Lead-directing double of 3NT

A simple question - should it be alerted?

The auction, North deals and opens
1S - p - 2H - p
3D - p - 3NT - p
p - Dbl - 4S - p
p - Dbl - all pass

No alerts.

Partner (South) with her singleton diamond was concerned that a diamond lead would be a disaster in 3NT and pulled to 4S, which was the suit that (by agreement) East was asking for. 3NT makes, 4S went one off. I feel that we lost out due to MI and that we'd have sat for 3NTx if the double had been alerted and explained.

After the hand EW said that the double of 3NT was asking for a Spade lead.

The director accepted that I could post up on here for opinions, since we were playing against his team

It's Board 1 from this session, team 7 Vs team 5...

Comments, please.


  • I should add that EW contend that the meaning is standard and that no alert was necessary.

  • Doubles of 3NT are not above the level of 3NT so Blue Book 4B2 (c) applies, not 4B4 (c). Lead directing doubles or doubles showing a particular suit are not penalties or at least have a potentially unexpected meaning in addition to being penalties, so such doubles are alertable. The fact that the opponents did not recognise the double as asking for spades shows that the meaning is not standard for these players and is potential unexpected.

  • Am I right in thinking that the double was asking for a lead of dummy's first bid suit that just happened on this occasion to be spades? Blue Book 3H2 specifically says that a double that asks for a spade is potentially unexpected and must be alerted, but I think that may have been written with an auction in mind where no suits have been bid, such as 1NT directly raised to 3NT.

    In the actual auction, the only logical reason for East to have made a penalty double of 3NT when he couldn't even overcall the 1 !s opening is because he has spades sitting over the opener. I have some partners that I have never discussed this with because it is actually quite rare, but I would expect them to work it out if it wasn't already obvious to them.

    But given that South didn't work it out, then I have to concede that the meaning is potentially unexpected, and would have to roll it back to 3NTX. Although DF says 3NT makes and although it did make at some tables, not all lines would be successful and I would look at giving 3NTX-1 enough of the time to make weighting worthwhile.

    Barrie Partridge - CTD for Bridge Club Live

  • Is it clear to sit for 3NT* with the North hand if the double is asking for a spade lead?

  • @Tag said:
    I should add that EW contend that the meaning is standard and that no alert was necessary.

    This is a popular misunderstanding. Sometimes the meaning is absolutely standard and everyone knows this - but the rules still say it should be alerted.


  • Would it not be up to partnership agreement as to whether the final double of 3NT means lead the transfer suit ( Hearts ) or the transfered suit (Spades ).

  • @gordonrainsford said:
    Is it clear to sit for 3NT* with the North hand if the double is asking for a spade lead?

    Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide... If it had been alerted, I'd have had no reason to bid again, expecting the defensive strength to be sitting over me but confident that my spades were good enough to prevent East from running all that he had and knowing that I had "something" in partner's suits and maybe partner had the diamonds queen.

    @Senior_Kibitzer Barrie, good point about maybe 3NT-1 but I clicked through on the double-dummy solver and, knowing that probably all the defensive strength is with East, partner should make 3N and East has to be reasonably careful not to allow ten tricks.

    Anyway, the point seems to be made that the double should have been alerted.

  • While the evidence is that the meaning of the double was unexpected, I would have little confidence in any particular meaning being expected (dummy's second suit is the choice for various of my partners) and I would not dream of bidding over 3N-X before asking "is there anything I should know about the double?".

  • I think this is actually quite subtle.

    If EW have the agreement that double specifically asks for the lead of dummy's first bid suit, that is alertable. That is consistent with the EW statement that double asked for a spade lead.

    As already mentioned, if that is 'standard', it doesn't stop it being alertable.

    The subtlety is the following: I play this double with my regular partners as penalties. It doesn't actually ask for a spade lead, but it does show very good spades and I would virtually always lead a spade. This is a consequence of bridge logic rather than any partnership agreement: the oppoenents have had an unlimited auction to 3NT (could easily be 30-high) yet partner, who couldn't act over the 1S opening, thinks it is going off. That can only be because partner has spades over opener.

    I would expect this double to have good spades when playing with a good player for the first time, whether or not we had discussed it.

    That also doesn't stop it being alertable if it actually requests a spade lead, but what if it just means 'I think this is going off'?

    p.s. having looked at East's actual hand, that is closer to 'please lead a spade partner' double than a 'I have a good hand and it's going off' double which perhaps is evidence in that direction

  • edited August 2019

    Possibly of only marginal relevance, but I can't see how on earth 3NT makes on a Spade lead!

  • TagTag
    edited August 2019

    @mikeindex said:
    Possibly of only marginal relevance, but I can't see how on earth 3NT makes on a Spade lead!

    East is end-played after South takes the top three clubs. If East leads a club after taking his first spade then South makes ten tricks or if East cashes his three spades.

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