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 Enlightening Lightner Doubles by Ben Norton

Enlightening Lightner Doubles

Lightner doubles are tricky things. It’s difficult to know when to employ one, but at times it’s even more difficult for the opening leader to find the right suit.

They can be recognised by their unusual status. A Double of a high-level contract on which partner has done little or no bidding at all usually suggests that you make an unusual lead, for he can’t have the contract beaten on pure power else he would have bid earlier on. Also, Doubles of freely bid slams are usually Lightner-type.

When partner makes one of these Doubles, the one suit you can usually forget about leading is the suit you would naturally lead, for partner wouldn’t have bothered Doubling if he thought you would get off to the right start regardless. After all, the aim of partner’s Double isn’t to take them for a big penalty, but to guide you towards the best opening lead, for partner thinks that the success or failure of the contract hinges on your action.

As South on these five hands try and keep your partner happy by finding the lead they want you to find against these Doubled contracts.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 9 5
 6 4
 J 10 7 4 2
 8 6 3 2
Q: 1 - Your opponents land in 6X after a 4 cue-bid showing a first or second round control from West.

What do you lead?


 Your choice:
A: 9. Partner has Doubled a freely bid slam, so he must be requesting an unusual lead.

Here there is no need to guess though, for when dummy has bid a suit naturally that he hasn’t bid at any other point, a Lightner Double is asking for a lead of dummy’s first bid suit.

It’s likely that partner has the A and a trump trick, and he thinks a minor suit lead might allow declarer’s Spade loser to run away.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 8 7 2
 Q 7 5 2
 10 9 8 4 2
Q: 2 - East-West have a jaunt to the five-level and end up in 5X after West shows a game-forcing hand with four-card Heart support and then cue-bids 5.

How do you plan to defeat this?


 Your choice:
A: 7. Since your natural lead would have been a Diamond, because that was the cue-bid that East missed out, partner must be trying to deter you from a Diamond lead.

Had partner wanted you to lead a Diamond he would have Passed and had he wanted a Club lead he would have Doubled the 5 cue-bid, so he must want a Spade lead, which makes sense because it could be a Spade control that East-West are missing rather than a Diamond control. West certainly doesn’t have one else he would have cue-bid 4 over 4, not 5.

It’s likely that partner has both top Spade honors and a quick outside trick, or a sure trump trick (perhaps Q J 10).

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 8 3
 J 8 6 4 3 2
 J 6
 A 7 3
Q: 3 - You find yourself on lead to 6X after East shows a big hand with Club shortage and three key cards.

What are your thoughts?


 Your choice:
A: 2. This one might seem like a guess, but in fact it’s the clearest yet. It’s true partner didn’t have the opportunity to Double an artificial bid from West, but even without those inferences, you can find the winning lead.

Your side can only have one key card because East-West are playing in slam after a key card enquiry. Seeing as you have the A, partner can’t have a key card, therefore he must be Doubling because he holds a Void in a side-suit.

Partner wouldn’t Double if he was missing a key card and wasn’t expecting to take a ruff, for then he has no guarantee of beating the contract. After all, your key card might not prevent declarer from disposing of his losing cards in a suit even if partner does have for example the K Q. Also, he wouldn’t risk the Double, because there’d be nothing to really guide you.

Having decided that partner must have a void for his Double, it’s not difficult to determine which suit to give him a ruff in. Seeing as you hold six of them, partner is very likely to be void in Hearts. Therefore you should give him a ruff, but be sure to lead the 2 as a suit preference signal, telling partner which suit to switch to after taking his ruff. Who knows, you might even be able to give him a second ruff for two down.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 10 9 8 4
 A 7 4 2
 8 7 3
 5 2
Q: 4 - Partner Doubles their freely bid 3NT contract.

Which suit do you think partner wants led?


 Your choice:
A: A. Partner must have five running tricks, likely in one of the minors. As yet it’s unclear which minor he has values in, so you should kick off with the A to get a look at dummy and receive a signal from partner to determine which suit to switch to.

Assuming the opponents have their bids, there is no chance that partner has this beaten on pure power. No, he must have a running suit, and from the look of our hand that suit must be a minor.

Partner is probably afraid that declarer can run nine tricks if his suit isn’t led. While unlikely this could be the case, for example if dummy also has a long minor, declarer could have nine top tricks in two suits.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 J 10 4 2
 K 9 7 4 2
 9 7 3
Q: 5 - What a wild set of boards this is!

It’s your lead to 6X after partner opens 1 and West leaps to 5NT – pick a slam…


 Your choice:
A: 4. Your natural lead would have been a Heart, so it looks like partner wants a Diamond lead.

It’s true partner could be requesting a Spade lead, but from your hand it seems unlikely that the opponents will be able to take twelve tricks without the aid of the Spade suit at some point anyway, and partner can’t be Doubling with just the A because he doesn’t know that you hold a singleton.

No, the most likely scenario is that partner has a Diamond void along with a side-suit Ace, and wants you to give him a ruff. This is in keeping with the auction, since West must have a lot of minor suit cards to justify his erratic 5NT bid.

When partner makes what you suspect to be a Lightner Double (remember, if you’re not sure if the Double is Lightner or not, consider if it’s possible for partner to have a Double based on power or not. If the answer is no, then it’s probably asking for an unusual lead), consider the following factors when choosing your lead:

- Could partner have Doubled an artificial bid for the lead? If so, don’t lead that bid suit.
- Is there an obvious/natural lead you would have made? If so, don’t lead that suit.
- Could partner have done anything differently in the auction if he wanted a certain lead?
- What makes sense on the auction? Could partner have a running suit? A tenace over dummy? A quick trick? A void?
- Look at your own hand. If you have a very long suit and partner Doubles a slam in a suit out of the blue, he’s probably void in that suit.
- If dummy has bid a suit naturally on his own, partner probably wants you to lead that suit (if dummy’s bid two suits on his own, partner probably wants you to lead the first bid one)

Essentially, when partner makes a Lightner Double, examine all the evidence from both the auction (including what bids partner could have made, and what your natural lead is if he hadn’t Doubled) and your hand. Remember the general principle though – don’t make the natural-looking lead!

Your result so far:
Open Question

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What next? You may enjoy playing our prepared hands series.
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