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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Takeout Doubles Modern and Ancient,
by Jim Kaplan

The line of demarcation between modern and older bidding systems runs through the subject of takeout doubles. Many old-timers who grew up playing Goren will make a takeout double any time they have opening points. People playing Standard American, precision or 2-over-1 styles will usually takeout only when they have support for all the unbid suits.

Who’s right? It’s a slam dunk for moderns. Let’s say you hold these cards:

S —
H A K 10 9
D A Q 7 5 4
C 10 9 8 6

Your right-hand opponent opens 1D. What do you do?

If you double and the next player passes, bet your bottom dollar partner will bid 1S. Now you’re up the creek. You’ve already bid your values, and you’re going to have to bid again! Trust me: don’t double every time you have an opening bid.

Here’s the definition of a takeout double as used by almost every tournament player:

  • Double of opponents’ opening bid(s) when partner hasn’t bid.
  • Shows 13+ dummy points and 3+ support for the unbid suits. Count one point for a doubleton, three for a singleton and five for a void.
  • Exception: With 17+ dummy points, it’s not necessary to have support for all unbid suits. Instead, double and bid again to clarify your holding.
  • Exception: After an opening bid and two passes, it’s permissible to double with a hand a king short of opening dummy values.


RHO You Your bid
1C S x x x ?
H x x x
D A x
C A K Q x x

A.—Pass (diamond shortness).

RHO You Your bid
1C S A x x x ?
H A x x x
D A x x
C x x

A.—Double (textbook: support for all unbid suits, 13 dummy points).

RHO You Your bid
1C S A x x ?
H A x
D A x x x
C A K x x

A.—Double, then bid to clarify your holding (probably 1NT).

You can’t pass partner’s takeout double unless RHO bids something or you have a huge stack in the opener’s suit that you can convert into at least four defensive tricks. In that case, pass to convert a takeout double into a penalty double.

In responding to a takeout double, make the cheapest bid possible with 0-8 high-card points. Your order of preference is major suit, 1NT, minor suit. With 9-11 HCP (or 8 with a five-card major), jump bid in a suit, bid 2NT or cuebid opener’s suit if you have two four-card majors. With 12+ points, bid game in a major, 3NT or cuebid opener’s suit.

With 12-16 dummy points, the doubler doesn’t bid again unless forced to. With 17-19 dummy points, raise partner’s suit or bid a new suit or NoTrump. With 20+ dummy points, jump-bid.

Granted, this is a lot to learn, but you can refer to it while bidding this hand from a teacher’s manual. North is dealing, with no one vulnerable:

NORTH
S A 9
H K 10 2
D A K J 9 7 6
C 8 3
WEST EAST
S J 8 5 4 2 S K Q 7 3
H 7 5 H A Q 8 6
D 8 3 2 D 4
C A 6 4 C K Q 5 2
SOUTH
S 10 6
H J 9 4 3
D Q 10 5
C J 10 9 7

A proper auction would proceed as follows:

North East South West
1D DBL Pass 1S
Pass 2S Pass 3S
Pass 4S All Pass

East had a textbook double and something more with 19 dummy points. So after West responded 1S, East raised to 2S. With 5 HCP, plus one more for the fifth spade, West bid 3S, asking partner to bid game with maximum support. East complied. East-West should make five.

P.S.; Column vetter Leo Sartori has an expert take on the auction. “I would bid 3C with the West hand as a game try instead of 3S,” he says. A help suit game try asks East to bid 4S with club support and 3S without it. “Change the club ace to the diamond ace, and I would not want to be in game.”

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