Using Standard American my left hand opponent bid one heart. Partner passed. Right hand opponent raised to two hearts. I was in the "balancing" (fourth) seat and held:

(s) Axxx (h) x (d) KJxx (c) Axxx, doubling for takeout.

Partner passed me for "penalty" with Axxx in the suit, and the opponents made 2H, which (doubled) amounted to game.

I said that I expected a (competing) bid. Partner claimed that her original pass was a "bid" and therefore would not have "taken out" the double in any event. She was pleased to pass for penalty, but expected me to have something like Qxx, in which case we WOULD have set the opponents.

I always thought a double was for takeout until partner bid. And that partner couldn't pass except in very limited circumstances. Does Axxx in the opponent's suit represent enough "defense" to pass? Or does the previous pass justify the later one?

  • 1
    Related meta question - meta.boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/476/…
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:31
  • @LittleBobbyTables: A number of my problems have been due to my techphobia. For instance, you (rightly) deleted my first answer because I "clicked" on the wrong question (I had been meaning to answer another question.) Until two days ago, I couldn't vote, because I couldn't register, because I didn't know what a URL is. Sometimes, I have access to something, lose it, and can't regain it, except by trial and error. I'm just learning my way around these functions, are not totally familiar or comfortable with them, and hope to "get better" as time goes on.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 16:28
  • @LittleBobbyTables: Please let me ask you something: If I get two good answers, am I allowed to upvote them both? Or just one? Am I allowed to accept more than one answer? It's questions like these that I am wrestling with. I did offer a bounty, because that's one thing I'm sure I know how to do. The "skewness" is in my "abilities," not the questions on the site.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 16:33
  • 1
    You can upvote any answer that you find to be valuable, on your own questions or any other. Encouraging the best answers is what makes the site work well!
    – lilserf
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 17:20
  • 1
    As lil said, you can and should upvote as many answers as you find useful, both to your own questions and to other's questions. You can only accept one answer though, and only on your own questions. You should use this to indicate the answer that you think best addresses your question. You can wait a few days to accept an answer, but you should eventually accept one unless you feel that your question was not answered.
    – bwarner
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 20:33

3 Answers 3


If you and your partner are playing standard takeout doubles, this double would certainly be for takeout. The opponent's have not necessarily finished their bidding yet (the 1H bidder could still bid on), and you have not had a chance to bid before this. Partner has passed, but you knew that and took that into consideration before you doubled. Partner needs to trust you, and bid a suit that he has length in, or bid 2NT with the necessary stoppers and strength. If he wants to pass, he does so at his own peril and should have a hand that can set 2H on his own nearly from the outset.

Given your options, the double is a good bid, and gives you the best chance of finding your best fit as cheaply as as possible.

One minor point: you really weren't balancing here. "Balancing" refers to the person who, if they passed, would end the bidding. Since LHO could have bid over the 2H if they had more strength, you were competing, not balancing.

(Edit: Expanded upon partner's responses)

  • @dpmattingly: OK, I wasn't "balancing" even though I was in the fourth seat because third seat had bid, right?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 14:05
  • Correct, balancing is a bid made when a pass would end the auction. You do sometimes hear about balancing refered to as a fourth-seat bid, but that refers to auctions which go 1X-Pass-Pass. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 14:10
  • 1
    "... and bid a suit he has length in, regardless of his strength or his heart holding". This is not right. 2NT is always an option. With AKQJT of hearts, partner can choose to pass 2H doubled.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:06
  • @Aryabhata 2NT is an option, yes. Pass is an option as well, but it's going to have to be a hand that can nearly beat 2H by itself (and if he has AKQJT of hearts, one of the opponents has lied). Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:15
  • @Tom: Axxx of hearts is not a good enough defensive holding opposite a takeout doubler of hearts, to be passing the double. In fact, it is a very good offensive holding and partner should strive to bid instead of passing 2H doubled.
    – Aryabhata
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 15:18

I would definitely understand your double to be for takeout; and I would indeed expect partner's pass to be for penalties, based on confidence of taking down 2H.

That said, if you're that confident of taking down 2H, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't be confident enough to compete in the auction. And since, as it turned out, your partner didn't have enough defensive strength to justify his pass, I think you were right to be a little aggrieved on this occasion!


The double is for takeout, because it was made at the doubler's first opportunity to confront the opposing heart bids.

A rough rule of thumb isthat in order to double (or convert a takeout double for penalties), the "doubler" (partner was this in effect) should have at least 13-n of the suit in which the bidder contracted for n tricks. That is, you need at least six to double a one bid, five to double a two bid, etc. The "passer" should have had at least five hearts and only had four. The (hypothetical) fifth heart should have been the K, and, giving the passer a holding of AKxxx, and in the event of six hearts, the second highest should be at least the 9, giving a potential second trump trick. With her actual holding, she should have taken out the double to avoid the "doubling into game," a disaster.

  • I would add that: (1) the trump length you describe is a minimum requirement rather than a sufficient one; and (2) In this circumstance where partner is making the opening lead, Partner must also have a trump holding such that leading it at trick 1 is unlikely to cost a defensive trick. Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 23:38
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: I added "at leasts" and minimum rank holdings to make it clear that these are minimum holdings. "
    – Tom Au
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 6:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .