Neither vulnerable in duplicate, South opened 1 diamond. West doubled for takeout with

Spades QJTx
Hearts Kxxx
Diamonds T
Clubs K9xx

(All x's are seven or lower.) This was a tournament game so all players were experts or better.

I wouldn't have doubled with that holding. West counted 12 points, taking the singleton diamond as three points. I don't like to make takeout doubles with only 12 points, preferring 13-14 (after distribution), because 12 is the minimum South will likely have. Also, I deducted one point for an aceless hand, making it 11. N-S bid (and made) 5 diamonds, in part because the double located the King of clubs, that North's ace was behind.

Did West make a solid takeout double? Or am I right to consider it "light?" One consideration: this was a duplicate match, and I play mostly rubber. So could the takeout double be right for one type of game and wrong for the other?


For me (I'm an aggressive player *), this is automatic. Minimum, but automatic. Even though they're not protected by being declarer, I like my Kings "over" opener's Aces (yes, I know the key is that one of them isn't this time. It will be more often than not). If you're going to reduce this by a point for being aceless, I get to upgrade it by a point for perfect shape (especially including both 4-card majors).

Will it always work? No. Yes, you are pinpointing your strength and more importantly your shape, if it turns out that you don't win the auction. But remember, if we do win the auction, they've pinpointed their strength just as much. And, since we have majors and they have diamonds, in the competitive auction - and most of the auctions are competitive auctions, not game auctions - we're in control.

I am not worried about partner going nuts. Mostly because we've had this discussion about what a takeout double looks like, and after he bids 2D "12+", I don't have to encourage. But also because a working 12 with a major fit, especially with DJxx(x) or worse (and partner will downgrade diamond honours, especially Q or K), will have a good play for game if partner insists on it. Kxx AQxx Jxx xxx has a play (not a great play - opener needs both black aces and only two clubs (or not a club lead), and the hearts need to split - but a play) and a hand that forces to game will have another king or ace, or much better shape.

But 90% of the time, especially at matchpoints, this is a competitive hand, and I would much rather explain our fit to partner before, rather than after, the opponents have passed their information. In response to "1D could easily have a 4 card major, and it might be our fit"; if they do, they almost certainly have a minimum balanced hand (assuming standard strong NT). Frankly, I'd be more worried about 4-1 the other way, with the points on my right and the trumps on my left.

  • Edit: As an example, today I held at favourable A92 7 T872 K9762 in second, and dealer opened 1H. I thought about doubling, but finally decided that without 4 spades I shouldn't. The hand in the OP is better than that, even if aceless and without the spots.
  • I'd like that new example better if it was 7 A92 T872 K9762, favourable over a 1S opening. Partner with 5 Spades will be aggressive over a 2H raise; but I'd really like to prevent Partner with a 5-card heart suit and scattered decent values from getting buried under a 2S raise. Sep 3 '21 at 19:26
  • Yeah, I'd probably still be thinking about that hand. But this one was just a perfect example I could add to show the difference, for me, between "borderline" and "minimum, but automatic" that appeared in real life play.
    – Mycroft
    Sep 4 '21 at 14:36

Yes, it's a bit light. Not crazy-insane, but a bit light. I would expect that W have an A instead of one of those K's to be "standard", or another Q or JT or something. It's not crazy-light though, and there's an argument to be made for making that double. I wouldn't make it in an unknown partnership, certainly; but if I had a partner who wanted to play takeout doubles of this strength, then I would consider it reasonable.

The issue with opps finding 5D seems irrelevant to me - don't make ends-based judgements, for one; and I don't see how this places the club King unless partner has a zero count. Any call can help opponents, and certainly one shouldn't make pointless calls that don't give any advice to partner or help find a contract, but 1D-X doesn't fall in that category; it's much more likely to help than hurt.

The concern in duplicate isn't that different from rubber, albeit duplicate being a bit more competitive probably encourages a bit more aggressive bidding.

  • I'm probably a bit more aggressive than Joe, but I would make this double any day of the week and twice on some days. Any time I don't double on this hand, I end up hearing (1D)-P-(3Dpreemptive)-P-(P) back to me, and I think I have to pass and take my average minus for -110 instead of -50 or +50 instead of +140. Aug 30 '21 at 22:58
  • @AlexanderWoo You wouldn't X in that seat? 1d-p-3d-p-p-X seems reasonable there, no? Maybe P has nothing and 1D has 19, but most of the time that'll not be the case for that auction...
    – Joe
    Aug 30 '21 at 23:00
  • 1
    probably I would (except r/r at MPs), but certainly at that point I wish I'd doubled 1D. Aug 30 '21 at 23:08

I would not make this double even at favorable vulnerability, let alone with neither side vulnerable. With only 9 HCP, and with the only significant distribution being shortness in the opponent's opening minor, I think it is just not strong enough.

I am not so worried abut opponents reaching 3D or even 5D. My concern is that my partner may take me for a stronger hand, and we find ourselves in 3 or 4 of a major, going down. Opener may well, when opening 1D, have a decent 4-card major, so the chance of a bad trump split is somewhat higher than usual. Having 4 in each major is nice, but the aceless hand is not so nice.

In general i will not make a takeout double on a hand that I would be unwilling to open on in 1st or 2nd seat, and I surely would never open this hand except in 3rd seat.

If one is going to double on hands like this, that should be clearly understood by the partnership, and conventions and methods to check for hand quality before getting too high should be in place.

I would add that "This was a tournament game so all players were experts or better." may not follow. Unless this was an upper flight in a flighted event, or some other special event, one finds many promising novices, and some quite poor players in open events at bridge tournaments. It least that has been my experience in more than 35 years of tournament play in North America, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast of the US. I have played at many sectionals and regionals, and several NABCs, and this has been true at all of them.

  • In general i will not make a takeout double on a hand that I would be unwilling to open on in 1st or 2nd seat - I would say that this puts you well on the conservative side of the norm, then. I don't know that I'd make this takeout double, but it's only a point or a point and a half short. Once opponents have opened, you have more information, and that information matters - both your shape (4-4-1-4 is a very good distribution after 1D, and you're able to communicate nearly the entirety of the hand with that double) and the location of points (cont)
    – Joe
    Aug 31 '21 at 16:59
  • is favorable most likely - more likely to find the missing A's before you than after you, so the K's are worth something. There's plenty of hands I would not open that I'd double, and I think I'm around the median for takeout doubles of standard 2/1 players.
    – Joe
    Aug 31 '21 at 17:00
  • I also would not double. In addition to the concern you raised about partner bidding too high, this hand has poor defensive strength and partner might erroneously penalize a "sacrifice."
    – hunter
    Oct 21 '21 at 19:54

Double 1D and be done with it; then pass all non-forcing calls from partner.

Barry Crane is still regarded by many as the best MatchPoint player ever; and was decades ahead of his time. Two outlines of his system are linked. For Crane, this is a 1 heart opening as the hand is 4-4 in the Majors and satisfies the criteria:

Open any 11 point hand containing a king. With good distributional hands open lighter.

In a competitive auction as here the hand is clearly strong enough to act, as it has perfect distribution and opening strength; the only decision is whether to Double now or later over 3D. For Barry that was easy: balancing was virtually unheard of:

Get in early, say your piece, then get out of the bidding. This means that there is virtually no balancing. An auction that goes 1S - P - 2S - P - P - Double is a penalty double. If we had a takeout double, it would have happened on the first round of bidding.

Since a Double of 3D later would be Penalty, a Double now is the last chance to make a Diamond Takeout.

This approach of course requires deep discussion with partner (and the ability to summon revokes from opponents, as Barry was sometimes jokingly thought capable of, won't hurt); but is increasingly being copied by top players around the globe. The premise that one is giving valuable information to the opponents really only holds water when the hand is theirs - but that's not the case here. Having excellent support for both majors and well placed cards in everywhere strongly suggests the possibility that this hand can be bought by our side.


Views on takeout doubles have undergone some revision over the past few decades. In its earlier context, a takeout double indicated the equivalent of an opening hand, 12-13 high card points, and a desire to compete.

Nowadays, "the desire to compete" is the predominant sentiment. Hence, greater weight is given to distribution than high card strength. Put another way, the requirement for a takeout double is still "13," but this now includes distribution. In the example hand, there are only 12 points, nine in high cards, and three for the singleton, which is on the light side. Add another jack somewhere, or create a void in the diamond suit, and many people nowadays might double. In the latter case, they might do so with as few as eight high card points, counting the void as five.

On the other hand, with a doubleton in the opening suit (worth one point for distribution), the older "math" of 12 high card points still applies. With a tripleton in the opening suit (minus one), a 13 high card point hand is not sufficient, and one should be careful not to double with many 14 point hands. The last group is fine for defense, but has little to offer on offense. The exception would be a one no trump bid, but you need 16 or a good 15 including a stopper in the opened suit for that.

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