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The panther double

Zia Mahmood ( Pakistan )

 

Pakistani by birth, ZIA MAHMOOD, is now best described as cosmopolitan with homes in both London and New York . He is one of the leading personalities of the bridge world. He has represented Pakistan several times in world competition and was a major contributor to that country's silver medals in the 1981 Bermuda Bowl and 1986 Rosenblum Teams. Zia now plays on the US circuit and has won most national titles several times. He was the winner of the Omar Sharif World Individual which was held in 1990 with the largest total purse ($200,000) in the history of bridge. Regular columnist of The Guardian. He has also written two books, the highly successful Bridge My Way, described by Omar Sharif as the best bridge book ever, and his latest Ask Zia: Your Top 50 Bridge Questions Answered.

 

You love bridge, just like the rest of us addicts. But have you ever thought about which part of the game excites you most? It could be a delight in fine bidding, the indulgent pleasure of a well-played hand, the artistic beauty of a killing defence, or perhaps a combination. They do all have an irresistible charm.

Actually, for myself, there is a fourth, even greater, attraction: the psychological game. I find it fascinating. Surprisingly, although countless books have been published on bidding and play, almost nothing has appeared on this subject. Which is a good introduction to my BOLS tip, one which comes straight from the heart.

Psychological bridge can come in many guises but the satisfaction from a successful coup is always jumbo-sized. Just ask any declarer who ever deflected the opponents from attacking his weakest suit by playing it first. Or any adventurer on his way to slam who cue-bid a control he didn't have and successfully stopped the killing lead.

What bliss, an incomparable ecstasy that lingers on long after the event. The great advantage of these plays, unlike improvements to card play technique which can take years to perfect, is that they can be adopted instantly by any average player. Take my tip: I call it the Panther Double. This is a psychological penalty double, based not on the evidence of your cards but on 'other' factors: the timing, the opponents' bidding or their table action.

You can use the double whenever the following situations exist, and you have the slightest excuse.

1 The impossible-sounding auction 

As West you hold:

9 7 6

A Q J 10 3

8

10 8 4 2

SOUTH

WEST

NORTH

EAST

RHO

you

LHO

partner

1

Pass

2

pass

Pass

3

Pass

Pass

3

Pass

4

Pass

Pass

Double

 

The opponents stopped in Two Spades and now North has punished South for competing. Something went wrong: double them. You have a great lead and the one time in ten they make will be compensated amply by the juicy penalties of the other nine.

2 You want your opponents to run

This is great for poker players. It starts with a familiar auction where the opponents struggle into a contract where you know they are about to get lucky and make: DOUBLE. The fear of a large number will help remove them to a 'safer' resting place.

I was playing with David Berkowitz, the American champion, in the Vanderbilt tournament. He held:

 

  J 4 3

K 10 3

  J 10 4

   J 10 9 5

 

Sitting East, with South the dealer, he heard the following auction:

SOUTH

WEST

NORTH

EAST

 

me

 

David

1

1

21

Double

2

3

NO

NO

3

NO

3

NO

4

NO

NO

Double3

5 NO NO Double4
NO NO NO NO

 

 1 Club fit, forcing but denies 4 spades

 2 looking for 3NT

 3 complete bluff

 4 much happier

 

David could see that Four Spades on the 4-3 fit would make with the friendly trump break. He also knew that the opponents did not know this, so he doubled. A bad break might mean declarer losing control and conceding a large penalty, so South reasonably ran to the 'safety' of the known club fit.

Brilliant yet all he needed to do was listen carefully to the auction and have the courage to make a Panther Double. You don't need to look as sleek as a panther to bid like one.

 

3 Invitational auctions

This is my personal favourite. Whenever a limited hand accepts an invitation, the Panther should be ready to pounce at the slightest excuse. That excuse may be as flimsy as the fact that the' last bid was made after a lengthy hesitation, strongly suggesting an overbid, or at least a tight contract.

 

S

W

N

E

 

 

 

 you

1NT

NO

2NT

NO

3NT1

 NO

NO 

Double 

 1after a pause

 

The double, by increasing the stakes, places considerable pressure on the declarer who will proceed to misplace the high cards. In addition his mind, filled with images of ghosts and bad breaks, will be unable to function clearly.

If the sequence above is for the more adventurous, the more common limited auction where the defender can foresee bad lies for breaks for declarer, is impossible to resist. Now the prey is helpless; it almost feels unsporting to pounce.

Armed with your new toy you decide to sit in on a high-stake rubber bridge Naturally you pick up your typical hand

 

6

J 9 8 2

Q 10 6 3

K J 9 8

 

and hear this auction:

 

S

W

N

E

 

 

 

 you

NO 

NO  

1  

 NO1

 1

NO 

 2

NO

 3

 NO

3NT 

 DOUBLE2

 4

Double

NO

NO  

 NO

 

 

 

1 The boring collection becomes a little less boring when North bids clubs

2 The Panther Double: the auction is limited and more, both suits break badly. It's time to pounce, maybe they will run.

 

This is fun because the complete hand is:

 

Dealer South

A 7 2

 

 

 

EW Vulnerable

 A 3

 

 

 

 

 J 8 4

 

 

 

 

 A Q 10 3 2

 

 

 

 

 

N

 

 

 Q 10 9 4

 

 

6

 Q 7 6 5 4

 

W                E

J 9 8 2

 A 5

 

 

 Q 10 6 3

7 4

 

 

K J 9 8

 

 

 

S

 

 

 

 

 K J 8 5 3

 

 

 

 

 K 10

 

 

 

 

 K 9 7 2

 

 

 

 

  6 5

 

 

 

Partner leads the seven of clubs and declarer finesses, losing to the king. South wins the heart return in hand to play the ace of spades and another spade. When you show out he wins the king while you throw a diamond. He now tries the ace of clubs and a club ruff and partner overruffs. West cashes the queen of spades and exits with a heart to dummy's ace. Declarer, desperate, and with no more entries to dummy, tries a diamond to his king. West wins and South's only other trick is his last trump.

South ends up making three spade tricks, two hearts and one club; down four and +800 for East-West. Perhaps declarer could have done better but most humans don't perform well under pressure.

Now be honest. If you had picked up that insignificant looking East hand before reading this article would you have allowed your 800 to slip by? Life has no guarantees and I admit that sometimes the Panther Double can backfire. But you don't have to worry. If your partner screams at you after such a disaster, blame me.

So, my BOLS tip is: When the opponents have animpossible-sounding auction,or when you want them to run or when they have an invitationalauction and the cards do not lie well for them,  

try a Panther Double. 

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