PENALTY
DOUBLE

First of all, a review of the Take-Out Double. The Take-Out Double is a low-level double under certain circumstances requesting your partner to bid an unbid suit as a means of obtaining the contract after realizing that your opponents have reached their best contract, which then increases your chances of obtaining a better score.

The Penalty Double is just that, for penalty points. In discussing Penalty Doubles, there are several elements one must consider. In the world of bridge, these Penalty Doubles have been given names to differentiate them from other doubles. You and your partner should become acquainted with them, and then make them a part of your written partnership agreement.

As with all doubles, the vulnerability and position at the table become the deciding factors in making this call. Many bridge players play from instinct and a perhaps gut feel for the cards, but the more advanced players understand well the significance of the different doubles and base their bidding on experience, understanding that their opponents have overbid their hands, realizing that their opponents are stretching their luck, and logic. Following are several general guidelines which can prove helpful in understanding the significance of the double by your partner.

xPositive Doubles


South

x

West

x

North

x

East

Preempt on the 3 Level
Preempt on the 4 Level
Weak Two Bid
No Trump

x

Take-Out
Double

x

pass

x

pass

East converts Take-Out
Double into Penalty Double.
East may have long Trump.

Let us assume that South has the following hand:

South
5
KQ765432
Q87
8
3

West doubles for Takeout.
North has 2-card Heart support = 9 Trump, and passes, thinking 3 doubled = game.
East converts the Take-Out Double of his/her partner into a Penalty Double.
East has AJ109 in addition to the values of his/her partner.
East converts the Take-Out Double of his/her partner into a Penalty Double.

South must decide what to do.
South has described his hand accurately enough.
South can not escape to any other suit.
In this case, South should accept the double, which becomes a Positive Double.

xLow-Level Doubles


South

West

North

East

1

1

Double

If North doubles after his Partner opens and there is an intervening overcall, the double of North is almost always a Negative Double. See Negative Doubles.

If this is not your partnership understanding, then you have a different partnership agreement. The double of North then becomes a Penalty Double, and then, in general, the following guidelines apply.

1. Pass the Low-Level Double with at least 3 Quick Tricks in defense. Make that educated guess whether you can score better in defending than in competing for the contract.

2. Re-enter the bidding with less than 3 Quick Tricks in defense. Ascertain first the trick-taking ability of your trumps and then make a judgment call.

3. Re-enter the bidding almost always with an unbid 5-card suit. In this case, your distribution will be the key to a successful contract after you have described your hand to your partner.

4. After considering all of the guidelines above, there is still one more thing which you must contemplate. The question is: if you are on lead, will your lead be crucial to successfully bringing home the doubled contract, thereby giving your team the better score.

5. A double of a 1 No Trump opening also becomes a Penalty Double, and not a Take-Out Double. This overcall is usually made with any hand containing 10 high card points or more. Invariably the opponents have the majority of the points, but if the partner of the 1 No Trump bidder decides to pass on a borderline hand, then the doubled contract does not equal game. However, if the partner of the 1 No Trump bidder decides to redouble, then you or your partner have to perform a save.

xGame Doubles


If, during the auction, you realize that the opponents have reached a game contract, which is obviously a mistake in their bidding, a double is for penalty. Your objective is to gain as many points as possible from your opponents by defeating the contract. This Penalty Double is based on an educated estimation of length and strength of the hands of the opponents from the auction, and not an uncalculated risk. It could be that the opponents are attempting a save, or have escaped to another suit which you have already doubled for penalty.

The Penalty Double of a game contract is based on an educated estimation and visualization of their card holdings. If there has been no intervening bid by you or your partner, then a Penalty Double is not a wise choice because you have no picture of the holding of your partner. You must have a visual picture of the holding of your opponents and their distribution. Offering a Penalty Double based solely on the amount of high card points is not good bridge. If you hold 4 Quick Tricks in the Major suit game contract of your opponents, then, of course, a Penalty Double is called for. A Penalty Double should always be based on the visualization of the holding of your opponents, and not on guts on instinct.

It is always good bridge to discuss these different doubles with your partner before sitting down at the bridge table. They are good tools to have and to understand. They must, however, be understood, because the meaning of a double can change its meaning throughout the auction period. Your partner should be aware of this eventual change in meaning and adjust his bidding accordingly. The significance and interpretation of doubles should be ultimately included in your written Partnership Agreement.

If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.