Wednesday, January 14, 2004 6:59 AM

Hand Evaluation – Balancing ( Re-opening Doubles )
            Before negative doubles , everybody  played direct penalty doubles. The rule for leaving in the direct penalty double was do you have what partner can reasonably expect for an opening bid with respect to quick tricks ? If so , you passed the penalty double & if not , you pulled. In more modern Bridge , negative doubles were invented so re-opening doubles were re-defined. A re-opening double was designed to protect partner’s penalty double. It does not show any extra as partners penalty pass is unlimited. I just cringe when players think they must have extra to double in the re-opening chair. No , you are just bidding partner’s penalty double pass . It is that simple.
        Negative Double theory “plays the vulnerability” . Partner will not trap with a huge hand  you vul vrs not so you do need extra in the re-opening chair on that one vulnerability scenario only. You are no longer protecting partner’s penalty double as she does not have a huge hand. She would have bid some number of NT directly on that vulnerability. You are merely announcing your own good hand with a re-opening double.
             A double in the re-opening spot is never penalty no matter what the auction or  what level. Even if you do not play competitive doubles , a re-opening double says I want to compete again.



 2♠-P-P-X          says I am maximum for my bid & I do not want to sell out.
            Even when partner has opened 1NT , a re-opening double is not penalty. This is simply an application of the over/under rule based on frequency.


  P-P-X               This is not a penalty double but a “re-opening double” announcing “cards” . Partner can convert if she wishes.
            Some European pairs play “inverted doubles” when they own the hand. Playing those methods a direct double & a re-opening double both show shortness. A direct pass in those auctions says I may have their suit  so you double to protect partner’s pass. When you do not own the auction , the rules are different . When you have a trump stack in their suit in the re-opening seat , this means that partner has a stiff & took no action. This is a clue for you to do the same , so let’s defend an undoubled contract.
        Minimum equal level conversion definitely applies over direct takeout doubles as Meckwell invented them for that purpose. Spurning traditional T/O bidding methods , I feel that minimum equal level conversion should apply also in balancing situations & re-opening situations with negative doubles. This is to scramble after your off shape double does not converted.
            Our philosophy of balancing doubles matches that of re-opening doubles in negative double theory . In negative double theory , you bend over backwards to double in case partner has a penalty double conversion. In my mind , there is no difference in the balancing seat . You bend over backwards to double , in case partner has trapped with their suit. Therefore , a double in the balancing has to be treated with caution . It is going to have 10 HCP’s & up but it might not have the ideal shape . If having partner pass the double is a disaster ,  Q bid instead to show the balancing distributional rock .
            O.K. whenever you have defense in the balancing chair , you will tend to double . ♠xx AKxx QJ10xx ♣xx , it goes 1♠ & around to you , I feel a double is right is case partner has a spade trap. What if partner bids 2♣ ? Minimum equal level conversion to the rescue . You bid 2 which at the same level does not show extra. This is not an auction where you are too strong to balance 2 a la Goren. These strong hands can be bid by other means .
            Let us review all the traditional heart balances over a spade opener. 2 is just a bid . 3 is an intermediate jump with a single suit . A double followed by a 2 bid is a hand traditionally in the 16 HCP range probable only 5 cards and another suit . A double followed by a 3 jump would be up in the 18-20 range and a Q bid followed by hearts is a game force demand 2 type of heart hand .
             I feel you do not need the double followed by a 2 bid to show a good hand . If the suit is good , bid 3 going in & if the suit is not good , choose another bid . 2 should be equal level conversion to encourage re-opening doubles with a 5 card heart suit with defense for partners penalty conversion. You cannot have it both ways . You want to re-open or balance with a double to catch speeders. If you miss “getting” them,  there is no reason to play in an inferior partial because you might show a strong hand.
             Re-opening doubles playing negative doubles or in the  balancing spot ,  cater to punishing the opponents first & describing your distribution second !  People who open weak 2’s on any kind of  suit escape horrendous sets time after time because partnerships under use the double card in the balancing chair . Catching them speeding is easy . Think double as your first bid & other bids only if you cannot stand a penalty pass. Partner will give you leeway with your off shape balances . Off shape doubles will be more frequent than huge hands in the re-opening chair anyway. Very simple.
            In order to encourage this practice of doubling with off shape hands to catch bad pre-empters, minimum equal level conversion must apply in these balancing sequences also . There are always other ways to describe hands that are strong . Upping the level is an easy out to describe them.
            I had a hand with Tom in Pentiction , Jx AQxx AJ9xx ♣xx & LHO opened 2♠ so around to you in the balancing seat.. You double so partner bids 3♣ which is alerted as constructive. I passed & we went two down vul in our 4-2 club fit cold for 130 in diamonds. 330 is a lot of IMPS to waste. Minimum equal level  conversion to the rescue , so you bid 3 . What if you did have a diamond rock in the balancing spot ? Say Jx AQxx AKQ10xx ♣x with the auction going the same way . You can always bid 3♠ to ask him to bid 3NT after your double & if he does not ,  bidding diamonds at the 4 level will now show this hand. Good hands take care of themselves.
            Susan held AQxxx KJxxx Jx ♣A  & opened 1♠ in 4th seat vul vrs not with a passed hand 2♣ overcall by LHO . Do you re-open with 2 or 3 or a double ? This hand needs more for a 3 bid so your choice is between a double & 2. The vulnerability & 5-5 point to a 2 call but your controls dictate otherwise. You have 3 quick tricks with the 1 ½  , ½ , 1 combination so that is very adequate defense if partner passes your double.  You double & partner does pass & 2♣X loses 2♠ tricks & a ruff , 2 tricks & possibly 3 more trump tricks for 500 .  Partner held ♠xx AQx xxx ♣J98xx so a game your way is anti-percentage but with these meager values will never invite game if you re-open with a mere 2 bid anyway. Good hands start with a double as Klimo has been known to say.
            Do not forget that partner is doing her best to protect your penalty double with a re-opening double of their 2♠ bid after partner's 1 opener. You have ♠J9xx x  Qxxxxxxx , partner does not need extra for her double. In matchpoints , you can go for the throat & convert ( it’s only a zero if it does not work) . In IMPS , bid a scrambling 2NT to avoid a disaster. You are nv vrs vul so discretion is the better part of valour.