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Failed to alert a penalty double – but a twist in the tail

Board 22, Match-Pointed Pairs Format, Played on 5th April 2012, Dealer East, EW Vulnerable. Computer dealt

The hands:


10 9 7
A 10 9
A J 10 6 4
♣ Q J


J 8 6 4 2
9 8 3
♣ A 10 8 7 2


A K 5 3
Q 7 3
K 7 5 2
♣ K 4


Q J 8 6 4 2
K 5
♣ 9 6 5 3

The bidding:







X (2)


2S (1)





  1. Weak 2 – correctly alerted

  2. Intended for penalties – not alerted. The convention card showed that a double in this situation was for penalties.


West judged that she could not tolerate partner's penalty double, and took it out into 3H. It is West's prerogative so to do. The Director was called to the table after the auction had finished but before the opening lead, because East said that his double of 2S should have been alerted; West responded that she forgot to alert that the double of 2S was for penalties. North argued that clearly he would not have bid 3S if the original double had been alerted.

Given that the bidding had been completed, the Director ruled that the hand should be played out, subject to later review and possible adjustment. The contract failed by one trick, giving a score of +100 to East / West.


There were two potential things wrong here. Firstly, the failure to alert the double is classified as 'Misinformation', and the Laws of Contract Bridge set out the appropriate courses of action open to Director (Law 21B). Potentially, also, by alerting partner to the issue before the play started, East was in danger of giving 'Unauthorised Information' to West. However, given that the issue was not a question of forgetting the system, but rather forgetting correct protocol, no unauthorised information was passed.

It is self-evident that North's bid of 3S would not have been made had full explanations of the bidding been given, and therefore Law 21B3 allows the Director to cancel that bid, and therefore to rewind to 3H by West. The hand analysis sheet – and indeed the evidence from other tables at the end of the evening – suggests that 3H is a comfortable 'make'.

The Director ruled that, though North would not have bid 3S had he known that the double of 2S was for penalties, his side in fact gained by the misinformation, given that 3S*-1 scored better than allowing the opponents to play in 3H.

Therefore, rather bizarrely, despite the misinformation, the original score was allowed to stand.

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