I have been asked by a Club Manager to check the scoring of a recent club session. A declarer had bid to make 11 tricks and succeeded. Recording the result in her Bridgemate, she was assigned +550 as a doubled game. Her counterpart in another section had scored +570 for successfully bidding for only 9 tricks and making 10. Natural instinct suggested to our first declarer and the Club Manager that bidding higher would score more and both were confused by what appeared to be a scoring inconsistency.

Doubles don’t work that way in bridge. If you can talk your opponents into doubling your contract at the two, three or four level and it’s below your game level – you won’t need to bid game to score better than anyone who has bid to game. And if you make overtricks you will still score higher than anyone who was doubled at the game level.

Two things struck me as odd about the Manager’s enquiry. Firstly, do players believe that Directors have control over contract scores? Because really we don’t – and current technology is so good, that as long as the criteria our players put into the scoring mechanism is accurate, we have nothing whatsoever to do beyond report player performance. Once data has been recorded at the table, we simply select a range of output options to display the results.

Secondly, if bridge players and administrators are thinking it weird, could this be more than simply a gap in their knowledge, is technology changing the way we filter our bridge judgements?

In the past we would record table results on paper travellers. Fifteen years ago when I played back home in NZ, we used bidding pads rather than bidding boxes so Directors would often be called upon to help players determine an unusual doubled score. I remember when I started directing I would carry a score card to help players scratching their heads trying to read the bidding card. I guess this meant we all had a much better understanding of the price of double, and implicitly, the value and its likely cost.

As beginners we are taught to double when we think the contract is not making. As intermediates, we better appreciate that when people bid contracts for the most part it is because they plan to make them, so we don’t get to make many doubles. So we look for a more useful meaning for double – experimenting with other possibilities, eventually landing on negative or takeout doubles, support doubles and responsive doubles.

My favourite double is the one which asks partner to “do something intelligent”. It’s the very rare double you make when no better bid is available to you but you have a feeling your side needs to keep involved, and you are not in a position to determine whether bidding or penalising is the right action. You will know if I make it against you because I cannot help a little smile escaping as I bid it! Do you have bids or plays that make you smile too? My ex used to become positively Cheshire cat-like after executing a successful squeeze.

Perhaps it is more than just technology, have more useful double bids also hampered our penalty double skill?

Anyway, I looked at the hand in question to understand what might have caused such different doubling actions.

Dlr: N
Vul: N/S


Cool hand! At both tables, it seems North was by struck by their ace kings as a source of quick tricks – oops!

Have you ever noticed the good players always seem to know the score for double - you might think they know alot but I can tell you from seeing thousands of scores - mostly players know from experience of having doubled making contracts! So if it is good enough for them it is good enough for every player!

Conversely, at the Spring Fours recently we downgraded a red psyche to green because the players convinced us that their respect for the quality of the event and their opponents indicated that double was not an option – we accepted their bridge judgement that if the opponents were bidding to a vulnerable 3NT game after the opponents had opened the bidding, it was reasonable to assume they were planning to make it.

The maxim is sound and sensible and could be applied more widely I am sure. Certainly in life, for sure if you can believe it, you can achieve it.

So observation suggests double more to hone your skill and judgement. But take care to add the following before doubling. Consider what was not said in the auction, surprises in Declarer’s hand, respect for the opponent’s belief that they can make, and always always, the impact a double will have on partner’s lead decision. And you will improve the success rate of your doubles.

As a general rule I say avoid doubling your opponents into game when they can’t or won’t bid it themselves. But if they bid game you won’t lose that much by doubling if you think they won’t make it, and you will increase your chances for reward if the contract fails.

Happy doubling!