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Negative Doubles



        ow often do you make a penalty        This kind of double is called a Negative
        double at the one-level? Bearing      (or Sputnik) Double.                              Hand B                Hand C
        this in mind, using a ‘take-out’                                                        ♠ 54                  ♠ 54
type of double in an auction such as 1♣         What point count do                             ♥ K842                ♥ AK43
– (1♠) – ? is highly recommended.                                                               ♦ J76                 ♦ QJ32
                                                  we need for the                               ♣ K652                ♣ K62
  The Negative Double                            negative double?

Too often we are sat with a reasonable        Just the amount for a normal response.
hand and four hearts not knowing what         In fact, what the double in the auction           Hand D                Hand E
to do. Consider Hand A:                       1♣ – (1♠) – Dbl is really saying is:              ♠ 54                  ♠ 54
                                              “Partner, I could have responded 1♥               ♥ K5432               ♥ AK432
                                              without the overcall.”                            ♦ 832                 ♦ A83
               Hand A                           If the auction has progressed to the            ♣ K65                 ♣ 652
               ♠ 87                           two level, then you should have a few
               ♥ KQ42                         more points, e.g. after 1♥ – (2♦) – ?
               ♦ K543                         Here we would want a slightly better              Hand B: You would have responded
               ♣ 10 8 4                       hand to double (8+). This is because           1♥ and with the auction at the one level
                                              with 15 points your partner might want         you have enough points to bid – thus a
                                              to rebid in no-trumps and since this will      negative double is ideal.
After partner opens 1♣ and right-hand         now be at the two level you need a few            Hand C: This time you have a very
opponent overcalls with 1♠, you cannot        more points as responder.                      strong hand, as well as diamond support.
bid 2♥ for that would show five hearts;         As for the maximum point count,              However, you would have responded
1NT is not ideal because you are weak         there really isn’t one: partner will respond   1♥ and thus a negative double still fits
in spades, and 2♦ does not look right         (unless he has length in the opponents’        the bill. Your partner has to respond and
either. With just 8 points perhaps you        suit) so, even if you are very strong, you     then you will be able to show your true
feel you can pass. However, if, as so often   can make a negative double and then            colours on the next round.
happens, the bidding continues with           jump on a subsequent round. This is               Hand D: This time you have five
2♠, it will be difficult for your side to     very much like responding one-of-a-suit        hearts and thus might be tempted to bid
get back into the auction, even though        with 15 points because you know that           2♥, but being a two-level response this
you know your minimum strength is at          your partner will call again.                  would promise greater strength and thus
least 20 points. The difficulty is that                                                      is not allowed. However, you can still
since you passed, your partner could put         How high do we use                          use the negative double – after all, you
you with 0-5 points rather than 6-9.            the Negative Double?                         would have responded 1♥.
  Overcalls occur quite often – on about                                                        Hand E: You have enough length and
40 or 50% of the hands we play – so it        This is up to the partnership involved. A      strength to bid a natural 2♥ and this is
is important to have a system that can        common agreement is to play this ‘take-        what you should do.
deal with them effectively. Experience        out’ double up to and including 2♠.
has shown that it is a wise choice to play      Thus in 1♣ – (2♠) – Dbl, the double              When do we use it?
as take-out the double of a suit overcall     is for take-out, promising four hearts;
when partner has opened one-of-a-suit.        while in 1♣ – (3♠) – Dbl, the double is        I wrote above that when you hold a four-
The easiest way to play this double is to     for penalties.                                 card major, then you should use the
have it promise four cards in at least one      (Some competitive partnerships will          negative double. However, you can also
unbid major. Thus in the sequence 1♣ –        play the negative double up to and             use it on weak hands containing a longer
(1♠) – Dbl, the double would show four        including 4♥, but this does require an         major – when you are too weak to call
hearts. Ideally, the take-out doubler will    aggressive approach to your bidding.)          at the two level, but still want to show
have at least four cards in both of the         Let us look at some examples. After          your major suit.
unbid suits but, since we don’t live in an    this start to the auction – 1♦ – (1♠) – ?
ideal world, we focus on the major suits.     – what would you call on Hands B-E?                          Continued on page 11 ‹

                                                                Page 9
BETTER BRIDGE continued from page 9                                                      cards, thus:

                                                                                         1♣ – (1♥) – Dbl The negative double
Similarly you can use the double when                                                                    shows four spades
both majors have been called (e.g. 1♥ –        Hand H                    Hand I          1♣ – (1♥) – 1♠ You can use the 1♠
(1♠) – ?) to show a longer minor:              ♠ 543                     ♠ K843                          bid to show five
                                               ♥ AQ42                    ♥ 43
                                               ♦ AKJ76                   ♦ A Q 10 9 2    When both minors have been bid, the
             Hand F                            ♣ 10                      ♣ K6            negative double at the one level promises
             ♠ 54                                                                        both majors, but at the two level it
             ♥ J7                                                                        promises just one:
             ♦ Q 10 9 8 7 6
             ♣ A32                                         Hand J                        1♣ – (1♦) – Dbl Because you could
                                                           ♠ KQ54                                        bid 1♥ or 1♠ with
                                                           ♥ 54                                          four cards, the double
Hand F would be suitable for a double                      ♦ AQ832                                       is used to show both
– it is too weak for an immediate 2♦                       ♣ AJ                                          majors.
response. You might be able to show                                                      1♦ – (2♣) – ?   You cannot show a
your diamonds later, implying a six-card                                                                 four-card major at
suit and fewer than 10 points.                 Hand H: You have a fit for hearts, but                    the one level, so the
  When you are choosing between a            do not just bid 2♥; you need to show                        double shows at least
1NT response and a negative double;          your strength: with a singleton and 14                      one major.
consider how you would usually respond       points you must jump to 3♥ (6 losers).
to your partner’s opening; that is, if you     Hand I: This is a little awkward, for     One last example:
always like to show a four-card major,       had the auction started simply 1♦ –
then you should double whenever you          (Pass) – 1♥ – (Pass) you would have
hold one. The exception to this is when      rebid 1♠. The temptation is to bid no-       ♠   K J 10 6 5                  ♠    74
you hold a weakish hand such as Hand G:      trumps instead, but do not forget that a     ♥   A62               N         ♥    53
                                             1NT rebid promises a stronger hand           ♦   J9           W
                                                                                                                    E     ♦    KQ6543
                                             (15-17 points). That leaves little choice    ♣   K64                         ♣    A52
              Hand G                         but to rebid your first suit: 2♦.
              ♠ KJ86                           Hand J: This time you have a stronger
              ♥ J 10 3 2                     hand and can therefore rebid 1NT.             West         North           East     South
              ♦ 52                                                                         1♠            2♥             Dbl      Pass
              ♣ K64                          Knowing that you have a fit is very           2♠           Pass            3♦        End
                                             useful when the auction goes higher
                                             very quickly. Holding Hand K below,         The negative double is useful simply to
After partner has opened 1♦ and right-       after 1♦ – (1♠) – Dbl – (3♠) – ?            get your strength across. Here, East’s
hand opponent has overcalled with 1♠,                                                    negative double is an excellent bid: it
you know you are not strong enough to                                                    keeps his side in the auction. He is too
double first and bid no-trumps later at a                 Hand K                         weak to bid 3♦ which would force his
higher level.                                             ♠4                             side into a forlorn 3NT, but he wants to
  Your unimpressive heart suit, the                       ♥ Q876                         show some strength, otherwise West may
small doubleton in partner’s suit, and                    ♦ AK8765                       well have to pass out 2♥ thinking that
the double stop in the opponent’s suit                    ♣ A2                           East has a weak hand (0-7 points). West
should convince you that an immediate                                                    simply rebids his suit as he usually would,
1NT response is preferable to a negative                                                 and when East rebids 3♦ he can pass
double.                                      Playing the negative double as I suggest    because he knows that, had East been
                                             means that you know partner has four        stronger, he would have bid 3♦ direct.
    Responding to the                        hearts, and you can confidently bid 4♥.
     Negative Double                                                                               Conclusions
                                                   Other situations
Responding to a negative double is                                                       There are many different versions of the
relatively straightforward: bid your hand    When both majors have been bid, then        negative double. The version I have given
normally as if partner had responded         the negative double can still be used,      here I regard as the easiest to use as it
one-of-the-major, i.e. after the sequence    but now it would suggest holding the        focuses on the unbid major which, more
1♦ – (1♠) – Dbl – (Pass) – ? bid as if       minors, e.g in the sequence 1♥ – (1♠)       often than not, is the most important news
the auction had started 1♦ – (Pass) –        – Dbl, the double is still for take-out,    you want to tell partner. The convention
1♥ – (Pass) –?                               suggesting the minors.                      is relatively straightforward and it will
  What would you bid with Hands H-J            When you have a choice of making a        make dealing with overcalls so much
after the bidding has started 1♦ – (1♠)      negative double or bidding at the one       easier, that you may almost begin to
– Dbl – (Pass) – ?                           level, the double always shows four         look forward to them!                   I

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