Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



The take-out double

covers a number of situations, but the underlying rule is that its primary purpose is to show shape.

I firmly believe that many partnerships will be able to add greatly to their bidding repertoire by expanding their use of the take-out double - in particular clarifying the various specific hand-types on which it may be used.

I have included a number of sequences even for the near-beginner which extend well beyond the methods usually taught in the early stages.  This is deliberate.  A sound basic definition of the take-out double and the versatility offered by various extended sequences provides the cornerstone for the whole structure of competitive bidding.

Note that those who do double on the hand above will probably rebid 1NT over a 1 response.

Again, this is a workable method but you will find yourself with no way of showing a strong (say 19+ point) no trump overcall.

A K T 9 6

7 6 3

J 3

K Q 8

Opponents open 1.

The first message given by a take-out double is that you are inviting partner to choose a suit.  Here you do not wish to offer such an invitation - you have a perfectly good suit of your own.

Bid 1.  It is limited as we shall see, but it does not deny opening values.

A Q 9 6


T 9 5 3

A J 6 4

Opponents open 1.

Only eleven points, and not an opening hand, but the shape is perfect for take-out.

Double, but you are not planning to bid again except possibly to raise 1 non-constructively to the two-level.

A 9

9 8 7 6 5 4

K T 3


Opponents open 1.

This hand would warrant an opening bid, but there is no overcall available after the opponents’ 1.

Pass.  You are more than happy to let your opponents play in 1, and you will be delighted if partner makes a take-out double in the protective seat.

Note that a hand suitable for an opening weak no trump will only rarely qualify for intervention over your opponents’ opening one of a suit.  Only with a small doubleton in their suit (double) or a good five-card suit of your own (make a suit overcall) will such action be justified.  Otherwise the hand is ideally suited for defence, and pass will be the winning choice.

Variations on the simple rule

I will suggest two possible variations on this simple rule, although I stand by the basic concept.

Raising to the two-level on an eight-card fit

If partner responds to my take-out double at the one-level and I have four cards in that suit then I will raise to the two-level without promising any additional strength - this is subject to partnership agreement.

Modern usage

You will not find  the method above in the repertoire of the better modern-day players.

It is not that this is an unplayable system, but it is severely limited.

It stems from a time when the priority of the overcalling side was to locate a making contract their way.  This has not been the first or only priority when overcalling for many a long year.  It is more often important to suggest a suit for a competitive sacrifice, or to suggest a defensive lead to partner.  Only too often a hand of, say, thirteen or so points will not justify a further bid after the double as the auction continues, and the opportunity to suggest a little competition or a defensive lead will have been lost.

Instead the standard modern approach is to overcall on a good suit with anything up to about seventeen points (some partnerships play a maximum of about eighteen points).

The emphasis on the double then becomes one of shape rather than strength.  Its primary aim is to show a fair hand with at most two cards in the opponents suit and at least three cards in each of the other suits.

By a fair hand I mean one of twelve or so points, but I would certainly stretch this down to eleven (even ten) on a 4-4-4-1 shape when not vulnerable, and as low as nine in the protective seat.  Such hands are considered on the page

doubles based on shape’.

With hands of up to seventeen points or thereabouts you might double if the shape is appropriate, but your plan is to pass any response by partner (unless forcing).  There is a possible exception to this generalisation (see below) but the principle is sound.

The double will also be used as a stepping stone on strong hands, but the definition of ‘strong’ has moved to eighteen points, or something thereabouts by partnership agreement.  On such hands you will double first and then bid again to convey the good news. Such hands are discussed on the page

doubles based on strength’.

Beginner and above

The second piece of misinformation is the suggestion that any overcall other than double suggests less than opening values.

Many hands of basic opening strength are better described by the bid of a suit rather than by a double, even when they contain opening values.  This is particularly the case when they contain a decent five-card major or a suit which you would like partner to lead in defence.

A 9

A Q 3

Q T 6 3

A K 8 5

Opponents open 1.

If a 1NT overcall shows 15 to 18 (say) and double followed by 1NT does not promise additional values then how do you show this hand?

Double first, planning to rebid 1NT.

A 9

7 6 3

J T 5 3

A K Q 6

Opponents open 1.

You would not hesitate to open this hand, but you do not have a bid in the immediate overcall position.

No five-card suit for a suit overcall, and what do you do next when you double and partner responds 1?

Pass.  This hand is defensive - sit back and defend.

Beginner and above

Old..old..old style

Many beginners are given grossly oversimplified advice regarding the use of an immediate take-out double when they first learn, and it can be difficult to remove the shackles of such an early misconception or limited view.

Broadly speaking this dubious advice goes along the lines of ‘If you have an opening hand then you must double - any other lowest-level bid in a new suit or a pass denies opening values’.

It is oversimplified in two ways.

The first of these is the suggestion that you should always double if you hold an opening hand.

Not recommended

Advancer’s next bid

This page last revised 1st Jan 2019

Context - overcaller - opponents opened one of a suit.

A Q 9 6


Q T 5 3

A J 6 4

Opponents open 1.


I will raise 1 to the two-level without promising any additional strength and I will pass partner’s response in either minor suit.

A Q 9 6


A Q J 3

K Q 6 4

Opponents open 1.


I will raise partner’s response of 1 or two of a minor to the three-level, thereby promising a four-four fit and at least eighteen points.

Of course, if you adopt this approach, then you will have to bid in a more vigorous manner when you do have the stronger holding.

Scrambling sequences

My second variation on the simple rule (above) comes in the form of ‘the equal-level conversion’.

This is an optional extra, but one which I thoroughly recommend, even at a fairly early stage, as you develop your bidding repertoire.

It is included on the page ‘doubles based on shape’.