An article by Tom Townsend for the Ace of Clubs (CUBC magazine)

Most players have trouble with doubles, and this is unsurprising, since double can mean many things to many men. There are several ways to get round this problem. Unfortunately all except one are (generally) regarded as cheating:

(i) Loud = penalties/confident, rising inflection = take-out/tentative.

(ii) For the more sophisticated player: reverse (i).

(iii) Agree a comprehensive set of rules, and agree it with your partner. It is better to have a bad agreement than no agreement at all.

The advantage of (i) and (ii) is that no further discussion is required. Below is one, but by no means the only, playable set of partnership agreements if you embark upon (iii):

Unless the situation fits one of the categories below, double is for take-out. Of course, the higher the level of the double, the more likely responder is to pass for penalties. Take-out doubles over 4S and above tend to have the meaning 'Bid if you have some shape or primary support, otherwise pass and hope to beat them in high card strength'. At lower levels, responder should be reluctant to pass without a trump holding. The following doubles are all for take-out:

(a) 1S Pass 3S Dbl

(b) 1S Dbl 4S Pass

Pass Dbl

(c) 2C* Pass 2D* Dbl (2C = 8 tricks, any suit; 2D = relay.)

2H Dbl

(d) 1D 2C Pass 4C Dbl

(e) 1H 2H Pass 3S (2H = Michaels, 5/5 spades and a minor.)


(f) 1S 2D 3S Dbl

(g) 1S Dbl 4S Dbl

(h) 3H Pass 5H Dbl

(i) 1H 1S 2D Dbl (Double shows cards, clubs and spade tolerace.)

(j) 1NT 2H Dbl (The take-out double here shows at least two hearts and the values for 2NT.)

(k) 1NT 3C Dbl

(l) 1H 1NT 2S Dbl

1. We have agreed a suit (not necessarily a fit). A suit response to a take-out
double is taken as suit agreement. All the following doubles are penalty, or at
least penalties in context, showing a balanced hand, such as (e):
(a) 1S   Pass 2S   3D    (b) 1D   2C   Dbl  3C    (c) 1C*  Dbl  2C   2S
    Dbl                      3H   4C   Dbl            Dbl
(d) 1S   Dbl  2S   3H    (e) 1D   Dbl  1H   3C    (f) 1C   2C*  Dbl  2S
    3S   Pass Pass Dbl       3D   Dbl                 3C   Pass Pass Dbl
(c) 1C could be short, in five-card majors style.
(f) 2C = Michaels, 5/5 in the majors.
2. We have pre-empted. The first two doubles are strictly for business. If you
play a Multi, then doubles above 2S are also clearly penalty. Double of 2H/S
over Multi (c) may soundly be played as take-out (best to agree; by the way,
also agree what Redouble and Pass mean after Multi is doubled):
(a) 2H*  3D   Dbl        (b) 1H   3S   4H   Dbl   (c) 2D*  2S   Dbl
(a) 2H = weak.
(c) 2D = Multi, could be a weak two in either major.
3. A double of a naturally bid suit we have bid or implied is for penalties, as
in (a) and (c). A short club does not count, so double in (b) is take-out.
(a) 1S   Pass 2D   2S    (b) 1C*  2C   Dbl        (c) 1D   Dbl  1H   Dbl
4. When one partner has defined his shape (any rebid does this), then double
is for penalties, for example:
(a) 1C   Pass 1H   1S    (b) 1C   2C*  3C   Dbl   (c) 1C   1H   1S   1NT
    2D   Pass 2H   2S                                 Pass 2D   2S   Pass
    Dbl                                               Pass Dbl
(b) 2C = Michaels.
5. When they protect, except when an opening bid is passed by partner, double
is penalty. Only the first three below are for take-out:
(a) 1S   Pass Pass 2D    (b) 1NT  Pass Pass 2H     (c) 1NT  Pass Pass 2C*
    Pass Pass Dbl            Dbl                       Pass 2D*  Pass 2H
                                                       Pass Pass Dbl
(d) 1NT  Pass 2D*  Pass  (e) Pass Pass 1D   Pass   (f) 1S   Pass 1NT  Pass
    2H   Pass Pass 2S        1H   Pass Pass Dbl        Pass 2H   Dbl
    Pass Pass Dbl            Pass 2C   Dbl
(c) 2C = hearts/minor (Astro); 2D = non-forcing relay.
(d) 2D is a transfer to hearts.
6. Double by a hand which had 'lurked' on the previous round is penalty, unless
the opponents have shown a fit in time for his re-entry, and a take-out double
is still conceivable. Double is penalties on (a) (b) and (d), and take-out on
(c) and (e).
(a) 1H   1S   Pass Pass  (b) 1S   Pass 1NT  Pass  (c) 1S   Pass 2S   Pass
    2D   2S   Dbl            2S   Dbl                 Pass Dbl
(d) 1H   1S   Pass 2S    (e) 2H*  Pass 3H*  Pass
    Pass Pass Dbl            Pass Dbl
(e) 2H = weak; 3H = pre-emptive.
7. If they bid a new suit opposite a pre-empt, double is penalty, as below:
(a) 3D   Pass 4H   Dbl   (b) 1S   3D*  Pass 3H    (c) 2D*  Pass 2S   Dbl
(b) 3D = weak.
(c) 2D = weak.
8. When we double or redouble to express interest in taking a penalty (e.g.
when they compete artificially or double for take-out), subsequent doubles
are for penalty. All the following are penalty doubles:
(a) 1H   Dbl  Rdbl 2D    (b) 1NT  2C*  Dbl  2H    (c) 1NT  Dbl  2C   Dbl
    Dbl                      Dbl                      Pass Pass Rdbl Pass
                                                      2D   Dbl
(b) 2C could be any conventional defence to 1NT whatsoever.
9. If pass would be forcing, then double is business, as below:
(a) 2C*  Pass 2D*  3S    (b) 2NT  3D   Dbl         (c)  1D   Pass 2H   3C
    Dbl                                                 Dbl
(a) 2C = Acol (game-forcing), 2D = negative.
Some expert partnerships do not play rules 8 and 9, but it is much easier to
play them, at the loss of little theoretical expediency.
10. (Optional) Support doubles by opener in fifth position. (a) and (b) show
exactly three-card support, within almost any hand. (c) is simply for take-out.
(a) 1D   Pass 1H   1S    (b) 1C   Dbl  1S   2H    (c) 1C   Pass 1H   2S
    Dbl                      Dbl                      Dbl
11. (Optional) Action doubles by a hand not expected to act again, especially a
pre-emptor, suggesting a better hand than already shown.
(a) 3C   3H   Pass Pass  (b) 1D   2D*  3D   Pass  (c) 1NT  Pass 2D*  Pass
    Dbl                      Pass Dbl                 2H   2S   Pass Pass
(b) 2D = Michaels.
(c) 2D = Transfer. The double shows a maximum with three hearts.
12. Lead-directing doubles of various kinds. But a double of a splinter, or a
double by a partner who won't conceivably be on lead expresses interest in
competing in the suit:
(a) 1H   Pass 2S   Pass  (b) 1H   Pass 1S   Pass  (c) 1NT  Pass 3NT  Dbl
    3S   Pass 4NT* Pass      1NT  Pass 3NT  Dbl
    5H*  Pass 6S   Pass
    Pass Dbl
(d) 2NT  Pass 3C*  Dbl   (e) 1H   Dbl  Pass 1S    (f) 1S   Pass 3S   Pass
                             Pass 2H   Dbl            4NT* Pass 5D*  Dbl
                                                      6S   Pass Pass Dbl
(g) 1H   Pass 4D*  Dbl   (h) 1H   1S   3S*  Dbl   (i) 1H   1S   2H   Pass
                                                      3C*  Dbl
(a) 4NT/5H = Blackwood. Double says 'I have a void. Please lead it.'
(b) Double asks for a spade lead, dummy's first bid suit.
(c) Double says 'Please lead my running suit (i.e. lead your shortest)'.
(d) 3C = Stayman (or Baron). Double indicates a club lead.
(e) Double shows a top heart honour.
(f) The second double negates the first, and asks for a non-diamond lead.
(g) 4D = splinter. Double shows the playing strength for at least 3D.
(h) 3S = splinter. Same again: enough to raise to three.
(i) 3C = short-suit game-try. Doubler held: K J x x x x   x   x x   A K Q x
13. Commonsense sometimes precludes double being take-out, even if it may be
construed as such according to the rules. If in doubt, responder's trump
holding should tell him what partner's double is, as in (b). (a) and (c) below
are penalty.
(a) Pass Pass 1S   Pass  (b) Pass 1C   Pass 2C    (c) 1NT* Pass Pass 3S
    2S   Dbl  3S   Dbl       2S   Dbl  Pass 3C        Dbl
(c) 1NT = 15-17.
14. Doubles of no trump bids can also be take-out, chiefly of a no trump
response to a suit bid. Best to explain by examples:
(a) 1H   Pass 1NT  Dbl   (b) 2H*  Pass 2NT* Dbl   (c) 1H   Pass 1S   Pass
                                                      1NT  Dbl
(d) 1H   Pass 3NT* Dbl   (e) 1D   1H   Pass 1NT   (f) 1S   3S*  Pass 3NT
                             Dbl                      Dbl
(a) A sound take-out double of 1H.
(b) 2H = weak; 2NT = enquiry. Double is take-out of hearts.
(c) Double shows a penalty double of 1H (lurking).
(d) 3NT = heart raise with a singleton spade. Double is take-out of hearts.
(e) Take-out of hearts.
(f) 3S asks for a spade stop. Double is penalty.

[Mail] [Home] University of Warwick Bridge Club -