Once, when his partner asked him how he would have played a deal that had just been mutilated, Charles Loch-ridge answered, "Under an assumed name." It is no doubt fortunate that most published bridge hands are played under assumed names. North, East, South and West are the aliases the bridge writer uses to soften the impact of his criticisms or to veil in modesty his own exploits.
From time to time this department has hailed the good bid or play of someone who has just written a bridge book. Now, as the author of the new book Winning Partnership Bridge ( Random House, $2.95), I trust I may be forgiven for according the same privilege to myself. In return, I propose to reveal not only a bid which you may occasionally employ to your own profit but also the name of the anonymous West player who made the bid.
Some players make it a rule never to overcall in a minor suit, as South did, without sufficient trump strength and length to protect them against anything but the most horrendous breaks. Bur, unless all of your opponents follow this philosophy, you will wind up with a profit if you give your first consideration to a penalty double rather than an overtaking bid any time a vulnerable opponent overcalls your partner's opening bid.
Without a brief glance into the future. West might have been tempted to show his five-card spade suit because he lacked one of the most desirable features for a penalty double: at least one trick in the opponent's suit.
But in the present sequence a bid of two spades would be a drastic move, particularly in view of West's singleton in partner's hearts. If East has no support for spades, he may have to return to hearts at the three level—and where will West go from there?
West can reasonably count on taking three tricks with high cards, and he should be able to obtain a heart ruff. The opening bidder should be relied upon for about three tricks, so that a two-trick set is in view. The 500-point return is in excess of any game bonus a nonvulnerable side can score, and finally, as a safety valve for the double, there is the principle that partner should not leave in such a double if his hand is unsuited to defense.
The punishment of the two-club overcall was out of all proportion to South's offense. The deuce of hearts was opened, won by the ace, and the singleton spade returned to establish the crossruff. The defense took in all three spade tricks, three hearts and two diamonds, for an 800-point sting. And, to make it all the more bitter for North and South, the maximum East and West contract was two hearts.
In introducing this hand in my book, I wrote: "The double of a low contract without the sign of a trump trick is rarely contemplated by any but the shrewdest operators." After such a prelude, I could hardly reveal that West was, in fact, the author.
You can double two clubs or two diamonds more or less on suspicion. Even if the opponents fulfill their contract they will not make game. However, you must be able to foresee at least a two-trick set—thus allowing a one-trick margin for error—when making a penalty double of two spades, two hearts or more.