Alerting doubles
by Jeremy Dhondy

This appeal happened at the Tollemache final back in February 2012. The L&E wished to clarify what was meant by "penalty double" and that by now players should be expected to know that a double of a suit bid up to and including the three level is for take out unless alerted.

Board 2 : Dealer East : NS vulnerable

Pass3DDbl(A)All Pass

(A) = alert. No questions asked or explanations given. The meaning of 1C was already known to NS.
Result: 3Dx– 2 by N. lead SA.

S7 4 3
HA 9
DK 10 9 8 7 6
C7 2
SQ 9 8 2
HK 6 4
DJ 5 4
CK 9 3
HandSA J 5
H10 8 7 2
CA Q J 8 4
SK 10 6
HQ J 5 3
DQ 3 2
C10 6 5

The TD was called at the end of the hand. Declarer said he had been damaged in the play by the alert of the double. If the double was not alerted (and therefore take-out) then he would play trumps differently. The Appeals Committee ruled that the line of play was poor, but not a serious error and there was no evidence as to the meaning of the double. They adjusted to 3Dx - 1.They agreed that the majority of players play this as penalties, but take-out or competitive are also possible and then declarer would then get it right 100% of the time.

The L&E Committee thought that Declarer had been lucky to get a ruling in his favour. They wished to remind members that doubles of natural suit bids up to the three level which are not for take-out are alertable. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is for penalties - see OB5E2. ‘Penalty’ implies you expect the contract to be defeated and is not necessarily based on a trump stack.