BETTER BIDDING by BERNARD MAGEE
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
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
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