In Scotland, no doubles or redoubles are alertable. This, I suppose, is the SBU solution to how to cope with the myriad meanings of doubles that people play. It seems reasonable enough, but caused us to come unstuck last week. It was Matchpoint Monday at the Buchanan Bridge Club, playing with Phil Moon.
I was not too surprised to be doubled in 3♠, as we had clearly been pushed up a level in a competitive auction. But then North revealed that South's original double (of 1♠) had in fact been penalties. If we'd have known this we certainly wouldn't have bid up to 3♠, but, as they pointed out, in Scotland no doubles or redoubles are alertable. I suggested that perhaps they could have let us know about this before the start of the round, and North apologised and offered to call the Director. I said no, and grimly played the hand. At least I knew where the trumps were, and was delighted to finesse the spades;7 on the first round. It was still off for -500 and 16%.
The reason I think that North-South should let us know about this unusual double before the start of the round as otherwise it means you have to ask about every single double, just in case it's something odd, which gets a bit silly. Indeed, North-South said themselves that they play all doubles as penalties "except in obvious situations", though clearly they have a different for obvious than me!
After this mishap, things went rather well for us. For example, consider the hand below.
I had the East cards and was poised to bid a reckless 2♠ if 2♥ was passed out to me. Then when it came round to me in 4♥ I considered a bold 4♠ sacrifice. If partner had a few good cards, surely I could scrape together seven tricks for three off doubled and a good score at the vulnerability? I bottled it though and passed. As it is, we were lucky and declarer misplayed the hand for 4♥-1 to give us 72% (just losing out to those who got to defend 3NT).
In fact, with a very suitable dummy I might make eight tricks in 4♠x, but going two off or three off would have both resulted in a score of 56%, so perhaps I should have done it.
Our roll of good fortune kept up until the last round. Then in the last three boards we threw it away as I misdefended, we went off an extra trick in game, then I arranged a score of 0% on this deal:
I was North and opened 1♣ (rather than 1♦ giving a 2♣ rebid) and when Phil replied 1♥ I settled for 2♣. Phil now jumped to 3♥, which some might play as forcing, but we were on the same wavelength as I took it as invitational. But rather than make a disciplined pass I made a very poor bid of 3NT. Phil trusted me far too much and passed this - with his long Hearts he should maybe bid 4♥ as he knows I won't have many entries to his hand in 3NT.
In 3NT I got the expected Spade lead. I was hoping for a dream dummy, with a few clubs (maybe even the Queen) and a couple of quick tricks. I didn't get it though. With the very favourable Club layout I could in fact have taken seven or eight tricks, but I didn't play for it, and my bidding matched my play and I went off four. Holding it to two off would have still only got us 26%, whereas 3♥ might make or go off one for a good score on a misfit deal.
We finished on 55%, coming 12th out of 52 pairs. Without the last three boards we would have won the event, but then if you take away your worst three boards you're always going to do a lot better.