Personally, I think that too many people overcall. Meaning that we need a penalty double for it in bridge. But the modern fashion seems to be for "negative doubles" over overcalls. These seem to mean, "I don't like your suit, and I don't want to defend the opponents' suit, therefore I'm strong in the remaining two suits. At least relative to my 8-10 points. Meaning that it largely precludes the penalty double.

With some reluctance (and with certain partners), I used a double that means, I like the "remaining" major suit(s). (I hate minors.) It could be either negative or penalty, depending on the circumstances. Some examples:

1 Club (You) 1 Diamond (Opponent) Double (me). I like one, possibly both majors. Negative.

1 Heart (You) 2 Clubs (Opponent) Double (me). I wanted to bid one spade, but 2 clubs shut me out. Negative.

1 Heart (You) 1 Spade (Opponent) Double (me). I like one of the majors (and not yours, because I didn't raise, with Qxx or better). Penalty. (I have AKxxx or QjTxx and hope you'll pass me out.)

Should I stick to penalty doubles? Are negative doubles so compelling that I have to "switch?" Or is it possible to use a "blend" strategy like the one above?

  • Personally, I think that too few people overcall. If you played with me, you'd get a whole bunch of "weak jump overcalls" - where I jump to, e.g. 3 diamonds over opponent's 1 spade, based on 6 points and 6 diamonds in hand (at a rough minimum). Are you getting a clear idea of what kind of Bridge player I am yet? :D Jun 6, 2011 at 19:41
  • @thesuneversets: I'd want you to have seven cards at three, six at two, over my presumed two (on average). Law of total tricks and all that. But I also believe in overcalling with "trumps" rather than "points," with your few points supporting your trumps. With your 6 "concentrated" points, we'd have trouble stopping a game unless I had "lots." Maybe not even a slam. Go for it.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 6, 2011 at 19:53

3 Answers 3


The short answer is - use whatever your partner and you are comfortable with using.

The long answer is - the penalty double at the one or two levels rarely works out the way you think. Either their partner will switch to a different suit (where you may not want to double for penalties again), they will SOS redouble for takeout (again to a suit that you may not want to double), or they will play in the doubled contract. You'll find they'll make this contract a maddening percentage of the time, or only be off one. The times that you have the strength to set them a large number at such a small contract, you could have bid game or slam yourself and make at least as much, if not a lot more.

This is why people really don't penalty double at the low levels anymore. In competitive auctions, it's much more useful to use the double to find a fit.

  • In two out of three cases shown, the double was negative. But in the third case, I WANT to chase the opponents out of one spade, and into the "wastelands" of a minor suit. (Note how strongly I feel about this.) Thanks for your (great) interest. I want to upvote you, but can't because I'm not registered (and don't know how.)
    – Tom Au
    Jun 5, 2011 at 22:45
  • 1
    You want to chase them out of a suit where you have a AKxxx? Chances are, they'll do it themselves without the prodding. In that case, all you seem to be doing is giving away free information to your opponents. I guess your partner could take this information and later bid notrump if they have a strong hand, but why not bid notrump yourself to communicate the spade stopper and lack of heart support? Jun 5, 2011 at 22:59

The preference for takeout doubles particularly with regard to competitive auctions like 1,2 and 3 is due to the likelihood of having either a straight out penalty hand or one that wishes to play in another suit- the latter is judged to far more likely. You could also end up playing in no-trumps when opponents could make or just go down not enough doubled to make missing a no-trumps game worthwhile.

As dpmattingly noted its quite fine to do what you and your partner agree to- just realise the chances of missing a decent contract are quite high.

Case 3. Means you are showing one or both minors.

Note just because you play takeout doubles doesn't preclude you from penalising opponent's overcall, you might make a takeout double and partner decides to leave it in as a penalty (usually a strong hand with at least 4 cards in their suit) or your partner can do a reopening double with a good hand and usually a shortage in opponent's suit which you can pass because you wanted to penalise your opponent's overcall. I am continuing from your examples where you a responding bidder and your partner is opening.


Two things not mentioned in the other (good) answers:

  1. Negative doubles help you find 4-4 major suit fits and (by bidding a major when a negative double would have been available) especially "3-5" major suit fits that can be impossible to find otherwise at low level competitive auctions.

  2. You don't throw penalties entirely out the window, as opener can balance with a double that responder can convert to penalty.

  • Point 2 is the real crux of the matter - Bride is a partnership game, and the "compulsion to act" ahead of partner is one of the defining characteristics of weak players, and must be overcome habitually before one can advance to an intermediate level. Nov 8, 2015 at 17:59

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