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Answers to a question on this hand suggested that one pass a bid of one diamond with 14 high card points because of 1) the three cards in the opposing suit, and 2) the "stranded" queen in that suit that reduces its value on offense.

Suppose, instead, (with equal vulnerability at matchpoints) over an opening bid of one diamond, you held (s) AQxx (h)Axx (d) xxx (c) Axx?* That is you still have three cards in the opposing suit, but no "stranded" honor. Would it now be ok to double for takeout, or is it still a pass?

Alternate example. Suppose you have Axxx (h)Axxx (d) Qx (c) Axx? Same 14 points, two cards in opponents' suit, but "stranded" Q. Would you be more, less, or about equally likely to double rather than pass compared to the other example?

*With AQx (h)Axx (d) Txxx (c) Axx, I would be tempted to call 1NT since the three aces are worth more than 12, and the value of my hand is more like 15, counting the diamond T. If partner holds any diamond honor, or xx, the opposing suit may be "stopped" at four tricks.

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  • This bid is named after "Last Train to Clarksville": "Last Train to Minus 630 instead of Plus 100". Jun 15 at 17:07
  • @ForgetIwaseverhere: "Minus 630?" That means that they make a game, exactly what the takeout double is intended to prevent.
    – Tom Au
    Jun 15 at 17:21
  • 1D** Vulnerable making 2 scores what? Your bid also ensures that they play any game contract double dummy, and are thus very very unlikely to make a wrong guess that exists. Your Double also increases bid density for the opponents, allowing their bidding to game to be more precise, on top of giving them a road map to both play and hand evaluation. This makes such a call a lose-lose-lose-lose result for you. Their is simply no upside to this call at all. Jun 15 at 17:21
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    Not sure it's ever going to end 1D**, but the point is a valid one that it's not helping your side much in the 4-3-3-3 situation. :)
    – Joe
    Jun 16 at 15:49
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    Aces are only undervalued when evaluating for a suit contract; not when evaluating for a NT contract. Jun 17 at 20:48

3 Answers 3

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4-4-2-3, 12 points is plenty for a takeout double, especially if they're all aces - so the Q is irrelevant. I'd like to declare one of the majors, and Partner can let me know which is better.

4-3-3-3, I'm not convinced I want to declare yet. 1d-? in particular, I might want to hold off a round and see what comes of bidding. X is a bad idea, because I really should have a fourth heart to do that, and I really don't have any good options after 1d-X-p-1h-p-?. I've got 3 entries, and I can figure out what to do with them in plenty of time. The X mostly tells opponents where to take their finesses, and if they end up in a game (say, 4H), maybe they end up with an extra trick because they know to play through AQ spades, or maybe even the hearts.

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  • So the fourth heart and the one less diamond help more than the stranded queen hurts?
    – Tom Au
    2 days ago
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Holding (s) AQxx (h)Axx (d) xxx (c) Axx I would be torn over whether to make a takeout double or not. Forget's point that this hand probably works as well on defense as on offense has merit, but there is a reasonable chance of making a reasonable partscore which quite likely will not be found if one does not act promptly. A game is possible, but if partner is that strong s/he will quite likely act in any case, perhaps by balancing, so the right contract might well be reached even if I pass. I am not as worried about tipping off the opponents when most of my points are aces anyway, as aces cannot be finessed.

But if the hands were just slightly stronger. say (s) AKxx (h) Axx (d) xxx (c) Axx or perhaps (s) AQxx (h) Axxx (d) xx (c) Axx I would automatically make a takeout double. With (s) AKxx (h) Axx (d) Axx (c) xxx I would bid one NT in a flash.

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It's not, critically, the "wasted" honours that are the problem, it's those 3 cards in opener's suit - especially opener's minor (in 5-card-major land at least). There's no guarantee they have a diamond fit, in which case partner's got something like ♦Qxx or worse, and you're just straight up losing 3 diamond tricks. If they do have a fit, first they will raise (and partner will be very encouraged to compete, given her shortness), and the ruff is having to be taken in the "long" hand, not yours. And when the long hand isn't actually "long", that's a problem.

Sure, a 14 count with Qx in opponent's suit isn't a 14 count. But it's better than a 13-count with xxx, at least when thinking about a takeout double. At least you're taking the ruff, and that's what the takeout doubler - "dummy" - is supposed to be doing.

They teach that when considering a takeout double, you count your hand as dummy points for partner's fit, to get to "opening" values. The intent is not to "double on any 13" or even "double on 13s with support for the other suits"; it's to get you to think "shortness in opener's suit is good, length is bad". It also is to get partner to think "doubler does not want to hear 1NT from me" (so the minimum 6-8ish to do so) and to be able to play the cross-ruff "in her head" during the auction when deciding how high to compete.

If partner only ever doubled with 4333 with the "too strong to overcall 1NT" hand from now on, I would be very happy. I like making my partners happy, so I avoid these doubles too. Oddly enough, I'd argue that 4=4=3=2 is a better takeout double of both 1♣ and 1♦ than the 4333, even if it leads to the odd 4-2 club fit. After all, I might have 2 cards in their actual fit...

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