“Takeout doubles are meant to be taken out.”

Thus spoke Edgar Kaplan, but it doesn’t always work.

We played many bizarre hands at the regional tournament in Rye Brook, NY, on MLK Weekend, but one really has stuck in my craw. Neither side was vulnerable. LHO opened 1, my partner doubled, and RHO passed. The cards that appeared in my left hand literally stupefied me.

K Q J 10 9       A J    Q J 10 9 x       x

What kind of hand could my partner have? He probably had at most one spade, and if so he could have as few as eleven high-card points. Nevertheless, it was easy to picture him with a hand that would seem minimal to him but could produce twelve tricks opposite mine. I decided to bid 3, the strongest bid I could make. If he responded in clubs, I planned to correct to diamonds.

My partner quickly drew the 4 card from the bidding box and laid it on the table. At first I wondered why he was in such a hurry to get to game. Then I realized that if hearts were his best suit, he had no choice. I could not figure out any sensible way to proceed.

Here was his hand:

A 9 x       Q x x x       A x x       K x x

I would not have doubled with his hand, but the fact that he did gave us a truly amazing opportunity. At the other table our opponents brought in eleven tricks with spades as trump. I think that our teammates could have implemented a better defense, but after our bidding fiasco I was not about to mention it.

Yes, LHO opened a five-card suit headed by the eight, and, yes, RHO was void in spades.

Mel Colchamiro has published a tool called the Rule of Nine. It is used to evaluate whether to leave in a takeout double by one’s partner. You can read about it here. I have never had a hand that scored an eleven on his scale before. If I had bothered to think of this instead of being dazzled by the slam that I envisioned, I would have passed the double, and, assuming we played as well as our counterparts at the other table, we would have scored +1400 instead of -200.

I was quite familiar with this rule, but my hand looked so potentially powerful to me that I did not even consider leaving the double in. This may be the most egregious blunder that I have ever made in bidding.

Incredibly, I got a chance to atone for my sins the very next day. This time LHO opened 2, my partner doubled, and RHO passed. My diamond suit was not quite as good as on the previous day – K Q 10 9 x – but it easily qualified for a pass using the Rule of Nine.

This time, however, my partner was the one who was void in the trump suit, and the opponents scrambled for eight tricks. We had another embarrassing number to report to our teammates.

These two hands were not the only hands in which weak two bids led to our demise in the tournament. In one case my partner bid 2, and we never found our spade fit. In another he opened a ten-point hand with six diamonds at the one level, and we ended up too high. There were other examples, too. It seemed that for three days whenever a weak two bid was made, we got the shaft.

Bridge is like that. Some days you are the pigeon. Some days you are the statue.

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