Glasnevin Bridge Club

This is an extremely versatile bid. In fact, one of its
less common uses in modern systems is for penalties, the original intent! So in a sense Dbl has become the most used conventional bid of all. The uses of Dbl in this system are listed here.

Take-out Doubles
Standard Take-out Doubles
This is the most common double used in this (and most other) systems. To make a
standard take out double, all of the following must apply;
  • The opposition have opened a suit.
  • Partner has not bid (other than to pass).
  • You have opening points.
  • You are short (2- cards) in the suit they have opened.
  • You have tolerance (3+ cards) for all other suits.
  • This is your first opportunity to double (note you might have passed initially).
These conditions must be adhered to strictly. In particular, you should never double just because you have opening points; everything else must be right. That means you will occasionally pass with a balance 15 count or a 15 count with their suit. Don’t fret about this because the other part of the deal is that a competent partner will always protect you in such situations by balancing. What are opening points? Usually 12+ but if you are 4441 or 5440, you can shade that by 1-2 points. You can also shade in the balancing position by up to 3 points. Some other issues to bear in mind include;
  • The upper limit for a take-out double in this system is 4S.
  • Doubles of all genuine pre-emptive openings (but not Multis and such like) are for take-out.
  • If they open and opener’s partner raises, double is still for take out e.g. 1H-pass-3H-dbl.
  • If they open and opener’s partner responds NT, double is a take-out of opener’s suit e.g. 1H-pass-1NT-dbl is a take-out of hearts.
  • Ideally, if you are doubling their major, you should have 4 of the other major. If not, you may still go ahead but think twice. Is there a better alternative such an overcall in a sound 5 card minor or, if you are marginal to double, pass?
  • Doubling by a passed hand is ok at favorable vulnerability with a hand unsuitable for defense and an unexcitable partner!
  • Partner must always bid unless there has been an intervening bid, in which case a weak (7-) partner can pass.
  • If weak and forced to bid, bid your longest suit as cheaply as possible.
  • With 8-11 HCPs bid to the level you think the partnership can make assuming partner has 12+ HCPs and is 4441. Remember vulnerability.
  • If you are 4333 or 4432 with 6-9 points, you can bid 1NT or 2NT with 10-12. A NT bid basically says that the only suit you could have usefully bid is the oppositions. When you bid NT, you are guaranteeing stoppers. If this is your shape and you have 0-5 HCPs and have to bid, bid your 4 card suit, unless it is their’s in which case bid your least bad 3 card suit. Don’t fret too much. Your LHO probably has the values to bid on in which case you can gracefully pass next time around.
  • With game going points (12+) either bid game when you know the correct denomination or cue bid their suit (i.e. an unassuming cue-bid) requiring partner to further describe his hand.
  • Very rarely, when you have a holding in opener’s suit that you know will bring him down, you may pass, converting the double to penalties. You better be right and even if you are, partner will get a terrible fright!
Doubler’s Rebid
In the standard situation, the only options are to pass, raise partner’s suit or respond to his cue bid.
Responsive Doubles
This is a double in response to partner’s take-out double following a bid by RHO e.g. 1C-dbl-3C-dbl. It tells partner you have values to bid at the current level but don’t know what to bid. Partner can make inferences for example, you clearly don’t have a 5 card suit, nor in the case of a double of opener’s major, 4 of the other major. If the original double was over a minor, you are probably 4-4 in the majors, otherwise you would have called your other major. Partner should be able to pick the best spot.
Re-Opening Doubles
When you open a suit and they overcall and the bidding has come back around to you (partner having passed), a double now shows partner that you are short of their suit and asks him to bid accordingly. This is a re-opening double. Before doing it, take note of partner’s likely strength. If he passed before the overcall, (e.g. 1H-pass-pass-2D) he is 0-5. On the other hand, if he passed following a 2 level overcall, (e.g. 1H-2D-pass-pass) he could have up to 9. Judge accordingly.
A re-opening double
can also used after you open 1NT and are overcalled but this is risky. Only consider it if you have small doubleton in their suit. Moreover, if their suit is a major, you should hold 4 of the other major. Partner will bid a suit if he can. If he knows that both majors are out (because they overcalled one and he is short of the other) and he can live with either minor, he may bid 2NT asking you to pick your minor.
Non-Standard Take-out Doubles
There are two types;
  1. The first is where you have a strong hand; either 19+ balanced, so too strong for a 1NT overcall, or a 16+ one suiter, too strong for a standard overcall. In either case you double first and then rebid either NT (system on) or your suit. Partner now knows the real situation and proceeds accordingly.
  2. The second situation is where you are in 4th seat and both of your opponents have bid different suits, your partner having passed. Now your double shows opening points and 4+ in both unbid suits.

Negative Doubles
This arises when partner opens and your RHO overcalls. Negative doubles give you a versatile way to show your suit(s) and strength, with the emphasis usually being on showing major suits, as follows;
  • 1C-(1D)-Dbl shows 4+ of both majors and 6+ points.
  • 1m-(1H)-Dbl shows exactly 4 spades and 6+ points, therefore 1m-(1H)-1S now promises 5+ spades. Neat!
  • 1m-(1S)-Dbl shows 4+ hearts and 6+ points.
  • 1H-(1S)-Dbl shows 4+ of both minors and 10+ points.
  • 1M-2m-Dbl shows 4+ of both majors and 10 + points.
  • 1D-2C-Dbl shows 4+ of both majors and 10+ points.
Note that the points shown reflect the level that would have had to be bid to proceed naturally. Respond on the assumption that the negative doubler is minimal for his bid. There is no concept of reverse bidding showing strength after a negative double. Opener can “reverse” with a minimum and should he wish to force, the only tool available to him is a cue bid. The upper limit for negative doubles in this system is 4S.

Doubling to show a 15-17 balanced hand after “they” prevent you from reversing into 1NT
When you are a balanced 15-17, you open 1 of a suit. If partner passes and their intervention robs bidding space such that you can no longer reverse into 1NT, you have no option but to pass. However, if partner has bid, you can now double to show your hand. Think about it. If you open say 1D, LHO bids 2C, partner passes, RHO passes and you double, that is for take-out (see definition above) and partner will take you for being short of clubs and doubling to re-open. However, if you open 1D, LHO passes, partner bids 1H and RHO bids 2C, now your double can’t be for take-out as partner has bid (other than pass). The only logical meaning is “I wanted to reverse into 1NT, they have stopped me and I’m too weak for 2NT” i.e. “I’m 15-17 balanced”.

Lead Directing Doubles
Doubling their conventional bid e.g. 2C Stayman or 2D/H Transfers or their conventional response to a conventional bid e.g. 2D response to Stayman or any suit response to any version of Blackwood 4NT is lead directing, asking partner to lead that suit. When the opposition have voluntarily bid to slam, a double by the partner of the defender who will be on lead is a Lightner double and asks for an “unusual” lead. This is typically a lead of dummy’s first bid suit or a request to refrain from leading a trump or an unbid suit or, if the defenders have bid, a request not to lead that suit. The most common situation is where the doubler is void in dummy’s suit and wants it lead so he can ruff it.

Doubles of 3NT are lead directing if done by the partner of the defender who will be on lead. It’s special and a little complex. The following rules apply;
  • If no suit has been called by anyone during the auction, a Dbl says “I have a solid suit that will defeat this and I want you to lead it”. Of course, partner can’t know for sure which suit it is but he can often guess. If partner has a solid suit, you can’t have an A,K or Q in it, so leading an honourless short suit seems logical!
  • If neither defender has bid but dummy has, Dbl asks for a lead of dummy’s first bid suit.
  • If either defender opened a major or overcalled anything (both indicating a 5+ card holding), the natural reaction of partner is to lead that suit. A Dbl here asks him to lead a different suit, one in which you are strong but couldn’t mention - typically one of lower rank than the one you mentioned!
  • If you, partner and dummy have all bid, partner will tend to lead your suit and Dbl asks for a lead of dummies suit or of partner’s own suit.

Penalty Doubles
In modern systems, virtually all first round and low level second round doubles are for take-out. If you are in doubt, the test to apply is that a double is only for penalties if logic dictates there is no alternative! This is a little extreme but you won’t go too far wrong if you follow it. To aid clarity, the following is a list of penalty doubles;
  • When opener is doubled for take-out and partner redoubles, a double of whatever they escape into is always for penalties e.g. 1H-dbl-redbl-1S-dbl
  • A double of a suit which could have been doubled at a lower level, logically has to be for penalties e.g. 1H-1S-pass-pass-2C-2S-dbl. If the doubler had wanted to make a take-out double of spades, he would have done so immediately after the 1S bid i.e. at the first opportunity.
  • Doubling their 1NT opening in this system is always for penalties (but this does not necessarily apply to all systems).
  • A double when there has been a previous penalty double (or penalty pass) by the same side is for penalties. By default this applies to a double of anything they escape into after a penalty double of their opening 1NT but this can be waived subject to partnership agreement.
  • Doubling of contracts where there has been a competitive auction and it is clear they are sacrificing or have become overstretched is for penalties. Note that this requires judgement.
  • Doubling 5 level contracts is generally penalty orientated and often profitable.
Note that the doubling of voluntarily bid slams by competent opponents is usually wrong and that’s why it is usually only done as a lead directing exercise. Likewise, be very wary of doubling part score contracts between 2H and 3S as you are doubling them into game.

Competitive Doubles
With the exception of the examples cited in the above section on penalty doubles, all doubles in a competitive auction up to 2S are for take out even where partner has bid. What advancer is saying to his overcalling partner is “We have not yet found a fit but I’m not willing to sell out yet, tell me more!”. He can only do this if he can live with any rational response from overcaller. Here are some examples of relatively simple competitive doubles;
1C-1S-2H-dbl. Advancer has a decent hand but has only 2 spades and has long diamonds. He is thus giving overcalled two options from which to choose! He has to be able to live with 2S or 3D.
1S-2H-2S-dbl. Again advancer is giving overcaller options. What are they? He can play in either of the unbid minors but if this is not on, he can live with 3H. So he probably has 2 hearts and ideally 5-5 (or at worst 5-4) in the minors.
The above are simple examples. There is a lot more out there but for now we will confine ourselves to these i.e. competitive doubles up to 2S in the first round of bidding.


When your RHO doubles your partner’s opening and you have a good hand (10+) but can’t raise partner, you should redouble. It tells partner that the best outcome may well be to let them play doubled and thus asks partner to double whatever they escape into if he can. If he can’t and passes, it promises that you will bid. Partner should not repeat his opening suit unless he is happy to play in it with little or no support from you.
Responding When Partner’s Take-Out Double is Redoubled
The redoubled is saying “Our side has the balance of power so lets double these guys for penalties!” Painful as it seems, if you have 5+ cards in the next suit up, you must bid it, even with a Yarborough. Alternatively, with length in their suit, bid 1NT. With neither of these, pass and let partner decide how to escape. In all cases, you must expect whatever you escape into to be doubled so don’t panic but seek to limit the damages.

Table of Contents