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Low-Level Double Reaps Bonanza

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from the Vanderbilt Knockout Team Championship earlier this month in St. Louis, shows the perils of overcalling on marginal values. South, who shall remain nameless, decided to overcall one notrump after East’s one-heart opening. Ostensibly this showed 16 to 18 HCP, but South was not one to quibble about a missing point. West doubled, correctly reasoning that his side held more high cards and therefore should win more tricks at notrump. South dug his grave deeper by running to two clubs, and West again doubled — a little happier this time. The ensuing bloodbath was hard to believe.

2 C× South
N-S Vul
S 8 7 4
H 9 7 5 3
D K 10 9 4
C 10 3
1 H
1 NT
2 C
S K 9 6 5 3
H 4
D Q 7 3
C A 9 4 2
TableS 10 2
H A Q J 8 2
D A 8 5 2
C Q 5

Lead: H 4
H K 10 6
D J 6
C K J 8 7 6


West led his singleton heart to the ace, and East shifted to the spade ten; jack, king. West returned a spade to South’s ace, and a club was led to the 10 and queen. East returned the heart queen; king, ruff; then East ruffed the spade return. The heart jack was cashed (West threw a diamond), and the next heart lead was ruffed by South with the king. West was not lured to overruff with the ace but instead discarded a spade to promote his trump holding.

South, hoping the outstanding clubs would fall together, led a club to West’s nine; then West cashed the club ace before leading a spade to force South to ruff with his last trump. East won the last two tricks with the diamond ace and a heart to complete the debacle. South was held to just three tricks — that’s down five, minus 1400 points.

There are two good lesson pointers here. First, notice how West capitalized on South’s intervention. Many players get away with bids like South’s because of less enterprising opposition. Low-level contracts provide many missed opportunities for penalty doubles.

Second, South used poor judgment in overcalling — he held sketchy values; balanced distribution; his partner was a passed hand; and he was vulnerable. In fact he got what he deserved… for a change.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek