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In bridge, a "negative double" after my partner's opening bid, and my right hand opponent's overcall means, "Partner, I don't like your suit, and I don't fancy defending the opponent's overcall. I prefer one (probably both) of the other suits.

How weak should I be in partner's bid suit to make a negative double (as opposed to a raise)? Even if I like the two unbid suits, should I raise instead of doubling with three little ones opposite my partner's opening five card major? What about my partner's opening minor, and the opponent's one of a major overcall?

Should I refrain from a negative double if I have fair defense (say, Kxx or better) in my opponent's suit? Or should I make a negative double with (s) Kxx (h) xxxx (d)Kxx (c) Qxx if partner bid one club and the opponent one spade?

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First the general points - if you and partner have a fit, opponents are almost guaranteed to have a fit also. Values in the opponents' suit detract from the overall playing strength of your hand, and should be evaluated accordingly, but that does not relieve you from the obligation to share information with partner.

The scoring table clearly favours major suits over minors, and generally it is true that with both a 4-4 fit and either a 5-3 fit or 5-4 second fit, the 4-4 fit plays on average almost a trick better. Of course in a minor you must contract for a full additional trick for game, and often for the privilege of outbidding opponents. This analysis leads the following guidelines:

  • Don't pass if you have the values and support required for any type of raise. Your known fit improves the opponents' expected fit at about 75%, and you must inform partner of this valuable datum.

  • Prefer to look for a 4-4 major suit fit in preference to raising partner's known major or minor suit unless you have 5-card support for partner's major.

  • Prefer to raise partner's major in preference to looking for a 4-4 minor suit fit.

  • Don't pass in expectation of passing a reopening double by partner unless you expect a doubled penalty greater than your game (500 white, 800 red) - if you can't yet set the opponents this much you owe partner a bid first. Bridge is a partnership game.

  • After the auction 1C 1D a negative double shows at least 4-4 in the majors - otherwise just bid one; such a response at the one-level should not require a 5-card suit or you are letting the opponents steal bidding room too cheaply.

  • After the auction 1D 2C a negative double shows at least one 4-card major, to protect against partner having one also, playing 5-card majors.

  • In other low-level auctions you are promising at least 4-3 in the unbid suits, or extra values and an inability to bid any of notrump, trap pass, or a raise.

  • Very nice answer, but it doesn't mention your strength in the suit you're doubling, which is actually what was asked... – TimLymington Oct 30 '15 at 10:53
  • Nice answer except that you are in danger of being pre-empted out of the auction if you try to find a 4-4 fit in the other major rather than supporting your partner. You double, the next hand raises 2 clubs to 3 and it may be too late for you to go back to 3 of your partner's suit. But it might not be and had you just supported right away partner may have chosen to bid on to 3. Similarly if they raise their overcall to 4 or whatever. A fit-jump if you have it is always a nice bid – CashCow Nov 5 '15 at 15:21
  • @CashCow: Fit Jumps aren't part of the standard system - one can always define away any particular problem by choosing the convention that caters to it, but the cost may be too high overall. Fit Jumps give up too easily on discovering secondary fits for my taste. – Forget I was ever here Nov 5 '15 at 23:03
  • @PieterGeerkens I don't understand your objection to fit jumps; perhaps we use a different definition? For me, a fit jump shows something like 9 cards in partner's suit and the suit you jump in (usually 4-card support and a 5-card suit). Doesn't that make it easier to find a secondary fit if one exists? – ruds Nov 8 '15 at 17:13
  • @ruds: Yes they are a nice convention (my addenda in the comment above was poorly phrased) - but I can't bid one if I am not playing the convention - and they are not part of the standard system. Defining away a bidding problem by adding a convention to your agreements is not allowed, because the call "fit jump 2S" is not legal anywhere the game is played. – Forget I was ever here Nov 8 '15 at 17:50

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