Passion of The Game of Bridge

Directing Lead Double: Make Defense Easier

Directing Lead Double: Make Defense Easier

A “double” bid in bridge is a special bid with various use. You can use it for takeout or negative (asking partner to bid longest suit, basically), to penalize opponent to to resume disrupted bidding system (for example: DOPE/ROPE). On this article, we will see how it can be used for lead directing, to make the opening lead much more certain and easier.

For lead directing, a double bid can be placed either in the middle of bidding/auction or at the end of the bidding. If it’s done in the middle of the auction, nobody knows for sure who will be the declarer (hence who will lead for the opening trick) so the “lead directing” double is done on “just in case” partner lead.

1. Double on Artificial Bid

This “convention” is simple: wherever partner doubles an artificial bid, then it’s a lead directing. The opening leader just need to lead the suit doubled by partner.

So, if partner has the suit, why he did not just bid overcall ? Two reasons: partner doesn’t want to risk penalty from opponent (not strong enough for playing) or the suit is short but good for starting the defense. For example:  partner only hold 3 cards on that suit but they are: AK3.

To give you illustration how lead directing double can be powerful, let’s see the hand below:

Lead Directing Defeats Slam
874 Dealer: W
J654 Vul: NS
AKJT93 e[n/s]w Q52
AK7 J432
A82 KJT9
West North East South (You)
1 Pass 2 Pass
3 Pass 4 Pass
4NT Pass 5 (1 or 3 Aces) Double!
6 All Pass
opening lead:6

From declarer point of view, yes, he can ‘get scared’ and just bid 5S instead of slam due to your lead directing double. But for declarer this hand will be more than 50% slam, he has to bid it. With Diamond lead, So you ruff, then return Club to be ruffed and set the slam otherwise cannot be defeated.Without the lead directing probably leading Diamond is not too attractive and partner could lead trump or Heart instead.


  1. Make sure the bid from opponent is artificial, do not just assume. For example: opponent bid 3C over his partner’s 1S. This 3C usually means long Club, weak (natural bid). But some partnership use this 3C as “Bergen Raise” (fit 4 cards spade, 5-9 points – hence artificial). Double of these 2 different bids will have very different meaning.
  2. Have a firm agreement as what is the minimum suit that you should have, for example: at least headed by KQ /AK or void
  3. Just use against slam or game and never for part score.
  4. Beware of lead directing double at low level (level 1 or level 2), opponent can just play on that doubled contract even if you have honor on that suit and could make that contract, often with overtricks and with ease.  For example:

    Do Not Just Do lead Directing Double
    JT9 Dealer: W
    5432 Vul: None
    76 e[n/s]w AKQ2
    AKQ J876
    KQJT A
    Q654 JT83
    West North East You
    1 NT Pass 2(Stayman) Double!
    Pass Pass ReDouble all pass
    opening lead:9

    As you can see, the lead directing double become a disaster. The common result for EW will be 6NT – 1, +50 for NS/your side – but due to your double it become easily +1160 for EW – what a total disaster

  5. As for every convention, when you bid this lead directing double you give information about your hand not only to partner but to opponent as well, hence sometime lead directing double helps opponent to find the best contract or play

2. “Lightner” Double

This Lightner double is characterized as follows:

  • Being done after opponent bid their final contract
  • Being done by the partner that will NOT do the opening lead.
  • Only apply for slam contract (level 6 or 7). But some partnerships also use it for 3NT contract.

This conventional bidding is developed by Theodore A. Lightner. Basically, it asks partner for unusual lead.  What is “unusual lead”? For example: if partner overcalled a suit, it is normal that you lead that suit. But if partner then make “Lightner Double”, then you should not lead partner’s suit as usual – hence “unusual lead”.

As the way of defending a suit contract is different with defending No Trump contract, I would suggest strongly to have 2 separate agreements for each Suit Contract and No Trump contract. See example of partnership agreement below.

Lightner Double for Suit Contract

For suit contract, the convention is: (Follow from top to bottom in order of priority)

  1. Do not lead trump
  2. Do not lead suit that has been bid by you (the partner of opening leader)
  3. Lead first suit bid by dummy (if dummy bid natural suit)
  4. Lead suit that bid by the opening leader – if he/she bid
  5. Lead Heart – regardless has been bid or not, even if it’s the trump (up to partnership to decide which suit)

For example:

Lightner Double for Suit Contract
T865 Dealer: W
865 Vul: None
AKQJ e[n/s]w 9432
AQT932 K
Q43 AKJ876
West North East South (You)
1 pass 2 3
3 pass 4 pass
6 pass pass Double!
All Pass
opening lead:2

With Lightner Double in play, partner cannot lead trump nor Heart. From the priority above then have to lead Club as the first suit bid by dummy. If Club is lead, you ruff and return Ace of heart which force declarer to trump with top honor promoting partner long trump suit.

Lightner Double for NT contract

Since there is no trump suit, the only reason partner double on NT contract is either has solid suit or has so many High Card Point (HCP).  You cannot rule that the opponent could also open very light or even do psyche bid (for example: open 1NT with 6HCP – rare but possible)

So, for no trump contract, the convention is: (Follow from top to bottom in order of priority)

  1. Do not lead suit that has been bid by defender (neither the opening leader’s nor the partner’s)
  2. Lead first suit bid by dummy (if dummy bid natural suit)
  3. Lead suit that you don’t have honor and usually the shorter one is better
  4. Lead Diamond – regardless has been bid or not (up to partnership to decide which suit)

Let’s see the example below:

3NT beaten by Lightner Double
4 Dealer: W
K8542 Vul: None
865 e[n/s]w T972
AQ6 T3
South (You)
West North East
1 Pass 1S
Pass 1NT Pass 3NT
Double ! All Pass
opening lead:4

Without Lightner double and Spade lead,declarer have enough tricks to made the contract. With Spade lead, defender have the first 5 tricks.


  1. When opponent knows the meaning of the double, they might be able to escape to other contract that cannot or even harder to be defeated.
    So, the reasoning should be like this: if the contract can be defeated naturally without the unusual lead then do not double as it will alert the opponent. But if the contract will only can be beaten if partner follow this convention then by all mean just do the double. If opponent escape to “safer” (could be also worse) contract then good on them because without the unusual lead warranted by this double, the contract will be made anyway.
  2. Check with your bridge governing body whether or not a Lightner Double need to be alerted. Usually, as any other double it doesn’t need to be alerted (as it might give defender confirmation that partner understood)
  3. Put the agreement in writing on your convention card to avoid illegal signal allegation.


  1. Claudia Hurley /

    Hi…. just wanted to point out that in your first example, the lead should probably be the lowest diamond from North, not the J of diamonds which is in the dummy!

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