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
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.