Poll #31, Negative Doubles in Contract Bridge – Part 1, 01/24/2011

Negative Doubles – Part 1, The Basics in Contract Bridge

When we first hear the term, Negative Doubles, we might mistakenly think, “Oh, that must be a variation of the Takeout Double.”  While it’s true that both calls are not penalty oriented and request partner to continue the bidding, that’s where the similarity ends.  The point requirements are dramatically different, the shape requirements only have loose similarities and the meaning of the doubler’s new suit rebid are completely different.  Could that be why the Negative Double was originally known as an “out of this world bid” known as the Sputnik Double?  No, not at all – back in 1957 creators Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone simply liked the drama associating their new conventional call with the shocking Russian satellite.

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Let’s begin by contrasting the Takeout and Negative Double.

Takeout Double

Negative Double

Opponent opened bidding

Partner opened bidding

We double opponents opening bid

We double opponents overcall bid

11+ points (less when short)

6+ points at 1 level

3+ card support in unbid suits

Support focus on unbid 4 card major/s

Short in RHO suit

May not be short in RHO suit

Double and new suit rebid = 17+ points

Double and new suit rebid = “to play”

Instead of double, bid 5 card suit at 2 level

Cannot bid a 5 card suit at 2 level w/o 10+

Cuebid RHO suit shows special shape

Cuebid RHO suit shows partner support

Double of RHO 1NT may be conventional
Since RHO opens, RHO cannot Double

Double of RHO 1NT penalty oriented
When RHO Doubles, agreements change

First off, making a Negative Double implies you do not have a fit in partner’s opening suit.  Second, since two suits have been described, making a Negative Double suggests length in an unbid suit.  We say suggests because of the good-old “Five and Dime” rule – as responder we should have a 5 card suit and 10+ points to respond in a new suit at the 2 level.  So on those occasions where we have 6-9 points and a 5 card suit, we make be able to make a Negative Double to show partner that we have values – at least have the points in the deck including partner’s opening hand.  Without getting into all the fine points of GAABP (Generally Accepted Bridge Practices) for Negative Doubles, let’s look at some basic hands and situations where the focus is to find a major fit.

In Part 2 of this series, we will add some more disciplined conditions when Negative Doubles may be used – agreements that most seasoned players follow and would expect their partners to follow lacking other arrangements.  But for now, let’s enjoy the basic concept of the Negative Double.

1C/D – (1H) – X     Negative Double promising 4 Spades, not 5

1C/D – (1H) – 1S   Promising 5 Spades for this exact auction

1C/D – (1S) – X     Promises 4+ Hearts and less than 10 points

1C/D – (1S) – 2H   Promises 5+ Hearts and 10+ points

1D – (2C) – X        One 4+card major, other major might be a good 3 card suit

1C – (1D) – ?          Other bids to be discussed in Part 2 of the series

Prerequisites for a Negative Double:

-      No fit with partner
-      Lacking points and stoppers in RHO’s suit to bid Notrump
-      Lacking a biddable 5+ card suit (requires 10+ points at the 2+ level)
-      Sufficient strength to compete, considering without finding a fit you and partner should have about 20 points to play 1 Notrump, 22-23 points in 2 Notrump (with stoppers).

1 level = 6+ points
2 level = 8-9+ points (more in major suits)
3 level = 10ish+ points

 Depending on the partnership agreements, Negative Doubles may be played as “on” through 3 Spades, 4 Hearts, 5 Diamonds, etc.  Top players seem to play Negative Doubles on at higher levels than casual players.  At high levels, such as RHO’s 4 Spade preemptive call, they play the Double as showing “cards” to allow partner to pass for penalty with a poor fit (in Hearts here) and lacking primary honors/quick tricks.

By the way, Negative Doubles do not apply when RHO cuebids your partner’s suit or bids some level of Notrump (natural or conventional):

1H – (2H) – X    Interest in penalizing opponents, not Negative

1C – (2N) – X    Interest in penalizing opponents, not Negative

1H – (1N) – X    Interest in penalizing opponents, not Negative

1H – (3N) – X    Interest in penalizing opponents, not Negative

 

BridgeHands: Hand #1

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ A J 3 2
J 10 9 5
A K 9 2
♣ 6
♠ 7 6
8 7 6
J 10 8 7
♣ K 7 5 4
N
W E
S
♠ K Q 10 5 4
A 2
Q 3
♣ Q J 9 3
♠ 9 8
K Q 4 3
6 5 4
♣ A 10 8 2

West North East South
1 1 ♠ Dbl
Pass 2 Pass Pass
Pass

Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th
1. E ♠ K 8 7 A
2. N 5 2 Q 6
3. S 3 7 9 A
4. E ♣ Q A 7 6
5. S K 8 T ♠ 5
6. S 6 7 A 3
7. N K Q 4 8
8. N 2 ♠ 4 5 T
9. W ♣ K J 3 2
10. N 9 ♣ 9 4 J
11. S ♣ 8 4 ♠ 2 J
12. E ♠ Q 9 6 3
13. E ♠ 10 ♣ 10 ♣ 5 J

BridgeHands: Hand #2

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ A J 3 2
J 10 9 5
A K 9 2
♣ 6
♠ 7 6
8 7
J 10 8 7
♣ A 7 5 4 2
N
W E
S
♠ K Q 10 5 4
A 2
Q 3
♣ Q J 9 3
♠ 9 8
K Q 6 4 3
6 5 4
♣ K 10 8

West North East South
1 1 ♠ Dbl
Pass 2 Pass Pass
2 ♠ 3 Pass Pass
Pass

Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th
1. E ♠ K 8 6 A
2. N ♣ 6 3 K A
3. W J K 3 4
4. N 5 2 K 7
5. S 3 8 9 A
6. E ♣ Q 8 2 10
7. N A Q 5 7
8. N 2 ♠ 4 6 8
9. W 10 9 ♣ 9 4
10. S ♠ 9 7 2 T
11. E ♣ J T 4 J
12. N ♠ 3 5 6 ♣ 5
13. S Q ♣ 7 ♠ J ♠ Q

BridgeHands: Hand #3

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ A J 3 2
10 9 5
A K 9 2
♣ Q 6
♠ 7 6
8 7
J 10 8 7
♣ A 7 5 4 2
N
W E
S
♠ Q 10 5
A K Q J 2
Q 3
♣ J 9 3
♠ K 9 8 4
6 4 3
6 5 4
♣ K 10 8

West North East South
1 1 Dbl
Pass 1 ♠ Pass Pass
2 Pass Pass 2 ♠
Pass Pass Pass

Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th
1. E A 3 8 9
2. E K 4 7 T
3. E Q 6 ♣ 2 5
4. E Q 4 8 A
5. N ♠ A 5 4 6
6. N ♣ Q 3 8 A
7. W J K 3 5
8. N ♣ 6 9 T 4
9. S ♠ K 7 2 T
10. S ♣ K 5 2 J
11. S ♠ 9 ♣ 7 3 Q
12. E 2 ♠ 8 7 9
13. S 6 T ♠ J J

BridgeHands: Hand #4

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ J 3 2
10 9 5
A K 9 2
♣ K Q 6
♠ 7 6
8 7
J 10 8 7
♣ A 7 5 4 2
N
W E
S
♠ Q 10 5
A K Q J 2
Q 3
♣ J 9 3
♠ A K 9 8 4
6 4 3
6 5 4
♣ 10 8

West North East South
1 1 1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Pass Pass
Pass

Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th
1. W 8 9 J 3
2. E Q 4 7 5
3. E K 6 ♣ 2 T
4. E Q 4 8 A
5. N ♠ 2 5 A 6
6. S ♣ 8 4 K 3
7. N ♠ 3 T K 7
8. S ♣ 10 A 6 9
9. W J K 3 5
10. N ♣ Q J 6 5
11. N 2 2 ♠ 4 7
12. S ♠ 8 ♣ 7 J Q
13. E A ♠ 9 10 9

 

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 Stay tuned – we have much more to share on opener’s responses to Negative Doubles, a few more rules on when Negative Doubles restrictions are in place, and more.

Happy Bridge Trails, 

BridgeHands

Comments

  1. Jeff Holst says:

    I have to take mild exception to one of your pre-requisites for a negtive double, namely “No fit with partner’.

    While I would agree that there is an implication that there is no fit, I would think that after partner opens 1 of a minor and RHO bids 1S, a negative double is appropriate when holding 4 hearts even if you have support for partner’s minor. How else do you find the potential 4-4 heart fit.

  2. BridgeHands says:
    Hi Jeff,
    .
    Yes, good catch. While it’s often better to find a 4-4 major suit fit, that does not preclude a 5-3 minor suit fit. And as you imply, with a double fit the declarer may gain extra tricks drawing trump and then promoting the 5 card side suit. Yet unlike the majors, partner cannot assume that holding a 4 card minor is sufficent support (partner may hold a 3 card suit). Thank you for the thoughtful feedback.
    .
    Warm Regards, Michael
  3. Jim says:

    Michael,
    Question: Is the “Five & Dime” a requirement in Std American?
    Jim

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Jim,
      .
      Generally yes, in an auction like 1S – (P) – 2H, in Standard American we promise 5+ Hearts and 10+ points. Of course, sometimes we need to make a “temporizing” 2C or 2D minor suit bid with a 4 card suit but we always have 10+ points. For instance when partner opens 1S and your exact shape is 2=4=4=3 then we respond 2 Diamonds. But responding in 2 Hearts always promises 5+ Hearts.
      .
      The same is true when RHO makes an intervening SUIT overcall like:
      .
      1D – (1S) – ?
      .
      With 2=3=4=4 shape and 10-11 points, our choices are 2C or 3D (not a great bid if partner has 3 Diamonds)
      .
      Notice above where I capitalized RHO overcalls a SUIT bid. Herein lies an exception to the “Five and Dime” rule when RHO makes a Takeout Double like:
      .
      1D – (X) – ?
      .
      Let’s say you have a good 8 points with this shape: 3=2=3=5
      Here you could bid 2 Clubs, less than the typical 5+10 since RHO has DOUBLED.
      Yes, it may seem strange to lighten the requirements but RHO has an opening hand so your side is probably competing for a part score. Second, bidding 2 Clubs has taken away the 1 level bidding space from your LHO who certainly has less than 8 points. Third, your RHO might have made a “type 2″ takeout double with 17+ points and a 5+ card Heart suit. In that scenario, perhaps your partner has 4 Clubs, willing to compete to 3 Clubs when the auction goes:
      .
      1D – (X) – 2C – (P)
      P – (2H) – P – (P);
      3C…
      .
      Notice how partner passed your 2 Club response! Isn’t your 2 level overcall forcing? No, not really – you might even hold a 6 point hand with 6 Clubs.
      .
      Of course, all of this depends on your partnership agreement and most novice players would be perplexed by different treatments after RHO makes a Double. But when a partnership begins playing more serious Bridge on a regular basis, say Duplicate Bridge, they will find that this treatment is fairly standard playing Standard American or other systems. For those with BridgeHands Premium or ULTRA Memberships, I will be covering this topic in more depth on an upcoming video.
      .
      Thanks for your question – sorry for the long response. By the way, while the Standard American Yellow Card system developed by the American Contract Bridge League may have some small differences from your flavor of Standard American, we welcome you to see our nicely formatted online reference here – scroll down near the end to the section on Competitive Bidding for illustrative examples:
      .
      http://www.bridgehands.com/Conventions/SAYC.htm
      .
      Warm Regards, Michael
  4. BridgeHands says:
    Greetings Bridge Friends,
    .
    On today’s polling question, we explore various bidding scenarios pondering when responder’s double is for penalty. Over half the votes go to:
    .
    ….1S – (1N) – X….. 4 Hearts and 6-9 points
    .
    . This is a reasonable partnership agreement where responder show a good 8 or 9+ points, where the double shows you and partner have the “Balance Of Power.” Incidentally, after responder’s Double, the advancer (partner of the Notrump bidder) is entitled to make a “SOS” transfer bid as:
    .
    1S – (1N) – X – (XX)……Partner, I demand you bid 2 Clubs (promising 5+)
    1S – (1N) – X – (2C/2D)……Partner, I am transfering you to 2 Diamonds/2 Hearts, etc
    .
    In second place with 20 percent of the vote:
    .
    1S – (3D) – X….. 4 Hearts and 10+ points
    .
    Most prefer to play responder’s Double as showing a good 10+ points, lacking 3 card Spade support and 4 Hearts (with 5 responder could directly bid 3 Heart, forcing). However, for those who play against undisciplined opponents and instead prefer to go for a rich penalty bid, perhaps this method has some merit. If the partnership can remember a worthwhile adjustment to this method, they might wish to consider playing Doubles of 3 level opponent bids as penalty oriented ONLY WHEN OPPONENTS ARE VULNERABLE. But for the rest of us, we will hope that after our partner opens 1 Spade and has shortness in Diamonds, we trust partner will make a reopening Double which as responder we will convert to a penalty pass. Take that, naughy RHO!
    .
    Warm Regards, Michael
  5. Phyllis says:

    Hi –
    to settle a dispute in another area, please advise:
    1C – overcall 2D – what to respond in 3rd seat w/ 11 Hcp and 4 spades (Jxx, AJxx, xx, KQxx) playing ACBL rules.
    We speculated on 2S (do you need 5 on this level), X (promising one major after diamonds) but worried about 2NT due to weak hearts.
    Thanks
    Phyllis

    • BridgeHands says:
      Dear Phyllis,
      .
      Both the auction 1C – (2D)… and 1D – (2C) are problematic for responder when the overcaller makes a minor suit call at the 2 level. In fact, a fair number of top duplicate Bridge players go so far as to consider both of these auctions forcing even if responder PASSES! For them, the opener is expected to at least make a reopening double – this turns out to be an elegant solution to some responder bidding problems (as holding 4-2 in the unbid suits). The thought is that the partnership should never selling out to opponent’s in a 2C or 2D minor suit contract. Lacking that understanding with partner, it’s not uncommon for the responder to make a somewhat undisciplined call after overcaller’s interference in 2C or 2D.
      .
      Generally, with a reasonable 8+ point hand, no support for partner’s opening suit and lacking stoppers in LHO’s seat (to bid 2 Notrump), responder will make a Negative Double.
      .
      In response to your question:
      1C – (2D) – ?…
      Responders bid holding: Jxx – AJxx – xx – KQxx
      .
      Unlike the auction 1C – (1D) – X, which indeed promises 4-4 in the majors, we relax the requirement when RHO bids 2C or 2D. So in your auction with a responder holding a 3=4=2=4 shape, making a Negative Double is certainly acceptable. Of course you would be delighted if partner rebid 2 Hearts, a higher ranking suit than RHO. Quickly finding a 4-4 Heart fit is imperative should your LHO bid 3 Diamonds. And if partner responds 2 Spades (denying 4 Hearts, i.e., “up the line” by rank), you’ll probably want to rebid 3 Clubs since your poor Jack-third has a questionable honor compared to the lovely Club working honors. Then again, your partner might surprise you and rebid 2 Notrump with extras and stoppers in Diamonds; in that case stretching to 3 Notrump is a worthwhile consideration (especially playing Rubber Bridge or an IMP team game when vulnerable).
      .
      And yes, for responder to make a 2 level call in a new suit, it definitely requires a 5 card suit and 10+ points. In a pinch, responder might “fudge” a bit holding a major suit like A-K-Q-J or A-K-Q-10, either of which feel like a 5 card suit and tend to play one card longer. But even here bad things can happen when you are short in the overcallers suit and don’t hold a primary honor (Ace or King). If you are short in overcallers suit and partner holds length in the suit without any winning honors, when the overcaller leads the suit and forces you to ruff with your 4 card honor-bound suit, you will quickly lose control of trump (especially if playing in a 4-3 trump fit).
      .
      I apologize for the long-winded response yet hopefully some of this will give you insights on both the theory of why and how the often misunderstood Negative Double fits into responders bidding arsenal.
      .
      Happy Bridging, Michael

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