With a hand like ♠ Axxx ♡ KQxx ♢ Kxxx ♣ x, I would gladly make a takeout double over one club. That's because my partner would have a choice of three suits to bid at the one level.

Change the hand so that the (singleton and bid) were in spades: ♠ x ♡ KQxx ♢ Kxxx ♣ Axxx. Now, if I make a takeout double, partner would have to respond in a suit at the TWO level, possibly with as little as ♠ xxxx ♡ xxx ♢ xxx ♣ xxx.

In this situation, I would double one spade (reluctantly) if not vulnerable versus vulnerable, and pass otherwise.

Edit: Opposite a "Yarborough," I expect my hand to be worth five tricks on offense. Thus, I am willing for my partner to contract for seven tricks but not eight, thereby "overbidding" by two tricks, but not three, with equal vulnerability, against the opponents' presumed game.

Does one need to be more careful about takeout doubles over a spade bid than a minor suit? That is to say, is my reluctance to risk down three well founded, meaning that I have "drawn the line" in a good place? A certain expert seems to think so (in the daily question).

This question is for rubber bridge; duplicate is a different animal.

  • Don't be a wuss! Hans Kreijns famously overcalled Garazzo's 4H pre-empt with 4S on a 4-card suit, replying after the hand: "Must I pass simply because God only dealt me a 4-card Spade suit?" Bidding "rules" are meant to be broken; once one is good enough to know when. P.S. I think Frank Stewart can take the heat when you question his recommendations. Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 5:39

2 Answers 2


If your partner has as little as that, your opponents are easily making 3NT and will find it difficult to double your side for penalties (low-level doubles are almost all for takeout these days). However, if your partner has as much as

xxx JTxxx AQx Kx

(and your partner might well hold that much even as a passed hand), your side can make 5H and your partner will be unable to bid over the 2S call that is no doubt coming from your LHO.

So, the answer to your question is that you must double with an opening hand and shortness in the suit opened by your RHO. If your partner has so little that a 2-level contract is going down, you may prevent opponents from finding their best game. If, as is more likely, your partner has enough to make a part-score, you need to get into the auction to avoid handing free plus-scores to your opponents. Finally, if your partner has enough values to get your side to game but lacks the shape to enter the auction (not the most likely outcome after opponents have opened, but not particularly unlikely either), you are doing your side a great disservice by failing to double.

  • The problem is that if you give the same hand to my LHO, I'm down three (at the two level). Doubled, that's more than the value of most games, unless I'm non-vulnerable against vulnerable. Which is why I would make a takeout double in that situation and not otherwise.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 17:34

You have to play for the most common scenario (partner has at least a few points). If you always worry that partner might have xxx xxx xxx xxxx and opponents will double, you would pass as dealer with AT9x AKxx KJx AQ! After all, 2NTx-4 will be very expensive!

Back to the original scenario: as ruds says, you must double here. Sure, perhaps one time in fifty (maybe even one time in twenty?), something terrible will happen, and your side goes for -500 at the two level. But in the mean time, you've pushed your opponents up a level or two, or declared a contract for your own plus score, many times. At any form of scoring, the benefit far outweighs the cost.

  • You can make six tricks in 2NT with your hand (not four), and your opponents probably don't have enough to double, (unless one opponent has almost all the outstanding values). If partner has six points, he will be good for two tricks in his hand, plus a third from "synergy" (e.g. a finesse into your hand) for a total of nine. When you bid one spade, you have 4.5-5 tricks if partner has "nothing." So, in effect, you are "borrowing" 2 to 2.5 tricks for all your opening bids.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 14:20
  • 1
    @TomAu I'm your LHO in 2NTX with xx xx AQT98 Kxxx, and I dare you to take more than four tricks. But yes, of course you count on partner to have something when you're opening. Similarly, you count on him to have something when you double for takeout.
    – amalloy
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 20:57
  • What you said is true, because "all finesses are wrong." When "stress-testing" my hand for "nothing" in partner, I do not make that assumption, and that's why I evaluate my hand at "six" tricks. Give my partner six points, say Kxx QJx xxx xxxx and your lie of cards, and we'd still go down (by 1-2), even if we had 27 hcps between us. My evaluations, six tricks with "nothing," nine if partner has six hcps, assume a "reasonable "lie" of cards.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 22:10
  • 3
    Exactly! You naturally assume a non-terrible layout when you open 2nt with a 20-count, and a non-terrible lie of the opposing cards even if partner has nothing. You just need to make the same assumptions about takeout doubles, and you'll see that doubling 1S with that hand is right for the same reason. Don't be afraid to compete!
    – amalloy
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 22:15
  • amalloy: With the takeout double example I described, I expect partner to make five tricks if he has "nothing." So I am "borrowing" two tricks for take out at the one level. But I am "borrowing" THREE tricks for take out at the two level (over one spade). I'm willing to borrow two tricks but not three (as in your 2NT example), which is why I am unwilling to make a takeout double when vulnerable. (-800 points is more than the game that the opponents will make if partner has nothing, -500 is OK.)
    – Tom Au
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 23:22

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