Here's another example from today's New York Post. West opened 1 club. (He had a 19 point 1NT hand, and was planning to re-bid 2NT.) North made a (takeout) double with (s) KQxxx (h) Qxxxx (d) xx (c) x, which according to partnership agreement, showed 5-5 in the majors. East passed, and South was forced to bid 1 H with (s) xxx (h) xxx (d) Kxx (c) xxxx. They went down three doubled vulnerable. East-West could have made game, but not slam in 3 NT or one of the minors.

The "rule of 20" says that you can OPEN when the sum of your HCP plus the length of your two longest suits is at least 20. That is, 10 HCP plus a 5-5 or 6-4 distribution, 11 HCP with a 6-3 or 5-4, 12 HCP with 5-3, and you need 13 HCP for a 4-3-3-3 distribution.

Here, I WOULD have doubled with (s) KQxxx (h) KQxxx (d) xx (c) x (ten high card points plus 5-5), but not with North's actual hand (only 17).

Would you find the "rule of 20" useful in this context (takeout double, or even "unusual" NT overcall showing two minor suits)? Would you refrain from doubling even with my "hypothetical" hand? Or would you have doubled like North with a tally of less than 20? Would vulnerability affect your application of this rule?

2 Answers 2


What North and South did is not a take out double, but a conventional response to a strong club opening.

One of the most important things to do facing a strong club is to intervene, making it more difficult for the opposing side to reach the optimum contract. You don't want you opponents to relay themselves into a hard to bid (grand)slam that no one else will make.

One of the simplest defenses to a strong club is Mathe, where Double shows the majors, and 1NT shows the minors. This is the easiest way to convoy shape, so your partner knows where to intervene, or where to sacrifice.

In this particular auction it would probably be better for South to bid 1D asking for North's better major as South has no real preference, and North would be 1S.

  • Welcome to the site. A good answer and an upvote to get you started. Suppose this isn't a "takeout double" but "a conventional response to a strong club." Even so, would the "Rule of 20" help deter a "double" with a too-weak hand? I wouldn't double with only 7 hcp unless my suits were 7-6 or 6-6-1.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:18
  • The Rule of 20 is only an opening theory, it says nothing about hand evaluation in a competitive setting. If you had an opening hand strength there are many different bids you can do. For example your KQxxx, KQxxx xx x should bid 2C over a natrual 1C showing 5/5 in the majors. Likewise you have 1d/1h/1s/1n to show hands with strenght and 2dhs to show weaker distributional hands.
    – Bob
    Jul 24, 2012 at 15:44
  • The modern use of a takout double is not an opening bid. The primary purpose is an inqiry about partners hand. It is the standard pratice to show 3 suiter hands (your classic 4441 shape), monster hands (X and then rebid over partner is very strong), and hands stuck that want to do something (for example, hands that need a club stopper for 3NT. Takeout double and if they bid clubs raise to game). It can also be used for balancing.
    – Bob
    Jul 24, 2012 at 15:47
  • As for when to takeout double, that depends on the context. If we are assuming that 1C is natural, 1C - X should be a normal takeout double showing (11)/12+ and a need to know what partner has. While 1C - p - p - X (none vulnerable) could be strong, or it could even be 8 points perfect shape, just trying to push the auction up a little bit. It depends on partnership agreement. Is your partner okay if you double on AQxx xx KQxx AJX planning to move to NT if your partner has hearts? If not, 1C-X-p-4H would be a disaster
    – Bob
    Jul 24, 2012 at 15:52

Sorry for saying this, but this is a very strange question! It looks like you don't really understand the purpose of takeout doubles as they currently are played by the majority of people.

As to the specific situation you mention, you seem to be forgetting that Grue-Cheek use a strong club system, in which 1C shows 16+ any (I believe), and thus a takeout double over that needs to have a specialized meaning, like Levin-Weinstein choosing to show 5-5 in majors.

The primary purpose of takeout double is to try and find a fit, and thus the shape requirements(shortness in opp suit, support for other suits) are given precedence over the strength requirements (especially for minimum hands).

For instance, if 1C was natural, the "typical" way to deal with 5-5 majors is to use a combination of Michaels (weak + strong) and natural overcalls (intermediate hands, overcall 1S then 2H etc), rather than making a takeout double. The situation you describe is different as 1C is not natural.

The purpose of rule of 20 is to help judge whether to open or not (in the first/second seat), by trying to give some weight to long suits and is another in a long line of rules which are probably better left untaught.

Trying to use this rule to decide whether to make a takeout double is very strange and shows a lack of understanding of takeout doubles (IMO). For e.g, with long suits of 5+, you tend to overcall with most hands, and would not make a takeout double if you didn't have the right shape/strength etc.

This seems to be a case of trying to apply the wrong tool.

  • You're certainly entitled to your opinion. But mine is that takeout doubles require both shape AND strength. The "Rule of 20" was originated to create a "sliding scale" of "more shape, less strength" for opening bids. THAT's what I want for take out doubles as well. The "expert" went "down 3 (instead of down 2) because he had too LITTLE strength. (Unless his shape was something like 6-6-1-0).
    – Tom Au
    Jul 23, 2012 at 12:05
  • 2
    @TomAu: Levin-Weinstein are both experts (and not "experts" :-), they just narrowly lost the Spingold yesterday). You can try applying whatever rule you want to, but in the end it is a matter of risk vs reward. As Bob mentions in his answer, trying to disrupt opponents constructive bidding, especially when they open 1C is something one should strive to do, but you should also consider the risk. There is lesser risk in showing a 5-5 weak hand, than showing a 4-4 major "rule of 20 acceptable" hand. Good luck.
    – Aryabhata
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:42
  • (the 1C in the comment above is about a strong club)
    – Aryabhata
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:48

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