Monday, November 3, 2014

Using double or redouble to ask about partner's hand

Here's the type of auction for which many pairs do not have a good understanding of how best to compete:
The situation arises when West's bid is ambiguous (for example, it doesn't specify a suit, or shows only one suit of two). Click each bid to see its meaning. Is partner showing clubs? The majors? Could it be some sort of rescue request?

In my partnerships, this redouble has a very simple and clear meaning: "I have decent values and I'd like you to further describe your hand at your next turn." Without the redouble, South might bid a major and you (West) might feel that your hand wasn't good enough to bid 3. But partner is saying: I really want to know what your hand is.

This hand came up at a sectional tournament, playing against two good matchpoint players. I was East. South passed and West now bid 2. Two passes followed and now South decided to bid 3♣. This went pass-pass and I finished proceedings with double. We scored 500 (could have been 800) for a clear top. It turned out that North made a somewhat over-enthusiastic Stayman bid and South, expecting his partner to have a bit more, decided to bid his clubs with only an 11-count. Here is the whole hand:
It was good that we have the rule that all doubles after a redouble are for penalty, so there was no doubt what the final double meant.

The double can be used for the same thing. Here's an example using the same hand, just a slightly different treatment for the West hand:
Again, just to be clear, East's double says nothing about clubs—it asks partner to state which of the three hands he actually has: 2 would show both majors (pass or correct), 2♦ would show diamonds and pass would show clubs.

This seems like a simple, effective, agreement. Yet in my experience it is quite rare. Maybe even unique. Without it a distributional but weak responder can easily preempt the other side out of a good contract. Suppose in the actual hand (first example), North had simply transferred to spades with a 2 call. East doesn't double because his double would show good hearts. South bids 2♠. Is West really going to come in with 3? I don't think so.


  1. Let's face it, you got lucky on the first hand. North has no business bidding Garbage Stayman after interference (just be happy to get out of the auction) and South (as a weak NTer) has no business bidding clubs unilaterally.

    The agreement (essentially a new type of Responsive Double) can work but it requires such an unusual set of circumstances (both overcaller and responder make artificial bids?) that you could go years without it being profitable again. I wouldn't recommend it to any but the finest tuned partnerships.

    Also, if North transfers to spades East can simply bid 2S for takeout. Wouldn't that achieve the same effect?

  2. Well, yes, I totally agree that we got lucky. But it is good to have clear understandings for these sorts of happenings when they arise.

    I don't think the circumstances are quite as unusual as you suggest. Overcaller needs to make a call that leaves at least one suit unknown. Many examples here: Michaels over a major suit, DONT, Capp 2M, etc. etc. Then it really doesn't matter what responder does: he can double or bid -- natural or artificial. Either way advancer can act with redouble/double.

    And yes, 2S (after 2H transfer as in your example) would also work.