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Does a takeout double in the first round always require 3 or more cards in opposition unbid suits or can a strong hand (18+ points) do a takeout even without the requirement?

After the partner bids in response to a takeout double, if the doubler bids a suit different than partner's response to the takeout, it means he has a strong hand with 18+ points. In such cases, should the partner no longer assume that the doubler will have 3 or more cards in all opposition unbid suits?

I am mainly looking at Standard American & 2/1 bidding systems. Also I am asking about the standard rather than partners specific conventions.

2 Answers 2

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There are two basic situations where the person after the opening bidder will make a takeout double: 1) Where the doubler expects to be the dummy, and 2) where the doubler expects to be the declarer.

The answer to the question is YES in the first case. After the opening bid, the second person ("seat") will double to show strength in all the unbid suits, with an average of four cards in each of these suits, and maybe a singleton in the opener's suit (occasionally a doubleton or a void). Such a call indicates that my length and strength in each of the unbid suits is reasonably close to the "average" of four. "Three" would fit this average, two would not. The meaning is, "if you bid your best suit and I am dummy, we should be able to make a low level contract if the opponents don't have a game. If they do, the penalty for our going down would be less than the score they would make for game.

In the second instance, the caller has a hand of 16 points or more with a five card (or longer) suit that is stronger than that of either the typical doubler or overcaller. Such a person wants to be declarer. In that case, the correct sequence of bids is for them to double first, then overcall. This overcall (the second thing said), doesn't require three cards in every suit (specifically yours), because it can override your bid. Instead, the doubler wants information about your hand, before going their own way. If you have an unusually long suit or support for the doubler's suit, you will be pleased to know that the doubler has "extra" strength beyond that of most doubles.

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There certain cases (varying somewhat by System) where a first round Take-Out Doubler may be off-shape. In particular:

  1. A hand too strong for a 1NT overcall, which will rebid in NT.

  2. A strong (and self-sufficient) 1-suited hand which will jump rebid that suit (or simple rebid if Advancer cuebids).

Depending on Partnership agreements, specifically in regards immediate Cuebids and Jump Overcalls, there may be other cases that arise. These should always be thoroughly discussed in advance with Partner..

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  • What about in 2/1 & Standard American - in both these systems does a takeout guarantee 3 cards in the opposition unbid suits? I will edit the question with this also. Also I am not talking about partners specific conventions.
    – user93353
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 1:23
  • Why do you want in the auction early, showing a strong and possibly mis-fitting hand, against a game-forcing Opponent's sequence? Just sit in the bushes for another round, and learn more. Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 2:29
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    How is it a game forcing opponent's sequence? All the opponents have done before the takeout double is an opening call.
    – user93353
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 2:56
  • I don't think this is quite right. I think that AKQx xx AK AKxxx clearly needs to get into the auction right away after RHO's 1H opening, and that X is the standard way to enter the auction, even though this hand doesn't fit either of your categories for an offshape takeout double
    – ruds
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 12:20
  • @ruds: Fine: Double; get a 2D advance from Partner; rebid 3C; and hear 3S back. Now what? This auction is very likely if Partner has more than 3 HCP, his rough expectation if Responder can't move. I much prefer to underbid slightly on these hands with 2C and let opponents think the unbid points are in their partner's hand for a round. A move by any of the other three players allows me a "Tell me more Partner" second round cue bid. With Diamonds and Clubs reversed a starting Double is more comfortable if one opts for that route. Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 14:09

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