 would have gotten the message across.  There was no need to rebid the diamonds right away.

Had I bid in this fashion, Zach would have known exactly what to do.  Knowing that I started with three hearts, he knows that I can’t ruff the 3rd round but that declarer can and will ruff (the board having initially held 4 hearts).   With nothing better to do, Zach would have cashed the ♣A, noted my void, and then given me a ruff.  Down 1 for a top!

So now in my bidding system, the final double in the sequence 1 – 1♠ – dbl – 2♣ – dbl shows exactly 3 hearts.  How about 1 – 1 – dbl – 2♣ – dbl?  Does that show exactly 3 spades?  Or since my partner showed no more than 4 spades (he would have been 1♠ over 1 holding 5) is there any point showing just 3 spades?  And how about 1♣ – 1 – dbl – 2 – dbl?  The first double promised 4-4 in the majors.  What does the final double show?  Not having figured out either of these issues myself, I will leave these questions for another day.

— Tom Hunt

 

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