Sure Plus vs Possible Minus
Bidding: S opens 1NT – West doubles – All Pass
MrQ: This deal reminded me of similar situation I was in a few weeks back – not as a doubler but as the partner of the doubler sitting with 11 HCP balanced vul against non-vul. I bid 3NT then and went 1 light with 26 points between me and my partner (my partner doubled with 15 HCP) – Deep Finesse said it wasn’t makeable. This time it was 24 HCP between us and 3NT makeable. What are your thoughts/guidelines here? Non-vul 1NTX going 3 light is +500 whereas vul 3NT making is +600 and it is generally easier to play as declarer rather than defend so 3 light might easily become 2 or only 1 light (like in the case of this board). Looks like it might be more tempting to bid 3NT in teams with this particular vulnerability maybe? Then again if you decide that making game is more beneficial than taking 1NTX down, it doesn’t have to be in NT, but how do you bid to look for fit in, let’s say, majors after your partner doubled 1NT? 2-level responses would be for takeout, right? So you bid at 3 level?
Guru: I would always take the penalty. Note that the reason that 3NT makes is because spades break 4-4, and that 1NTX might go down four and as it happens down three doubled is a far better than most of the other scores. Even +300 is likely to get a good result especially at matchpoints – why give a sure plus away for a possible minus? Tricky defence after DA lead but if you then lead to the ten much better, but then you aren’t Deep Finesse, are you? DF will probably lead the king of clubs!
Guru: To add to what I said earlier, yes, there are times when you should bid game your way but not in marginal cases like this one. And you should be quite confident of making game and how can you be? If you’re sure of making game then 1NT doubled will surely be down four. Take your certain plus. Best defence? Who knows but after top diamond West should continue with a low one after seeing East’s jack or ten. And to force to game, East should bid 3C then 3H after West bids 3D but not so easy with more balanced hands.