Quick summary

4-cards in the unbid Majors.

"Partner, I would have responded 1heart if opponents hadn't overcalled 1spade"

Allows you to keep bidding when opponents have messed it up !

The "negative" double promises:

With a 5-card suit, don't double, bid the suit

If you are strong

If the suits bid so far are both Majors

Opener rebids as if the enemy had not interfered, and knowing the suit length


Print cribsheet

Bridge Venue

Example Deal
S 9 3
H K 10 8 3 2
D A J 10
C 10 9 4
Example Deal
Dealer: West
Vuln: Nil

Negative double
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Doubles. Doubling after opponent overcall

Another name for this is "Negative double".

123. Negative doubles
Partner's bid RHO's bid Bid Suits implied Cards HCP
1club 1spade X heart 4+ 6-15
1club 1heart X spade 4 6-15
1club 1diamond X heart & spade 4 6-15
1heart 1spade X club & diamond   8+
1spade 2heart X club & diamond   8+
1spade 2club X heart   10-15
any 1NT X different   6/8+
With 5 cards and sufficient HCP, bid the suit.
1club 1spade 2heart heart 5 10-15
1club 1heart 1spade spade 5 6-15
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I've got 4-cards in the unbid Majors

The "negative double" is a form of take-out double. It is made by the responder after his right-hand opponent overcalls your partner's opening bid on the first round of bidding. It's very useful: it's used to show both support for the unbid Major suits as well as some values, even though the enemy interference has tried to limit the bidding scope.

It is treated as forcing, but not unconditionally so. In practice, the negative double is sometimes used as a sort of catch-all, made when no other call properly describes responder's hand. Therefore, a partnership might even treat the negative double as a wide ranging call that merely shows some values.

(It's called "negative" because it doesn't guarantee the length and strength needed to bid the intended suit at the 2-level).

Suppose you are South:

  1club 1spade ?

... and have a hand like this:

Hand 1
S 7 5
H K Q 7 3
D K 8 3 2
C 9 8 4

You'd like to bid because your partner has 12-19 HCP, you have 8, and so you've got 20-27HCP between you. But your right hand opponent's bid of 1spade has made it difficult. If LHO replies 2spade, as he often will, you and partner are out of the bidding. You could try bidding 1NT, however not only does that leave you with an awkward weakness in Spades, but also your partner won't know if your bid means Hearts or Diamonds. If you pass, your partner will conclude you only have 0-5 points, and you could miss a game contract. So, in this situation you bid a "negative double".

Your bid really means "partner, I would have responded 1heart if opponents hadn't overcalled".

Your partner will treat your bid as forcing, which is exactly what he would have done if you had bid as you'd have liked to without the overcall.

He can convert it to a penalty double by passing, if he has reason to double for penalties.

How many cards are promised in the implied suits ?

Minimum four. Ideally four in both suits if 2 suits are implied, but not necessarily.

After 1club – 1diamond, a negative double is often understood to show four cards in both hearts and spades. (With only one, bid the suit. With 5-cards, bid the suit).

After 1diamond – 2club, a negative double shows four cards in one Major. (With 5-cards, bid the suit).

After 1m – 1heart, a popular agreement is that a negative double shows specifically four spades ("ss"). With five+ spades, responder would bid 1spade.

After 1m – 1spade, a double shows 4 hearts or more.

If a "double" occurs after the two Major suits have been bid, it promises four cards in each of the minor suits.

How many points are promised ?

The same number as you'd need for a normal response. Typically 6-9 if you'd bid the implied suit at the one level, or 10-15 if you would have had to bid the suit at the two level.

So, with 6-9 HCP, not enough to change suit at the 2 level. And you don't want to bid 1NT because you might have an unpleasant weakness somewhere.

Another name

Sometimes known as Sputnik double, which was orbiting when the idea was invented in 1957

What if the overcall was in NT ?

Well, that's quite different. The double is 50% for takeout, saying "Hey partner, I've got some values, but I don't like your suit, please can you bid again". And it's 50% for penalties, saying "Partner, actually if you are strong, they must be in trouble, because I've got some useful points. So let's leave them in 1NT doubled".

Opener's rebid

When your partner bids a negative double, it's because he would have bid a suit if the enemy had not interfered. All you have to do when responding is to assume that he has the strength that would have been needed to bid the suit without the enemy interference

The table above shows the suit your partner holds and how many cards in that suit.

You are North in this example:

  1diamond 1spade x
pass ?    

You should re-bid as if your partner (South) had bid 1heart, and has a 4-card suit.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 2
S 7 5 3
H K Q 4 3
D A K J 3 2
C 9

The first thing to note is that you and partner have an 8-card Major fit in Hearts, so yours is therefore a 6-loser hand, (or given the fit you can add three points for the singleton, making 16 points altogether). Either way, it's worth a raise to 3heart, after a partner bid-sequence that was in effect 1diamond-1heart. You should assume that your partner had 6HCP and wanted to bid 1heart.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 3
S K 7 5 3
H 4 3
D A Q J 3 2
C K 9

Even with partner's Hearts, DONT be termpted to bid NT, even though you seem to have all the suits stopped. That's because a NT rebid implies 15 to 17 HCP - yet you only have 13 points. And you can't really bid Spades either, since your Left Hand enemy has at least 5 of them! Your partner has forced you to bid; you are not strong enough in Spades to let it pass (and thus convert into a penalty double); so you'll have to rebid the diamonds.

Raise to 2diamond. You should assume that your partner had 6HCP and wanted to bid 1heart.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 4
S K Q 5 3
H 4 3
D A Q 8 3 2

Here you DO have 15-17HCP, and a stopper in the enemy suit, so it's correct this time to rebid 1NT.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 5
S 5
H K 4 3
D A Q J 3 2
C A J 8 4

Again, it's imortant to remember that your partner had 6HCP and wanted to bid 1heart. So you don't yet have an 8-card Heart fit: your partner would have bid 2heart if she'd had 5 of them (provided she had enough points).

With your a 5-4 distribution, you would continue to describe your hand by bidding the second suit, 2club, at the level below the barrier so as to indicate a 12-15HCP hand.


Reopening double, for Negative Double players

Let's say your opening bid is overcalled by the second player and followed by a pass from partner. He might have wanted to show a strong suit in the enemy suit, but could not double as that has another meaning.

If holding less than two of the opponent's suit, you can reopen the bidding do so with a double. Your partner can now pass for penalties.

Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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