Stripe-tailed Ape Double

To our knowledge there is no such thing as a Stripe-tailed Ape. To date we have only been able to find a fish called Pimelodus Notatus (Stripe-Tailed Pimelodus). Our research has been exhaustive, but not productive. The designation may be the result of back-room bridge conversations or terminology inheritance from Whist and Auction Bridge players, but this is only speculation.


The article by Mr. Michael Cappelletti is also of interest although it deals more with the game of poker than with bridge. However, the application of the concept behind the Stripe-tailed Ape Double remains the same. This article has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file for future reference.

We did, however, discover the Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta), which is a large Strepsirhine primate and the most recognized lemur due to its long, black and white ringed tail. It belongs to Lemuridae, one of four lemur families. It is the only member of the Lemur genus. Like all lemurs it is endemic to the island of Madagascar. It is known locally as Hira (Malagasy) or Maki (French and Malagasy), and it inhabits gallery forests to spiny scrub in the southern regions of the island. It is omnivorous and the most terrestrial of lemurs. The animal is diurnal, being active exclusively in daylight hours.

In the days of yore when the scoring methods of the game of bridge was evolving a certain Mr. Sam Scaffidi, born in the year 1935 and died in the year 1988, in cooperation, collaboration and possible conspiracy with Mr. John Lowenthal, born in the year 1938 and died on December 7, 1999, discovered that if the opponents doubled at the five level when the other two players were definitely heading towards a makeable slam contract, then the slam bidders might possibly consider playing at the five level doubled.

The reasoning behind this was that the score for a five level contract doubled, even with an overtrick included, was, at that time, less than a slam bid and made, small or grand. They also discovered, according to the scoring method of the time, that if, in the same circumstances, a Major suit or a non-vulnerable Minor suit were doubled by the opponents and the other players heading towards a slam redoubled, then the resulting score is greater than the small slam score. Whenever this redouble occurred, then Mr. Sam Scaffidi and Mr. John Lowenthal would run like a striped-tailed ape to their longest suit.

Assuming favorable vulnerability and the suit of the opponents is Hearts and after a bid of 4 No Trump, the intention is to bid a slam contract, and on the first response, perhaps 5 Hearts, Mr. Sam Scaffidi would double in the hope that the opponents would cease seeking the slam contract. The philosophy and possible profit behind this double was evident using the older scoring methods, the philosophy being that: Being lucky is good, but one has to be good to be lucky.

In the case of a redouble by the opponents, Mr. Sam Scaffidi would pull his own long suit and hope that the penalty was less than the score for a vulnerable slam. The partnership of Mr. Sam Scaffidi and Mr. John Lowenthal employed this Stripe-tailed Ape Double, whenever the contract was for a Major suit or a non-vulnerable Minor suit.

The reason was that five of a vulnerable Minor suit redoubled with an overtrick was still slightly less than scoring up the slam. Therefore, many, if not all bridge-sponsoring organizations recouped and decided that the bonus for redoubling be increased a little to correct and compensate for this particular situation. Presently, five of anything redoubled and making an overtrick is greater than bidding the slam. On the other side of the equation, the penalty for doubled, non-vulnerable undertricks was substantially increased.

However, this does not indicate that this particular double has become obsolete. The following article, written by Mr. Alan Truscott, shows the effectiveness of the principle when used properly and appropriately. BB2000/2P86.


By Alan Truscott

Marlboro Bermuda and Venice Cup
Beijing, China
October 8th – 21st, 1995
Issue 7, Saturday, October 14th, 1995

The computer played a small joke that was generally overlooked. On board 16 of round 11, East held five Spades and seven Hearts and could make 6 Spades, on a 5-5 fit, against any lead, and 6 Hearts if the defense failed to find a Spade lead and ruff.

In the next round, on Board 16, East held seven Hearts and five Spades.
Board 16. East/West Vulnerable.
Dealer West.

It can be seen that for East-West it is a laydown for 6 Spades or 6 Hearts, but only four pairs out of 32 got there. Mario Onorati and Alejandro Bianchedi for Venezuela, Bjorn Fallenius and Mats Nilsland for Sweden, and Jorge Barrera and Anton Cahn-Speyer for Colombia got to the obvious 6 Spades. Mark Molson and Boris Baran for Canada got to the less obvious 6 Hearts. Some either-or bids can confuse their users. It might seem unlikely that East would fail to bid Spades on this deal, but it happened at one table:

1. A two-way bid: either a weak two-bid in Hearts, or an Acol two-bid in an unspecified suit.

2. A waiting bid to find out what West is up to. The weak two-bid seems unlikely.

3. This suggested a very long Spade suit, and a double to show general strength would no doubt have been better.

4. North knows that the opposition can make a slam somewhere, so she produces the Striped-Tailed Ape double. If they redouble, you beat a retreat.

5. What should East do? Bid Hearts in the face of a likely misfit? Redouble? She passed and the bidding ended.

That was 1050 to East-West, which was worth 7 IMPs and might have been much more. In the replay East-West reached 6 No Trump for a score of 1440. Mercifully, I will reveal only one name. The Striped-Tailed Ape Doubler was Jo Morse of the U.S.A. II team, that qualified in the Venice Cup.

A second bridge column also appeared in The New York Times.

Bridge: If an Accidental Bid Works, Why Not Call It Intentional
By Alan Truscott
The New York Times
Saturday, January 31, 1981

Vulnerable: East-West

West led the  Queen.

There are a few eccentric bidding coups that happen more often by accident than design. But the true ratio is hard to determine, for the leading character always insists, quite loudly, that he knew exactly what he was doing.

An example is the Striped-tailed Ape Double. If you double an opponent in five Spades when he was about to bid six Spades and make it, you have improved your score. But you must be prepared, like a cowardly ape, to run for the shelter of your own suit if you run into a redouble.

A faintly comparable maneuver can occur when sacrificing. If you select your best combined suit, the opponents will spurn a small penalty and continue bidding, with a successful result. But if you choose, deliberately or accidentally, an inferior suit, a double becomes more likely and you may still escape with a penalty that is less than the value of the game or slam available to the opponents. Finding the Heart Queen.

Consider, for example, the diagramed deal, from a side game during the Nationals last fall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. East-West can make six Spades, which needs very little more than a successful Diamond finesse, but they are unlikely to reach a slam. If North and South save in Hearts at favorable vulnerability, they can make eight tricks by guessing the location of the Heart Queen.

If one Heart is raised to four Hearts, an opposing bid of four Notrump clearly shows length in the Minor suits. If the suit is Spades, this is less clear, and many experts would regard this bid as a three-suit Take-out.

North and South were perhaps on different wave lengths, for the final contract was five Diamonds doubled, a precarious spot. West led the Spade Queen and shifted to the Club Queen.

The South player, Sandy Rosen of Roslyn, Long Island, ducked and then won the Club continuation. She played a third Club, and East ruffed low, a poor decision. South overruffed, ruffed a Spade and played the last Club from dummy.

This time East discarded a Spade, and South was able to score another ruff in her hand. She tried a Seart lead, but West ruffed. At this point the defense could have scored four more trumps by cross-ruffing, collecting 900 points to beat all the contracts below slam. But West erred by shifting to the Diamond Queen, and when this held he missed his last chance by playing the Jack. The result was down three for 500, and East-West had done no better than they would have done against Hearts.

That was a striped-tailed ape sacrifice announced South, daring anyone to suggest that there is no such beast.

Daily Bulletin – 69th Summer North American Bridge Championships
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States
Date: July 24 to August 3, 1997
Vol. 69, No. 8 – Friday, August 1, 1997
Editors: Henry Francis and Brent Manley

Tale of the Ape

By Powhatan Wooldridge

In the qualifying round of the NABC Senior Swiss Teams, Marcia Freed sat North and hear her partner open 1! The bidding proceeded:

At this point it seemed virtually certain to Marcia that the opponents were 4-4 in Spades and her partner was void. Since her fifth Spade could be established by ruffing, she bid 6 with confidence. East doubled.

John, a firm believer in the adage that the preemptor should not bid again, scowled.

West led a Spade to East’s Ace as John followed with the Jack. East had bid 4 on A-Q-x, presumably as a lead director, planning to run to his five-card Diamond suit if doubled. All was well, however, since John held the two red Aces and was soon claiming.

At the other table this is how the auction went:

Powhatan was quick to justify Jill’s double to their teammates … It was a striped-tailed ape double. That’s a double of a game bid aimed at keeping the opponents from bidding a slam. Marcia’s decision to bid on to 6 had converted a 7-IMP loss to a 10-IMP gain.

Negative Stripe-Tailed Ape Double

The following is from the TwoPlusTwo.Com Magazine, an online Forum for puzzles and games. The name of the user is centurion, location is Albquerque, New Mexico, United States, and posted on 11-06-2008, 01:21 PM.

Re: Bridge Bidding Reverse Sheep REVEAL

Regarding the Striped-Tailed Ape double: I once invented a convention I called the Negative Stripe-Tailed Ape Double.

My great (matchpoint) discovery was that when the opponents were vulnerable, you could make a Stripe-tailed Ape double of 5 of a Minor and sit for the redouble! 5xx+1 = 1350 (old scoring) whereas 6 = 1370. Unfortunately partner didn’t always provide the 1 trick I needed. When he had 2 tricks, -950 was a bottom, and when he had zero tricks, -1750 was close to a bottom since other pairs seldom bid the grand. The Negative Negative Stripe-tailed Ape double was meant to solve this problem. When playing Negative Stripe-tailed Ape double, the double of 5m (vulnerable) in an obvious Stripe-tailed Ape situation showed zero tricks; partner could sit with 1 trick even redoubled, but must run with zero or two tricks.

Unfortunately, I never could get anyone to play it with me, and then the lawmakers thwarted me by changing the bonus for making a redoubled contract.

End of quoted and excerpted text by centurion.

Note: As an interest to the bridge student the scoring method was changed in the year 1987 to eliminate this discrepancy.