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Quick summary

A very useful overcall. Bid 3 suits, all at once!

Just "double for takeout" if:

Partner must include shape points, knowing you have a fit, and either

or partner should:

With two good suits to bid at once, there are other choices of overcalls:

The negative double can be useful when the enemy has overcalled.


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
S Q 6 3 2
H 8 7 6 5 4
D 5 3
C 10 9
Example Deal
Dealer: North
Vuln: Nil

Double for takeout
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Doubles. Double for takeout

"Partner:  any of these 3 suits will do. . .. tell me which is best for you"

1diamond Dbl pass ?

This is a very useful overcall after the enemy to your right has opened with a suit. Typically (you are North in the example above), you have a nice opening hand, so basically you'd like to play. You don't want the enemy to play in their suit, and you can accept any suit your partner chooses. If you are North, your "Doubling" bid forces your partner South to choose a suit.

First of all, the standard use:

Just say "Double". You have opening points (no more than 7 losers, and typically 14 points including SHORTAGE) and, as often happens, it turns out that the one suit you don't have is the suit your opponents have just opened with.

Provided you are very short in that enemy-bid suit, but OK in all the others, then it would be nice to say to partner "I could open in any of the 3 suits that our opponents have not yet bid, please tell me your best suit of these 3, and 'take me out' of the double".  It ideally means 4 cards approximately in each of the three suits, but slight deviation of length is allowed.

Best of all, you have just one card in the enemy's suit, so the perfect distribution would be a 4441 hand. (Note: ideally you do not have none at all, in case your partner passes your double, see below).

And a slight variation:

You can make the same bid, "double for takeout", if you have opening points and any three suits, one of which can be the suit the enemy just bid. You are still asking your partner to bid a suit. If he bids one of your good suits, that's fine, you've found a match. If he bids your short suit, then you have all 4 suits covered, and you can play in No Trumps.

Partner's normal response

Unless there is an intervening bid from your opponents, your partner MUST reply (to "take you out" of the double), even with 0 points.  It's a forcing bid because you didn't really mean "double" in the conventional "doubled for penalties" sense.  Your should partner bid his best suit, because he is forced to. Best suit means the longest one, or if suits are the same length then it's probably better to bid a Major, since getting game bonus points is easier.

If you (the overcalling doubler) then go on in your rebid to change the suggested suit, then partner should spot that something funny is clearly going on, which has a special meaning.

Different responses from partner

1. Quite strong. The most common "different" response occurs when partner has close to an opening hand (10-12 points including distribution, since you know there's a fit). In this case he would like to have said "hey, you are forcing me to bid, even with no points, but the fact is I would have bid anyway, because I've got plenty of points, 10-12 in fact, and I know you have 14 including shape, so game might be on".   He does this by jumping. Doubler can now evaluate game.

Some people think that as few as 7+ HCP is enough for this stronger response. This can be risky, but acceptably risky either if vulnerability is favourable, or if your shape is nice.

2. I've got that 4th suit that you don't have, let's play in NT. Partner can bid NT if he has cover for the enemy's suit.

Bid 2NT with 10-12 HCP, or bid 1NT with 8-10 (following the usual logic of responding to a suit with NT, with a higher minimum cut-off due to the likely singleton). With 13+ bid 3NT.

3. Party time. I've also got an opening hand ! The responder should cue bid opponent's suit. The doubler should then make a descriptive bid.

4. But actually, I want to double them for penaties! "Pass". Convert the "take-out" double to a "penalty" double if you're very strong in the opponents' suit, simply by saying "no bid". You need 5-6 excellent trumps.

The "double for takeout" doubler is supposed to lead a trump, so that the enemy's trumps can be drawn. For this reason, it's not ideal to bid a takeout double if you have a void in the doubled suit - the ideal is a singleton.

Oh, and remember, do not pass if you're weak, or your partner might want to strangle you. Your partner is, er, "asking" you to respond, so unless you're sure that opponent's 1heart doubled is better, you should bid another suit.

Can I pass if the enemy have bid after partner's takeout double? This is allowed, since the enemy took you out of the "not-genuine double". If you have a normal responding hand however (6+) then you should bid you best suit. You know your partner has the equivalent of 14 points or 7 losers, so the two of you have half the strength - it's time to compete!

What if they opened NT?

If your opponents had opened 1NT, it's different.  Doubling them in this case does mean doubled for penalties… and your partner should bid quite differently…but that's a different topic. Like all doubles after a sequence that includes a NT balanced bid, it's a penalty double, not a "takeout double". It's not demanding that partner bids his longest suit, and will often be passed.

Hand evaluation

  1. Add points for shape; partner can support any of your suits, so you can assume that you have a fit.
  2. Apart from the Ace, your points in enemy's suit are worth a lot less because of your team's shortage in this suit.
  3. If you are doubling in the '4th seat' you might "borrow a king":
    1. a 4th seat bid is known as a protective or "balancing" double, or sometimes a "protective bid";
    2. after two passes, when a pass from you would finish the auction, you should think more positively about bidding. Often your enemy will have shown a weak hand, suggesting that you partner will have some strength;
    3. do this by adding three points (a "king"), and then seeing if you can "double for takeout";
    4. this is especailly important when you are short in the enemy-bid suit - exactly the time when a "double for trakeout" is most likely;
    5. your partner will (of course!) adjust his analysis of your hand by about 3 points.

With good cards in only 2 of the unbid suits?

If opponents have bid two suits, and your strength is in the other two unbid suits, you can also double for takeout, again provided you have an opening hand.

There are also some pretty handy bids you can use to indicate two good suits after only a single bid from the enemy, provided your partner understands them. See these two different two-suited overcall bids:

  • Unusual 2NT (I've got 2 good minor suits, or the missing minor + a random Major)
  • Michael's cue bid (I've got 2 good Major suits, or the missing Major + a random minor)

Each of these 2 bids and their responses works in a similar way. They can also be used to show a mixture of a 5-card Major and a 5-card minor .

The difference when enemy have not found a fit

If they have found a fit it's more important to compete, so doubling in this case is clearly for takeout. You have a desire to compete, you have extra values, but no clear suit to bid. So again, "doubled" means "please bid again because it's not clear what I should bid but the bidding needs to go higher".

However, when enemy have denied a fit, your double would generally be better for penalties. There's a nice article by David Gold on this subject. Make sure you and your partner have agreed this with eachother!

Re-opening double - a slight variant

If your opening bid was overcalled by your LHO, followed by two passes, you can double for takeout! It basically has the same meaning as a standard double for takeout - showing weakness in the enemy suit, and able to accept the other suits. The only difference is that we know the enemy has at least a 5-card suit, and could be weaker than they would have been as an opener. For example, West starts the bidding

1club 1spade pass pass

A typical West hand would be spade7 heartAJ84 diamondK73 clubAQ1032. West's double shows a spade shortage, and requires partner to bid his best suit.

Partner's responses are similar to responses to the standard double for takeout above.

In the past, reopening doubles used to show extra values as well. However, with the inclusion of the 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 players even require some form of reopening in all cases).

What if I'm very strong, 16+

Still "double for takeout", but then ignore your partner's response and rebid your own suit next time round. Partner should notice!

Double for takeout, twice

Suppose you are West and the bidding went

  W N E S
  1spade Dbl 2spade
pass pass Dbl pass
Hand 1
S 2  

Your partner East made a takeout double with this strong hand, but you did'nt need to respond because South bid in between.

H A K Q 2
D A K 7 4
C A 10 5 2

East should "double for takeout" again with such a strong hand, this time forcing West to bid, even with no points. Passing 2spade doubled is not allowed! The only exception is when West has very strong Spades - which you don't.

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