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Source: May 2016 ACBL Bridge Bulletin   Spade Suit Heart Suit Diamond Suit club suit

The value of a bridge hand, like currency, often fluctuates with events. At the bridge table, those events are the progress of the auction. Let’s say you pickup:

Neither side vulnerable, partner opens 2Spade Suit and RHO doubles. Is this still a meager 5-point hand?

The Spade SuitQ is a valuable filler, the spade support is excellent, the Diamond SuitK is enhanced because the doubler will often hold the Diamond SuitA, the club singleton is obviously useful, and the heart length also bodes well. Assign the doubler four hearts, and it is easy to visualize partner’s likely heart shortness. In effect, you have good news in every suit.

Jump to 4Spade Suitand don’t be surprised to make it, even if you are doubled. For example, give partner:

If the Diamond SuitA is onside, partner rates to lose one heart, one diamond, and one club – ruffing his other minor suit losers before drawing trump. Meanwhile, the opponents can make a minor-suit game. If they reach 5club suit or 5Diamond Suit, continue to 5Spade Suit for a cheap sacrifice. This may seem like a lot of bidding for a 5-point hand, but straw has been transformed into gold. This hand has become The Little Engine That Could.

Now, suppose you are dealt:

Your side is vulnerable, LHO opens 1Heart Suit, partner passes, and RHO bids a game-forcing 2club suit. Does this qualify as a bidding problem? If your reaction is, “2Spade Suit – what else?” then Houston, we do have a problem. You have 15 HCP and a moderate six-card major; how can it be wrong to bid 2Spade Suit, you may ask.

First of all, how much strength do you expect from partner? There are opening bids at your left and right, leaving partner with next to nothing. Second, are your honor cards well-placed? Their location could hardly be worse; the heart suit lies over your tenace, and your doubletonclub suitQ rates to be useless. Let’s say you find partner with a great buy under the circumstances:

If your side saves in 4Spade Suit over 4Heart Suit , expect to lose one spade, two hearts, one diamond, and two clubs, far too expensive. Perhaps you now concede that it is too dangerous to bid, but what about lead direction against 3NT? There, you might have a point. However, if partner is a fine player, with a hopeless hand he will try to find your length because you hold the defense’s entries. Expect a spade lead, likely partner’s shortest unbid suit, with fair frequency. If your 2Spade Suit intervention runs into a trump stack on your left, how likely is it that 2Spade Suit will be doubled, especially in this day and age of amorphous or DSI (Do Something Intelligent) doubles?

Warning: After a 2/1 response, double by opener should be penalty.

There is no need for a support, general strength, or takeout double. Because the 2/1 bid guarantees that the auction will continue, both opener and responder can easily describe other features, such as three-card support or second suits, on subsequent rounds. But when opener holds length and strength in the overcalled suit, plus a misfit for responder, double is the ticket.

If responder has a reasonably balanced hand without a fit for opener, 2Spade Suit doubled is going to be a bonanza for the doubler. Let’s say the overcaller’s dummy hits with something dismal:

Your hand, again:

The price tag for 2Spade Suit doubled is probably 800 or 1100, and the opponents may not even have a game! On a different layout, if responder removes the double because of a spade void (say), the partnership is well positioned to aim at notrump. One more point in favor of the pass instead of overcalling: Declarer may place some missing high-card points with partner instead of marking them in your hand. What an interesting situation; so many points, yet so little point in showing them. This hand is an example of The Big Engine That Couldn’t.