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If first seat opens, and you are in the second seat, you need opening values in order to make a take out double (that is 13-14 hcps, maybe 12 with 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-4-0 distribution, while short in opener's suit). Even then, you fear that third seat will have an "opening" hand, that is most or all of the remaining points, leaving your partner with nothing.

If you are in the fourth seat (that is the "balancing") seat after and opening and two passes, you can make a takeout double with about a king less, that is, 9-11 high card points. That's because third seat has shown less than 6 points by passing opener's bid. If opener has close to the minimum 13, third seat has 5, you have 9, your partner would have passed in second seat with close to the maximum, 12.

If you are in fourth seat with in third seat raising the opener's bid, you are in an "intermediate" situation. Third seat has 6-9 hcps, basically the intermediate value of the range. If opener has 13, that would leave 18-21 for you and your partner.

I wouldn't want to make a takeout double with 9-10 hcps in such a situation, but do I need 13-14, assuming I have good distribution? Or is an "intermediate" 11-12 sufficient in this "intermediate" situation? Larry Cohen refers to these as "OBAR BIDS." (Opponents bid and raise, balance in direct seat.)

  • Are you seriously suggesting that any competent player doesn't double the auction 1H -P - 2H holding KJT4-5-QJ98-AT93? You have only 11 HCP but this hand evaluates to perhaps 13.5 with the good supporting cards and distribution. You have reason to believe that you can push the opponents up a level, and that they may struggle to take 9 tricks if partner has a few matching cards. You keep bouncing around between measuring the HCP and PTS of a hand, making it impossible to really tell what you are asking. – Forget I was ever here Dec 23 '15 at 5:25
  • Observation on Pieter's example hand: 4S is odds-on if partner has Q9532-863-K742-6 (though 5H is likely a profitable sacrifice for opponents) – Alexander Woo Dec 23 '15 at 7:59
  • @PieterGeerkens: I did say 12 with 4-4-4-1. The "intermediates" work well with the J's so I would evaluate the hand as 12. Replace the T and two 9s with lower cards and I would NOT double with that hand in second seat because those intermediates are probably on the other side. – Tom Au Dec 23 '15 at 15:08
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This is a matter of partnership agreement!

The disadvantage of agreeing that you can jump in with 11hcp and a singleton is that opener could have a quite strong hand, and doubling gives opener the option of passing with it. This gives opponents the option of doubling your partner, and they also gain information that is useful in the play. Another disadvantage is that your partner knows less about your hand when you double. (This is particularly disadvantageous when opener re-raises to 3 (note most experienced partnerships will play this as a minimum LOTT bid after the double, since they have a redouble/2N as well as help-suit/strong-suit/short-suit tries to invite with) and partner needs to decide whether to compete further.)

The advantage of agreeing that you can balance with 11hcp and a singleton is that, when you pass and opener passes, your partner now has less pressure to reopen with a marginal hand, because they know more about how unsuitable for competition your hand is. Also, you have a slightly better chance in finding those 22hcp distributional games in the other major. Agreeing to double weaker helps you find the game with the 11-11 split in your hcp at the cost of making it harder with the 14-8 split, and the 11-11 split is more likely.

There is a similar question when it comes to how strong you need to be to make a takeout double of a weak 2. Some play that you can do it on about the same strength as a takeout double of an opening 1 bid, and others play you need a point or two extra. Again you trade the ability to give more information to partner when you do double with the ability to give more information to partner when you don't double.

To some extent, this decision depends on whether you are willing to play Lebensohl (or some other convention achieving similar purposes) or not. It may make sense to have different agreements over 2H than 2S, but most partnerships are probably not willing to have that memory load on their system.

It also depends on form of scoring and vulnerability, since getting to -100 (for say 3DX-1 nonvul) rather than -110 (for 2S+2 their way) is much more important at MPs than at IMPs. (But it depends on form of scoring less than you might think, because conversely getting to +110 (for 3D+3) rather than -110 is worth much a lot more at IMPs than MPs.)

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My philosophy is that if one has reasonable expectation that partnership assets total 18 HCP or better, and that one's own holding in the opponents' suit is shorter then partner's, then one strives to enter the auction. If partner never has to consider balancing with the hope that you are short in the opponent's suit to compensate for his three little, (s)he will do so with much greater confidence and success. This hand I consider a clear take-out double of the auction 1H - P - 2H:

S: KJT4
H: 5
D: QJ98
C: AT93

and this one to be quite adequate for an overcall of 2S (playing SOS Redouble and RONF subsequently):

S: KJT94
H: -
D: QJ98
C: AT93

In both cases you are also encouraging partner to underlead any side-K or -Q, which will in both cases probably be a dangerous lead for Declarer.

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