Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Takeout doubles, by Jim Kaplan

There is so much confusion about when to use a takeout double, when to pass and when to bid something else that I’m going to devote an entire column to it.

Basically, you should make a takeout double when:

  • your opponents have bid and your partner hasn’t,
  • you have at least 13 dummy points — add points for shortness, not length — and
  • you have at least three-card support for all the unbid suits. You can make an exception with a powerhouse (17+ points) that you will “correct” with a second bid.

To double an opening two bid, you should have at least 15 dummy points. Most of the time that you double you shouldn’t bid again unless forced, since you’ve already shown your values.

Sometimes, it won’t seem clear what you should do. Take this hand that was played at the Martha’s Vineyard Bridge Club on August 13. East was dealing, with North-South vulnerable:
                             NORTH
                             S A K J 4
                             H K Q 9
                             D Q 10 2
                             C 9 5 3
     WEST                                         EAST
     S Q 9 8                                      S 10 7 6 3
     H 10 7 5 4 2                                 H A 8
     D K 7                                        D A 9 5 3
     C J 10 8                                     C 7 6 2
                              SOUTH
                              S 5 2
                              H J 6 3
                              D J 8 6 4
                              C A K Q 4

The bidding proceeded as follows:
     East          South           West            North
     Pass          Pass            2H              DBL
     3H            All Pass

Opening lead: spade ace

When East and South passed, West estimated that each had about seven high-card points, leaving North with a powerhouse. Therefore, West made a weak two-bid with a risky five-card suit. After North doubled, East raised to 3H — an equally risky move but one that worked when he was passed out. East-West went down five for -250, but it was a great board for them. North-South could have whacked them for -600 by bidding and making 3NT.

On the surface, North made a sound double. After all, she had 15 points and support for all the unbid suits. Here’s where we enter the world of bidding something other than a double with opening points.

North had a better, more descriptive bid for a hand with no ruffing values: 2NT. That would have shown 15-18 HCP and at least one heart stopper instead of leaving partner with no specific information other than strength. No matter what East does, South should raise to 3NT.

P.S.: Is there any way North-South can fight through interference after North’s double and East’s 3S bid? Yes. South can make a responsive double showing the minors. Failing that, North can always double 3H and give South a choice of bidding a suit or converting to penalties.

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