Roy Hughes

Double for Takeout, but how much?

We have been examining some low-level doubles that used to be for penalties, but are now played for takeout by many modern partnerships. It is good to be aware not only which doubles are for takeout, but by how much. I found the following in the blog of Daniel Korbel (Nov 29, 2007). South holds

♠ A Q 8 7 3 ♥ A Q 5 3 ♦ – ♣ A J 8 5

and the bidding proceeds

West North East South
  pass pass 1♠
pass 1NT 2♦ ?

The author recommends a double. While not necessarily disagreeing, I find this a pertinent, no-compromise example of playing this double absolutely for takeout. A different approach is to play that double shows extra values with no clear direction, e.g.

♠ A K J 4 2 ♥ A 4 ♦ 8 7 ♣ A 7 3 2

Here you would like to compete, and if double is available for hands of this type, it is clearly the best action. It allows partner to play for penalties with good diamonds or suggest any of the other four denominations at a convenient level. If double were not available, one could imagine an expert panel unhappily casting their votes among pass, two spades, two notrump and three clubs.

Some doubles more for takeout than others. Suppose over a one heart opening, you hold:

♠ K Q 4 2 ♥ – ♦ A Q 8 7 2 ♣ K 7 3 2

The mainstream action is, of course, to double. But now suppose you hold the same hand, but in fourth chair, with the one heart opening on your left followed by two passes. Do you reopen with double? I think the majority of experts would, but many would be reluctant. In one of my favourite books, How to Win at Duplicate Bridge (1957) by Marshall Miles, the author says flatly not to reopen double with a void in this position. You can also ask yourself if you reopen with a double after opening one diamond and having LHO bid any number of hearts.

Negative doubles also range in how much they are for takeout. One-level negative doubles are almost never passed, but two-level doubles sometimes are, and three-level doubles more often still. If your partner opened one diamond, would you make a negative double of a three spade overcall on

♠ – ♥ K Q 8 2 ♦ K 8 7 6 3 2 ♣ J 6 2

If you answer yes, then you are clearly a member of the school for whom takeout doubles are for takeout.


john cunninghamMarch 31st, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Miles still advocates strongly against doubling with a void. He likes to convert doubles for penalty, much more than is fashionable. Hence a negative double with 2 small, etc.

Many will disagree with his views, nonetheless we are priviledged to have him still with us, and contributing meaningfully.

Mats NilslandAugust 18th, 2010 at 7:47 am

I think you should avoid doubling with a void, but sometimes you do not have an alternative. On the first hand 3 D seems better. When the bidder shows a long suit, eg opens with a 3 or 4-bid your partner expects that you may double with a void.

Tim CapesOctober 17th, 2010 at 1:32 am

Doubling with a void here…

The best part is the opening lead problem against 2DX that you`re going to have very often. I mean maybe partner can actually play you for a void when they have an average 5 card suit, but its pretty hard for them to pull when they are say:

2-3-5-3.. They think 2D will be going down, possibly lots and aren`t eager to play the 5-2 hoping for 110. The opponents are often in a 5-2 themselves, getting a 5-1 break here (especially at matchpoints).

I guess the issue is 3H is too much of a view, and 2H might result in playing there a little too often.

The problem with 3D here is that many people will take it as asking for a stopper for NT. People might bid hearts without said stopper, but with a good diamond holding you`re almost always going to hear 3NT, now guess whether you belong in 3NT,4H,4S or 5C over the highly probable 3NT bid (If you pull to 4H partner may be able to work out whether you belong in 4H,4S or 5C assuming one of those bids is right, although they might be biased towards spades thinking you have say a 6 card solid suit.

Sidney LorvanApril 20th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I have a hand which I would like to send you because it is a practical application of a play which you describe in your book on declarer play as a particularly beautiful problem. I tried to send it to the email address in your book, but I guess you have a new email address because it wouldn’t go through.

The hand is from BBO. No one there found the correct play, nor did anyone I gave the hand to (although one player was close.)

I would appreciate your letting me have your email addrss so that I can send it along.

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