Home / Doubles in Bridge

Takeout and Penalty Doubles

Partner made us bid with a takeout double and we have a good hand. No messing around now, bid 3NT and be done with it.

Doubles in bridge

A double in bridge bidding can be either a takeout double, used to ask partner to bid, or a penalty double, used when you think the opposition won't make their contract.

How can I tell whether a double is penalties or takeout? The state of the auction determines whether a double was meant for takeout or for penalties.

Bridge partnerships need to spend considerable time working out whether doubles in different situations are penalty or takeout. Having some simple agreements to cover most situations is a start but you'll need to keep working on this important area of bidding!

Takeout Double

Double of their opening bid

Takeout double

length in unbid suits, 12+ points
strong hand
Responding to a takeout double

suit = 4+ cards
jump suit = 4+cards, 9+ points
cue = forcing to suit agreement

The first hand is what might be considered a normal takeout double made after the opposition have opened the bidding.

A normal takeout double

Typically this double shows 12+ points.

Double then Bid

A takeout double can also be made with 16+ points, even without support for the unbid suits. A simple overcall shows a maximum of about 16-17 points but you can double and then bid your suit to show a stronger hand.

A takeout double normally shows support for all the unbid suits and whatever suit partner responds with should become the trump suit. That's the whole idea of the takeout double in the first place! - get partner to choose trumps. If, after hearing partner's response, the player who doubled bids a new suit then the implication is that player doesn't have support for the unbid suits after all and therefore must have a strong hand.

double and bid

South is too strong for a 1 overcall. Double and change suit shows a strong hand. It's not forcing but it shows a good hand.

Negative Double

A negative double is the name given to a takeout double made by the responder.

Negative doubles show support for at least one of the unbid suits.

Negative doubles

1-level = 6+ HCP
2-level = 8+ HCP

This next hand is awkward. You can't support partner's suit with only two diamonds. You have the right strength for 1NT but nothing in spades, the suit bid by East. You're not strong enough to bid 2♣ or 2 because a new suit at the 2-level shows 10HCP.

negative double

The solution is to make a negative double. The message to partner is that you have some points, some length in the unbid suits, but not enough strength to bid at the 2-level.

Negative Double after 1NT opening

Some players use negative doubles if partner has opened 1NT

Bridge Card Game

South does't really mind if North has a bunch of hearts and decides to defend but in principle the double is still takeout.

The 1NT opener is allowed to reopen with a double.

Bridge Card Game

South can't double the 2♠ bid because that would be takeout. North can still reopen with a double if short in spades. That double would be takeout but South is allowed to pass with decent spades.

Negative Double then Bid

Having made a negative double you won't normally bid again unless you have a long suit.

Bridge Card Game

Bidding a new suit at the 2 level as responder is forcing. How can you show your long suit without partner blasting off too high?

Bridge Card Game

You can make a negative double and then bid your suit on the next round to show length in your suit.

Balancing Double

Next we have a balancing double. The bidding is about to die out and South doesn't want to defend against that low level contract.

A balancing double

It's still takeout, asking partner to bid but is has the special name of balancing double.

Penalty Double

This next double is for penalties.

A penalty double

Our side has 'rested' in 2 so further doubles are penalties.

On this hand we have not yet rested, the auction is still alive.

A game try double

North's double is a game try in spades. Bidding 3♠ would be competitive.

tags: #competitivebidding #doubles

Still struggling sometimes with whether a double is penalties or takeout? Me too.

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