Monday, September 14, 2009

Raising partner's forced response to a takeout double

I stirred up quite a controversy last week playing with Lance. Just what sort of hand do you need to raise partner's forced response to your takeout double, assuming that RHO rebids something? The rule that I've been following for many years now is that you can raise to the two-level with a non-minimum takeout double, especially if our side is non-vulnerable. Apparently, where I thought this was "expert standard", it's actually an item for partnership discussion.

Just what is a good enough hand to raise? Does it show a really good hand, as it would surely if RHO didn't bid again? Let's say that the auction has gone as follows:


Is this hand good enough to raise to 2♠: ♠A985 3 AK96 ♣AJT8? I suspect everyone would raise: either to the two or three level depending on partnership agreements. This hand evaluates to about 21 points assuming partner really has four or more spades. If he has something like Kxxx xxx Jxx 9xx, game is about a 50% proposition. However, if partner has xxxx xxx xxx xxx, then it will be very hard to make even 2♠ but surely in that case, the opponents can make 3 so unless they double (or we are vulnerable) and we go down two, we should still be OK.

What about this? ♠Q985 T32 AQ6 ♣AT8? I can't imagine anyone raising with this hand - it's a marginal takeout double of 1 in the first place.

My hand was somewhere in between: ♠Q985 T3 AK96 ♣AJ8 and I raised to 2♠, thinking that I was doing the "normal" thing. Lance then surprised me by doing what I thought he couldn't possibly do (given his non-jump initially) – he bid game with ♠KT642 Q86 74 ♣Q42 (five working points but also a fifth spade). The defense wasn't perfect and with a slightly more favorable guess in the trump suit, he could actually have made it, but in the end went down one.

Afterwards he said he expected me to have a "huge hand." What surprised me was that the GLM at our table agreed with him. Hence my interest in finding out what my bridge friends would do.

Here's what I'd like to suggest: 2♠ (in competition) shows a hand with four spades, at most two small of the enemy suit (maybe Kx) and 14-16 working points. With more hcp and/or especially good distribution, a jump to 3 would be about right. A very good hand with only three-card support and something in the enemy suit can double. A huge hand can cue bid (we wouldn't be having this discussion if their suit outranked ours), forcing us to the three-level and begging partner to bid game with any useful card. On that basis, my hand was a minimum for my action.

I'd like to suggest one final rule of a more general nature which is perhaps an extension of the Horizon principle. Let's say that you make a call which shows no interest in game (a non-jump opposite a takeout double for instance or a simple raise of partner's major suit opening). Partner later makes a non-forcing call. Even though your hand may have improved since your initial action, you cannot now bid game all on your own if there is an intermediate call available (assuming we are not sacrificing).

Comments welcome.

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