You bid first, double later
John le Carre, the best-selling author of espionage novels, eight featuring George Smiley, said, “Once you’ve lived the inside-out world of espionage, you never shed it. It’s a mentality, a double standard of existence.” At the bridge table, it is tough to act like a secret agent because you must explain your methods to the opponents. There are no secret mail drops for partner only. But sometimes you can spring a surprise on the opponents, by which time it might be too late for them to reach their safe house.
In this deal, East opens one spade, South overcalls one notrump (showing 15-plus to 18-minus points), West passes, and North raises to three no-trump. Just when everyone thinks the auction is over, East jumps out of his hiding place with a double. What does that mean?
It must be for penalty, but what else? Some pairs play that it demands a spade lead, the suit bid by East. I think that is wrong, because what was West going to lead before the double? Right -- a spade. The double is needed to ask partner to lead a different suit, one where East is hoping to defeat the contract. In this auction, a heart lead should stand out. North-South did not try to locate a 4-4 or 5-3 heart fit, and it is West’s shortest suit. Note that after a heart lead, East takes the first five tricks for down one. If West leads a spade, though, South wins 11 tricks. Are you wondering about South’s running to four diamonds? Yes, he can make that (if North passes), but minus 130 is still a lot cheaper than minus 660.