Mike's Bidding Quiz


We continue the discussion of what makes up a good takeout double with the following questions:

1. What do you need to make a takeout double and later bid your own suit?
2. Why do you need to have rules about this sort of thing?

What do you need to double and bid a suit?

In my bridge lectures, I often talk about takeout doubles. When I do, this is one of my favorite questions.

Here is the bidding:

WEst North East South
1 Dbl 2 Pass
Pass 2

You are sitting South and you hear your partner double 1 and later bid 3 all by himself.

The question I offer my students is this: What do you think North has?

Let’s break it down to more specific questions:

  1. How many diamonds does North have?
  2. How many high-card points does North have?
  3. Can you pass 3?

North is showing five or more diamonds. He must not double and then introduce a new suit all by himself with a four-card suit.

North is showing about 18 HCP. Do you know why? Answer in a moment.

South can pass 3. North is showing a big hand, but if South has a weak hand, he can pass. North’s usual range for doubling and then bidding a suit is about 18–20 HCP.

Why does North need a good hand to double before bidding his suit? The reason is that when North doubles, there is no assurance that he will be able to bid his diamond suit economically. Say East raises to 2 or worse, to 3. Now if North wants to show his suit, he has to show it at the three or four level. Also, it is possible that South will bid something that North does not like and, again, North may have to bid his suit at a high level.

It is much cheaper to bid 2 than to double and then bid 3 or 4. You need a good hand to come in at a higher level, which is often the case if you begin with double.

Interestingly, when I ask players what partner is showing when they double and then bid a suit, I get good answers. But as soon as these players sit down to play, they are amazed to learn that these rules apply to them, too, not just their partners. Here is one example of a hand that doubles and then bids a suit without proper values.

♠K J 8 7 3   3   K 7 3   ♣A J 9 5

East opens 1 and South doubles. Look what happens in each of these cases.

West raises to 2. Now South has to bid 2♠, assuming the bidding allows him to do so.

North responds with 1NT. Now South has to bid 2♠, assuming the bidding allows him to do so.

West bids 2 and North bids 3. Now South has to bid 3♠ if he wishes to show his spades.

West bids 3, showing a weak raise, and East goes on to 4. Now South has to bid 4♠ if he wants to bid them.

How much easier life would be if South bid 1♠. Now South can be content that he has shown his main suit and won’t get higher in spades unless North can raise spades.

This is one rule you can bank on: If you make a takeout double and then volunteer a new suit later on, you are showing a big hand. You can use 18 HCP as a guideline, but be aware that if the bidding gets too high, even 18 HCP may not be enough to bid again.

Here is one example hand. Consider the auction and the hand. What is the appropriate action?

East is the dealer. No one vulnerable. You, South, hold:

♠A K J 8 7   K 8 3   Q J   ♣A 7 4

WEst North East South
2 ?
See Mike's Advice

The correct call is 1♠. You do have 18 HCP, but they are not particularly rewarding points. Your diamonds may be worthless, in which case this hand will not be strong enough to justify doubling and then bidding at the two or three level. If you bid 1♠ and your partner does not bid, it is unlikely that you will miss a game.

You can be pretty sure about the 18-point requirement. It is not a rule that you follow now and then.

Note that if you have a six-card suit, you may fudge a little — but only a little. Take the hand in question. If your partner has two low spades and a couple of queens, you could lose one or two spades, two hearts, two diamonds and two clubs. That is a lot of losers, 18 HCP notwithstanding. To paraphrase George Orwell, “Some points are more equal than others.”.