Theory and Conventions

Home

M J Bridge

Bidding

Hands

Does double promise four cards in the other major?


Whenever a double is not for penalties then, unless it is part of some specialist sequence, it is looking for a fit in some other suit.

In particular, it is clearly desirable that a major suit fit can be located so as to provide the best score and locate the most likely game contract.  If you have four cards in an unbid major suit and sufficient strength to warrant a bid then the occasions will be rare when double is not your best option in a competitive auction.

One exception to this generalisation will be when a natural bid in no trumps provides the best description of your hand, and partner still has the opportunity to use Stayman in searching for the major suit fit.


However, you must not extend the overview above to a belief that partner will always hold a four-card major, or four cards in the other major.


The immediate overcall


When I looked at the immediate take-out double in considering overcaller’s first bid I made it clear that the double covered a number of specific hand-types.

If the subsequent bid shows that the hand was either a no trump hand of eighteen or more points, or a single-suited hand of seven or more playing tricks then clearly a four-card major is not promised.  Similarly, if playing the equal level convention and it subsequently transpires that doubler holds a hand with five clubs and four diamonds then the presence of a four-card major becomes highly improbable.

Most hands of seventeen or more points will have to be started with a double.  If you have a shortage in opener’s suit, and no better bid available, then it would be unthinkable to pass on such a hand and a double may well be the best bid available.  You may not have a four-card major in this situation.


So it is clear that an immediate double does not promise a four-card major.

However, advancer must join in the search for a major suit fit, as this will frequently be the main purpose of overcaller’s bid.


The situation is slightly different when you are considering a double on a weaker hand.  These are the hands where you intend to pass any response from partner.  If doubling is a borderline decision then let the presence or absence of a four card major be the deciding factor.


An additional factor will be the level which the bidding has reached.  You will recall that I am playing a double as being for take-out at all levels provided that sufficient defensive strength is held to stand a pass from partner.  If the bidding is already at vertiginous heights then the importance of holding four cards in the other major becomes increasingly important.  At its simplest, when RHO opens with a preemptive 4 then I would expect your double to guarantee four spades.  Without this assurance your partner will find himself agonising long and hard over the correct course of action.


Responder’s first bid


Partner has opened one of a suit and RHO has overcalled in a suit.

We are in the land of ‘negative’ or ‘Sputnik’ doubles.

This time we are promising a four-card major.  We will frequently have four cards in the other unbid suit as well, but this is not part of the promise.


There is no need to use a double for other hand-types.


With a good suit of our own then a simple forcing change of suit will do the job perfectly well.

With good values and stops you can make a natural bid in no trumps when such a bid is available.


The apparent difficulty with this will be if we wish to bid a natural 2NT, but this bid is not available  because such a bid would promise support for partner’s suit.

If you find yourself in this situation then you have a choice of options.

Sometimes a simple natural change of suit will solve the problem, followed by a natural bid of 2NT.


But more often your best option will be to pass and wait for partner to reopen with a double.  Remember that a reopening double by opener is almost always the correct action provided that the shape is right.

With a hand suitable for a bid of 2NT you will usually pass such a reopening double to convert it to penalties.

Only when your holding in the opponents’ suit is represented by just a couple of high cards rather than length, you are vulnerable against not, and you are certain that there is a game contract rather than a part-score available your way, is it likely to pay you to force to a game-contract.

Beginner and above

T 9

K Q 6

A Q 8 6

A K 7 6

Double - what else?

You have to show this hand, and there is no better bid available.

At least you can stand a response in hearts.


You

LHO

Pard

RHO




1

?








T 9

Q J 9

A 7 5 2

A 7 6 4

Pass.

This is not the hand on which to suggest playing in hearts at the two-level.


You

LHO

Pard

RHO




1

?








T 9

Q J 9 4

A 7 5 2

A 7 4

Double.

You might finish in an awkward 2 contract, but more likely is 2 on an eight-card fit.

That will do just fine for me.


You

LHO

Pard

RHO




1

?








J 6

Q 8 7 5 4

K Q 4

K J 2

Pass.

This hand has got penalty written all over it.

Pray that partner reopens with a double which you will pass again.


You

LHO

Pard

RHO



1

2

?








J 6

K 8 4

A Q 7

Q T 6 5 3

Pass will still be best most of the time and possibly all the time.

If vulnerable against not and you want to try for a game your way then you might force your way to 3NT (a direct bid is best, unless this carries some other conventional meaning, otherwise bid 3 and follow with 3NT).  Note that there is little point in playing 2NT.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO



1

2

?









The continuing auction


Occasionally your double later in the auction will be in search of a 4-4 major-suit fit, particularly if the opportunity for such a search has not already materialised.  More often such a double, if not penalty orientated, will be a more general direction-asking bid showing sufficient values to compete further but no clear direction of the route ahead.  Bear in mind that it will be passed for penalties with increasing frequency as the level increases so it is important that your holding is up to strength although you are still not promising anything in the opponents’ suit.

A K T 9 6

K 8 4

A Q 7

J 4

Where you want to finish up is far from clear.

Where you do not want to finish up is defending 3 undoubled.

You have the strength, so double, then wait and see.

If partner bids 3 expecting four hearts then bid 3.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

2

2

3

?