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In today's bridge column, this example was given:

North opened with one diamond. East doubled with (s) Qxx (h)AQxx (d) x (c) ATxxx.

This double technically met my 14 point requirement (12 for high card points, 2 for the singleton in the opposing suit). But I would have refrained from it for two reasons:

1) I have only Qxx in the spade suit. 2) My strongest suit is clubs, which partner would have to bid at the two level.

Upgrade the spade suit to Kxx, or Qxxx, and I would double. Or switch the diamonds and clubs, so that I was doubling with a singleton club and Axxxx in diamonds.

North and South bid to four spades. East West took the KA of clubs, and the ace of hearts. But then South's game depended on two "two way finesses" in spades and diamonds. From the double, he could infer that East did NOT have the Q of diamonds, and he DID have the Q of spades. Meaning that the double gave away crucial information (and the spade suit was too weak to withstand a finesse).

Here's another example of what I mean.

In Bridge, Do You Count Defensive Points In the Opponents' Suit When Making a Takeout Double?

In such cases, should one avoid making a takeout double using this level of "granularity"?

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1 Answer 1

This is in part a matter of style, but I would happily make a takeout double with that hand. In my experience (which I think agrees with prevailing expert opinion), it is better to be aggressive in competitive bidding at low levels, and get more cautious when the bidding reaches the 3 level.

Advantages to bidding:

  • You have the opportunity to find a contract for your side
  • You interfere with the opponents' bidding, giving them a chance to make a mistake and making it harder for them to use their conventions (though this is not a big factor for takeout doubles)
  • You give partner information which may be useful on defense

Disadvantages:

  • You may end up in an impossible contract and go down badly (perhaps doubled)
  • You give the opponents information which they can use if they win the contract (as happened in this case)

If your partner is good, he is less likely to push you to a crazy contract. On the other hand, experienced opponents are more likely to double if you end up somewhere bad.

The most important factor, though, is the possibility of finding a contract where you can make. RHO (North) is potentially no stronger than you, so there is a good chance that you have half the points or more. You should have a shot at making something. However, if you pass and LHO bids, your partner will likely have trouble bidding unless he has a good enough hand and suit to overcall, and he will likely need to bid at the 2 level or possibly higher if South jumps. You are probably the strong hand in this partnership, so if you pass now, there's a good chance you are giving up any opportunity to win the contract.

Naturally, there are no guarantees. Sometimes you make the right bid and it ends up hurting you. Bidding well and playing well are both a matters of percentages -- you should make the play that has the best expected outcome.

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For me, the key point is the weak spade suit and strong club suit. Switch the two, and I would happily double. You might find a game at 4s but probably not (given North's strength) in 5C. –  Tom Au Jul 12 '12 at 15:53
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@Tom, you don't really have enough information yet to know if your hand will turn out to be good or bad in the play. I think it's much more important to communicate to partner that you might have a competitive balance of the points, than to play it safe because your hand is not as rock-solid in all situations as you'd like. –  thesunneversets Jul 12 '12 at 16:41
    
@thesunneversets: I don't mind competing for a game with ATxxx in spades. I do mind trying to do this with Qxx in spades, and the ATxxx in clubs. When I double, I'm promising an "average" of Axxx in each of the unbid suits, and in no event worse than Kxx or Qxxx in the majors. Qxx falls below that standard. –  Tom Au Jul 12 '12 at 18:06
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It's not all about game. Part scores matter too, and are much more likely when RHO opens and you have 12 high card. Also, by passing there is a good chance you are giving up finding a heart fit. You can survive in spades, which for me is enough for a double. But as I said, it is in part a matter of style. –  Daniel Gottesman Jul 12 '12 at 19:39
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@TomAu: If your partner has that hand and you get passed out in 1S, your opponents are missing an easy 3NT. Big win for you, except maybe at unfavorable vulnerability. 1S doubled is a bit worse, but that's rare, and even then you might end up winning. This is not to say you can't find hands where double leads to a worse outcome -- again, it's a matter of percentages. –  Daniel Gottesman Jul 13 '12 at 14:15

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