Definitions

penalty-double

Takeout double

A takeout double is a conventional double used in a competitive auction (most often, immediately after an opponent's opening bid) to show a desire to compete, in contrast to a penalty double, which indicates a desire to defend against the opponent's contract. Usually, the call indicates support for the unbid suits and a hand of opening strength or more. The takeout double asks the doubler's partner to bid a suit, and implies shortness in the suit(s) doubled.

Normally, a double is considered takeout whenever one of the following conditions are met:

  • Opponent(s) have previously bid only one suit, and the player did not have chance to double that suit before.
  • Opponents have previously bid two suits, and the partner has passed
  • Opponents have found a fit

only in the first round of bidding, and any subsequent ones are regarded as penalty (but see balancing double below).

In the strict sense, takeout double is a convention, as it does not show desire to penalize the opponents (which is the usual meaning of a double) —quite the opposite. However, it is possibly the oldest bridge convention and treated as an integral part of the game, thus considered natural.

Requirements

Most common requirements to make a takeout double are:

  • Shortness (doubleton or less, tripleton at most) in the opponents' suit(s),
  • Length (at minimum 3 cards, preferably 4) in the unbid suits,
  • High-card point strength of at least a minimal opening bid (11 HCP)

The most common treatment is that the fewer high card points the hand possesses, the distribution must be more strict (i.e. opponent's suit(s) shorter and unbid suits longer). Most players play that cards of 16(17) high card points should double regardless of distribution (unless the hand is suitable for 1NT overcall). Also, more high-card strength is required when opponents have bid on higher levels (e.g. preempted). Most players play that a double up to the level of 4 is takeout, while doubles on higher levels are for penalties or "cooperative" (i.e. the partner is supposed to pass unless his distribution and/or strength indicates that playing a contract of their own on a higher level is a better prospect).

Examples

1) This card is a minimal takeout double when the opponent opens 1. With other opening bids, it should be passed though. Also, if the opening bid was 3, the hand would be not strong enough to double.
2) If opponents have bid 1 – 1, the takeout double shows unbid suits (spades and clubs)
3) With 16 balanced points, this card is suitable for 1NT overcall over any opening bid rather than for a double.
4) With 17 points and excellent spade suit, this card should double RHO's opening bid rather than overcall spades. Whatever partner bids, a subsequent bid of spades will indicate a stronger hand than a simple overcall.
5) Over an opening bid of 1 this hand can double or overcall 2 depending on style and agreements. However, over an opening bid of 1, it should pass, expecting to double later opponents' heart or notrump contract for penalties.

Responses

Normally, (assuming the RHO passes) the doubler's partner should make a descriptive bid indicating a long suit of his own and the high-card strength:

  • A minimal-level bid of a suit indicates a weak hand (normally, below 8 high-card points).
  • A jump-bid of a suit shows a long (at least a 4-card) suit and invites the partner to bid on if the double was not minimal. Normally, such bid is made with 8-11 points.
  • A bid of 1NT shows 8-10 HCP and balanced hand with at least one stopper in the opponent's suit. A bid of 2NT shows 11-12 HCP and balanced hand with stopper(s).
  • With any hand of opening-bid strength or higher, the responder should cuebid opponent's suit. The doubler is supposed to make a descriptive bid
  • Finally, the takeout double can be passed for penalties in extreme situations, when the hand has 5-6 or more excellent trumps (this is termed a "penalty pass"). The doubler is supposed to lead a trump, so that the opponent's trumps can be drawn. For this reason, it's not recommended that a takeout double be made with a void in the suit doubled.

If the RHO bids, the doubler's partner is not forced to make a bid anymore; if one is made, it is a free bid, indicating a certain strength and/or length in the suit bid.

The strength requirements above are lowered when the partner is known to be stronger (e.g. an opponents' preempt is doubled), and raised when partner can be weak (as in protective position).

Later-round takeout doubles

Double can be for takeout even in later rounds of bidding. As before, it denotes support for unbid suits and, often, extra values. In general, any low-level double after opponents have bid a suit (especially if they have found a fit) and partner has passed is generally played for takeout:

  • the opener himself can double for takeout in the second round of bidding, after the opponents have entered the auction and partner had (usually) passed
  • also, an overcaller can second-round double as well, to show extra values and support for unbid suits.
  • a first-round takeout doubler can make a takeout double again, with a strong hand (around 16+ points)

1) 1 – (1) – pass – pass; Dbl This type of is referred to as "reopening double", and shows shortness in spades and support for other suits
2) 1 – 1 ; Dbl Shows 4+ cards in all unbid major(s), or 4+ cards in each minor if both bid suits are majors. See negative double.
3) 1 – Dbl – pass – 1; Dbl Again, the opener has shortness in spades and other three suits.
4) 1 – 1() – pass – (2); Dbl This shows shortness in hearts, but the opener must have extra strength, as the responder is forced to bid on level 2 or 3.
5) (1) – 1 – (2) – pass; (pass) – Dbl The overcaller shows shortness in diamonds, and at least 3 cards in hearts and clubs, with some extra values for the overcall.
6) (1) – Dbl – (2) – pass; (pass) – Dbl The original doubler shows extra values and/or extreme shortness in hearts.

Protective and balancing doubles

Distribution and strength requirements for a takeout double are lowered in situations when opponents' previous auction indicates that the partner has high-card strength, but was likely unable to take an action of his own because his distribution was not suitable for a double or an overcall.

A protective double can be made with as little as 8 high card points if both the RHO and the partner have passed the opening bid. Such a situation indicates that partner has strength, but was unable to act, perhaps because he had a hand like 1) or 5) in the table above:

West North East South
1 Pass Pass ?
South, holding can now double, expecting to find partner with strength and likely length in hearts, allowing him to pass for penalties or make a bid.

A balancing double occurs in later rounds of bidding, in situations where opponents have found a fit, but stopped on a low level, placing some points with the partner. It is normally done with a relatively weak hand and the distribution need not be perfect.

West North East South
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 Pass Pass ?
South, holding was not strong enough to double in the first round. However, he can expect the partner to have shortness in hearts and likely 4 cards in spades or diamonds, and thus make a balancing takeout double. Such doubles are more frequent on matchpoint scoring, where even a penalty of −100 for the failure to make 2 can be profitable against −110 or −140 that the opponents could score in 2.

Reopening double

Reopening double is a form of takeout double bid by the opener himself, after his left-hand opponent has overcalled and partner has passed. As normal takeout double, it shows support for unbid suits:
West North East South
1 1 Pass Pass
Dbl
West's double denotes shortness in spades, and invites partner to bid his best suit. A suitable hand would be e.g. . The partner should bid his longest suit on the lowest level with approximately 0-6 points, 1NT with 5-7 points and stopper in spades, (as he would bid 1NT immediately with 8-10 points), and jump in a suit with 7+ points. Finally, he can pass for penalties with 5 or more cards in spades.

In the past, reopening doubles used to show extra values as well. However, with the inclusion of negative double, responder cannot double for penalties anymore and must pass with length and strength in the overcalled suit. In order to protect against such situations, opener is obliged to double even with thin values, whenever his distribution is suitable. Some pairs even go so far that they require some form of reopening in all cases.

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