With both sides vulnerable at matchpoints, left hand opponent (LHO) dealt and bid 1 diamond. Two passes followed.

I doubled (takeout) with ♠ KJT5 ♡ AJT4 ♢ Q5 ♣ AT4. LHO rebid 2 clubs. Partner bid 2NT, and three passes followed. Partner was upset with me, because she made 3NT holding ♠ AQ7 ♡ Q86 ♢KT42 ♣ J98.

The reason I passed instead of bidding 3NT was that I had put partner on about 10 high card points for her bid of 2NT. Put another way, I expected her to have hand like the one she had, but with only one, not both of the major suit queens.

With both queens, she would make 3NT, with neither queen, she would go down, with one queen, she may or may not make 3NT. Overall, I estimated that our chances at 50-50.

We got a bottom because everyone else bid (and made) 3NT. That compares with the top we would gotten if everyone else had gone down one.

Was my estimate of 50-50 a reasonable one? Given this assumption, was it reasonable for me to pass 2NT?

Should partner have bid 3NT herself with 12 high card points opposite my presumed 13 (actually had 15)? Or did she reasonably believe that I might be doubling "light" in fourth position?

2 Answers 2


First, "whose fault" isn't a useful partnership tool, except possibly (some very good players will disagree) acknowledging one's own unprompted.

Second, agreements about doubles are different in different areas (and different experiences); agreements about how aggressive one balances are different in different places. So, like many "should I" questions, there's no universal right answer. I'll reply with "what I'd expect from a random Flight A player in North America" - but do read to the end!

Having said that, not getting to a 27 point game just because they opened (and rebid) is a partnership problem, and it is worth looking at the causes of that issue.

Pavlicek teaches (over bids - similar arguments would apply to doubles, I would say) that "you should use the same responding method[], except responder should add two points to all the point ranges." Others say 3.

Does that take partner's 12 out of a 2♦ cuebid? Possibly - 11 is "standard" minimum after a direct double, + 2 points is 13. Does the 2♣ rebid, which means partner could pass and you'd get another call, mean that the free bid of 2NT is stronger than with a pass? Or weaker (because she can no longer bid 1NT)? Or the same?

Interesting questions. You're probably not going to get much "the book says" or "the expert says" about this - I can't remember the last auction this was an option.

Remember, NT bids are not what a takeout doubler wants to hear; as a result, they're held to a higher minimum even at the 1 level. "Standard", again, for 1♦-X-p-1NT is "decent 8-10", and 2NT higher than that.

Looking at your hand, you don't have a diamond stopper, but Qx is going to be a nice fill-in for partner's shown stop so it's not "waste paper". It might not count its full 2 points, but it's not zero. And you have a club stop to help hers, which might not be solid - you "bid" the suit after all. So, you have a "bad balanced 15" in the context of this auction.

What does partner have? Even if 2NT isn't quite as strong as it would be without the 2-level overcall, the minimum "1NT" hands have a perfect, safe call - pass. If you're on the 10-ish you could be, fine. If you're on a "real" (would have done it direct) double, you'll double again and she can bid knowing partner has a good ceiling.

If you had opened this 1NT, the opponents overcalled diamonds, and partner showed at least a good 9 or 10, but possibly a little more, with diamonds stopped, would you want to be in game? I would say yes.

I would probably invite if she had bid a suit, though. Again, she can pass the minimums, but 2♥ "show fit with fit" could easily be a good 6 or so. And now your ♦Q probably is "waste paper".

I think the "fault" of this hand comes down to differing partnership understandings about "steal a king from partner" when balancing. You expected partner to bid 2NT over 2♣ with effectively "minor stops and a card", and you can't see 9 tricks. She expected you to pass 2NT with the shapely 10, and go to game with anything but the minimum of "direct doubles". This, not "what should we have done", is what needs to be discussed, so that next time, you both are using the same assumptions.

  • This was a new partner (and a relatively new club). Last Saturday, I had been partnered with LHO (who bid diamonds and clubs with 1-2-5-5 distribution and 10 hcps. So my bidding was appropriate for my Saturday partner but not Tuesday's. With the actual partnership, we had at least Q too much between us for my pass.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 24 at 19:47

I'm going to disagree with Mycroft here. Not because his analysis is unsound - it's great, in its proper place - but because his premise is. The nuances he discusses so well simply don't exist unless you are in a regular partnership where those nuances have been agreed upon; or you are both of such a skill level, and know each other to be of such a skill level, where such nuances can be assumed.

In this case partner has shown full values for a 2 notrump, creating a game invitational auction; and you are 5 points over your minimum with a fitting hand. Just raise to game. Don't go looking for nuances that are known to NOT exist.

  • 1
    I will disagree as well. There is nothing in the question that states "pickup partner"; that only came out in the comment to my answer. Perhaps that means I should edit my answer to reflect the comment, but unless one is playing one's first game in Dubai or Bangalore, if you don't have a feel for how the room - or even your new partner - plays, that's a bigger problem than "how strong is 2NT?" and should be worked on first. In other words: I do agree with you - it absolutely is invitational. The question is - does partner?
    – Mycroft
    Commented Apr 29 at 19:04

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