PENALTY VS. TAKEOUT DOUBLES

  • WARNING #1: doubles are complicated. The rules are subtle and any reference to a double elsewhere in the system card should be taken as a GUIDELINE and might, under certain circumstances, be potentially misleading. Full and reliable analysis of the meaning of any particular double can only be found on this page here.
  • WARNING #2: if you're in mid-hand and trying to use this page as a reference, bugger off. The only way to handle doubles is by having the rules clear in your head beforehand and applying simple logic, which isn't going to happen if you're scrabbling for a rule in a few desperate seconds.
  • DEFINITIONS OF THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF DOUBLE

    PENALTYWants to make this the final contract, doubled. Wants partner to pass.
    LEAD-DIRECTINGTechnically it's another penalty double, but of a contract the opponents were unlikely to play in, e.g. you're doubling Stayman. The message you're sending to partner is "I'm strong in this suit, so please lead it". If partner's particularly suitable, they're also allowed to compete in it during the auction.
    TAKEOUTTelling partner you have length in the unbid suits and asking partner to choose one of them, with the logical corollary that "unbid suit" can only become a meaningful concept if the opponents have bid any suits in the first place! If the opponents have done nothing except double and/or make natural no-trump overcalls, the idea of a takeout double is meaningless. The choice being offered to partner must be 2 or 3, instead of 0, 1 or (risibly) all four. NOTE: the terminology of a "takeout double" doesn't just mean "I've doubled so you have to bid something, partner". It's a promise about distribution and suit length.

    SPECIAL MEANINGS

    A specific convention, e.g. DOPI/ROPI, or the "5-4 in the majors" double of a no-trump opening under certain specific circumstancesspecified meaning
    Double of splinter5-card suit or longer in a hand that wouldn't play too badly if that suit were trumps, offering partner the option of sacrificing against the opponents' contract
    Double of a Gambling 3NT if the doubler is a passed handUseful suits, good shape + playing strength and intermediate or so in terms of high card points, best described as a forward-going noise. Partner is allowed either to pass or compete over the 3NT bid, as they see fit.
    Lead-directing doubles, e.g. Lightner -- see separate table belowrequesting a particular lead

    PENALTY

    Any contract of 4S or higherPENALTIES. There are no takeout doubles above this level, although there are some special cases that have additional meaning on top, e.g. doubles of splinters, or passed-hand doubles of a Gambling 3NT.
    Any no-trump bid from 2NT upwardsPENALTIES
    1NT opening, unless it's a strong no-trump or the doubler is a passed handPENALTIES
    Any 1NT bid if we've previously said something during the auction (not counting "pass")PENALTIES
    We opened a suit at the one-level and partner responded with a bid that wasn't pass or redoublePENALTIES
    We've pre-empted (including Weak Twos and weak jump overcalls)PENALTIES
    We've made a two-suited overcall (e.g. Unusual 2NT, 2D over 1NT)PENALTIES
    All subsequent doubles after a penalty double (or penalty pass of a takeout double, which comes to the same thing). The only exception is after a penalty double of a 1NT opening or overcall - see separate rule below.PENALTIES
    Doubling any suit that's not that particular opponent's first-mentioned denomination and the opposition haven't found a fit in itPENALTIES, with a strong LEAD-DIRECTING implication. This applies even to low-level auctions like 1S (pass) 1NT (pass) 2C (dble).
    Double when there aren't two or three unbid suits to choose betweenPENALTIES, because a takeout interpretation would be meaningless
    Double when there are two unbid suits left, but partner has already asked us to choose between those two specific suits with a takeout double of his ownPENALTIES
    Double when the doubler's already made one takeout double and there's no reason why the situation should be calling for another onePENALTIES
    Double when the doubler's already made two takeout doublesPENALTIES
    It can't be takeout because of previous pass(es)PENALTIES
    We've already used our "in the bank" takeout doublePENALTIES

    TAKEOUT

  • In general terms, once one of us has bid (including an opening double), our partnership can be regarded as having an option in the bank of making one standard takeout double (i.e. only up to 4H, etc.) if the opponents intervene. A double of a no-trump bid can't be for takeout, of course.

  • We: (a) opened a strong two-level opening (2C, 2D, 2NT) and one of us hasn't yet described their hand type, or (b) previously redoubled for blood, i.e. the opponents made a takeout double and we redoubled to show the balance of the points and a strong interest in taking a penaltyWe have a TAKEOUT double in the bank, which is available if the opponents overcall in a suit. We're not expecting to let the opponents play in an undoubled part-score.
    We opened 1NT and partner responded at the two level (i.e. 2C Stayman, 2D/2H transfers, 2S minor-suit transfer or 2NT invitational raise)We have a TAKEOUT double in the bank, which is available if the opponents overcall in a suit.
    Double in response to partner's takeout double at a time when you were given a choice of three suits and at least two are still available nowTAKEOUT, asking partner to choose one of two equals. That's just the standard "in the bank" takeout option.
    Either of us hasn't yet said anything except "pass"TAKEOUT by default, but with quite a lot of exceptions, e.g. penalty doubles of no-trump bids, the doubler has made two takeout doubles already, etc.
    We doubled a no-trump opening or overcall for penaltiesWe have one TAKEOUT double of an opponent's suit bid in the bank, although the situation is complicated by possible systemic wriggles (less likely on bridgebase). Penalty doubles even of subsequent no-trump bids don't take away that suit-takeout option that will still be sitting in the bank for when/if the opponents pop up with a subsequent suit bid.

    LEAD-DIRECTING

  • Doubling a freely bid 3NT requests (in priority order):
  • (a) the lead of a suit bid by the defence
  • (b) then dummy's first-bid suit
  • (c) if there are no such clues at all, i.e. neither dummy nor the doubler bid any suits, then the opening leader is simply being asked to guess what long, strong suit their partner is doubling on.
  • To get a lead of dummy's second-bid suit or one of their cue-bids, you need to double it as soon as it's bid during the auction.
  • Doubling a freely bid slam (aka. Lightner) requests an unusual lead, often for a ruff, and prohibits the lead of a suit bid by the defence. If in doubt, it's likely (although far from certain) to be a suit bid by dummy.
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    Copyright 2015 Finn Clark.