District 6
Jane Farthing, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Aug/SepArticle by Steve RobinsonDec/Jan
Reopening Doubles (Oct/Nov 2006)

I asked my expert panel: “Playing five-card majors and strong notrump you open 1, Your LHO bids 1 and it goes Pass  - Pass back to you. Holding AKxxxxxxxxAJx, you should pass. However, holding xAKxxxxxAJxxx you should reopen with a double. Where is the middle point below which you should pass and above which you should reopen? How strong would you have to be or how distributional would you have to be to reopen with a singleton heart? What if LHO makes a 2 weak jump overcall?


Most experts always reopen, whatever the strength, when holding a singleton or void in the suit that is overcalled. The point is that whenever you are short in the opponent’s suit, you want to be aggressive. Before the negative double was invented, when you held AQ10xxxxAQxxxx and after your partner’s 1 opening bid they overcalled 1, you doubled for penalties. Playing negative doubles you have to pass and wait for opener to reopen with a double, which you will pass. That’s the way you get them. Reason number one to reopen is to get them. When you hold a singleton or void in the opponent’s suit and the suit is not raised, there is a good chance that your partner has the rest of the suit. If you would have passed a penalty double (nobody plays penalty doubles anymore), you should reopen with a double. The reopening double is a takeout double.


Chip Martel: With one spade (or zero), I always reopen (assuming partner is not a passed hand). With two spades, I reopen on most hands (vulnerability matters some though, as partner is much more likely to trap non-vulnerable VS vulnerable than Vulnerable VS non-vulnerable).


Mel Colchamiro: I would almost never reopen with three or more cards in their suit and would always with zero or one and 90% of the time would with two. It’s almost entirely based on number cards in their suit (with one exception), which is with a singleton heart and no negative double from partner I would almost never reopen, no matter how strong).


Kit Woolsey: I would always reopen with a singleton spade regardless of the rest of my shape or strength. I would almost always reopen with a doubleton spade unless I was also short in hearts and had minimal strength. With three+ spades, I would pass if balanced unless stronger than a strong notrump. If unbalanced, I would always pass with heart shortness unless I had a very strong hand. With diamond shortness I would tend to rebid 2 if my clubs were decent, pretty much regardless of strength. Without a decent club suit and with diamond shortness I would have to pass unless very strong.


If you hold three or four spades however, it is very unlikely that your partner has a spade stack. Therefore, my reason number one doesn’t apply. Another reason to reopen is that you can make something. If you hold a balanced hand that is stronger than a 1NT-opener you should reopen with 1NT. After one-of-any-suit - 1 - P – P, 1NT shows 18-19 balanced. If you have 11-14 points and more than two spades, you should pass. I held KJxAxxxxxxAxx and opened 1, LHO overcalled 1 and it went - P – P to me. I passed, and beat 1 two tricks. They were in a 5-0 fit. If I had bid, the opponents would find their nine-card diamond fit.           


Bill Pollack: I'd pass with hands like: AQxJxxQJxxAxx (i.e. just below an opening notrump, chunky in spades (which makes doubling more dangerous) or a more shapely hand, again with length and strength in spades: KQxxxxKxAQxxx

 I would virtually never make a reopening double here with a stiff heart, but could have AxxKQ10xAQJxxx and bid 2, or xxxQAKxAKQxxx and try 2. Of course, 2 reopeners can have any shape. After 2, the ante is raised considerably, same general guideline, just a bit more stuff.


Larry Cohen: If you keep the same honors in the same suits, I'd reopen with all hands with a small singleton in spades. With a small doubleton in spades, I'd reopen only with extreme club length, or with 2=4=3=4. With three spades and a minimum opener, I would always pass.

Reopening with shortness in an unbid suit can be dangerous. If the unbid short suit is a major, the lack of a negative double suggests that partner does not have that suit. Holding KQxxxAxxQJxxx after1 - 1 - P – P, where are the hearts? If partner has four hearts and some strength he would have made a negative double so passing is best.


Steve Bloom: Let me start out with a cautionary fable. Opener balanced, rather innocently with 2, after 1 - 1 - Pass – Pass holding KQxxAK10xxxQJx and found the opponents with AxxxxxAKxx-Kxx opposite xJxxxxxJxxxAx and was quickly on defense against 6(!). The good news, of course, is that the opponents had missed a laydown grand. That still didn't IMP very well against the 1 contract played at the other table. When you are short in the other major, the risks of balancing are much higher than the possible gains. I tend to picture partner with length in that major - if partner is short there, then balancing is clearly wrong. They are playing in the wrong strain, and quite possibly at the wrong level. We will certainly beat par defending 1. Yet partner didn't act over 1, and so partner has a very poor hand.  So, I plan my auction picturing four or five hearts in partner's hand, and around a five-count. Given that, do I want to compete?  Keep in mind the risks are high, so I have to have an excellent hand to venture in.


Thus:  I always balance with a singleton or void in spades. I usually balance with a small doubleton in spades. Holding three or more spades, I need substantial extra high card values, and short hearts is a huge negative. It is right to balance with a singleton heart only if game is still quite possible opposite a fitting five-count.


These considerations still apply after 1 - 2 - P - P, but here, partner could be stronger, and the opponents are less likely to find their heart fit. Thus I tend to balance a little more liberally on these auctions. After a weak jump overcall, you don’t have to worry as much about pushing the opponents into game but you do need to be able to handle any bid partner might make.


Ralph Katz: Unless my heart holding is weak I would reopen with any hand that has a doubleton spade QJ or worse. Aces and kings are very important. I would reopen with xxAKQxxAQxxxx and would reopen with any hand with a stiff spade. If you have xx of spades then you need some texture or extras. With three spades and an 18-count I probably would pass unless I have a source of tricks. Weakest hand with xx of spades is xxAJ10AxxA109xx.


If you hold two spades, and they are both honors, it makes it less likely that partner has a penalty pass.


Kerry Sanborn: I would tend to pass with any minimum hand with three-card length in LHO’s suit. If I can reopen with a suit, however, I could still be minimum. I would, for example, rebid 2 holding JxxxxAxAKxxxx. This is not more than a minimum, but it has some playing strength. I think it is a balance between whether you can make something, whether they can make theirs, whether you can find another playable contract and whether you are improving their final contract. Nothing is more frustrating than reopening only to have the opponents bid a game, either in the same or a different suit.


I would reopen with a stiff heart only when I have one or two other suits of length, or I have a good expectation of making game facing a trap or a fit. It is awkward to reopen with a double, then to have to guess what to do when partner bids some number of hearts. However, if I am strong enough to bid 2NT or 3NT when partner takes out to 2 or 3, then that is acceptable. The jump to 4 is so unlikely that it is best to not worry about it.


Over 2 this is tough. I will often reopen with 2NT rather than double when my hand is unsuitable for play in one of the missing suits. Again, though, with a minimum and length, it is easier to pass the hand out and defend.


Joe Kivel: Points, Shmoints! With zero or one spade, I always reopen. With two spades I reopen except when I have doubleton honor and minimum, or shortness in another suit also along with minimum. Holding three spades and balanced hand I either pass or with 18-19 points rebid 1NT. With three spades and unbalanced hand, I have to be prepared to take action if they bid another suit; so with 3-1-4-5 or 3-1-3-6, I have to believe that I have at least three defensive tricks against a heart contract Over a 2 bid, I still reopen with zero or one spade and also tend to reopen with doubleton spade.


Henry Bethe: Assuming the distribution is fixed at 4-3-3-3 and that I can only add high cards and not change their location. At matchpoints I would not bid unless I had an AK in one of the red suits or the club king or queen and a red ace and was not vulnerable. I would want to be sure of going for 100 or less. At IMPs I would bid with almost any additional high-cards that got me to an 18-count. Here the potential gain when partner has a hand unsuitable for a negative double but game values opposite 18 or 19 is too great to pass.


I would reopen with almost all hands with two or fewer spades and minimum values. With Kx of spades and 4-5 in the minors, I probably wouldn’t. I consider this a corollary of playing negative doubles. With three or more spades I would tend to pass unless strong enough to reopen with 1NT (18-19), With a stiff heart I would need very good playing values and/or defensive cards -- with AKxxxKxxAQJxx I would reopen with 1NT. I probably would reopen with 2 holding AxxKxxxAJxxxx, although it might depend on the minor suit spots. Over a 2 overcall, my tendencies are similar: with two or fewer spades my hand would have to be severely flawed not to reopen. With three or more, it would be unusual to reopen.


Dave Berkowitz: Any hand with zero or one spades must reopen. When reopening with a void, avoid double without extras. If I held two spades, I would normally reopen except with Kx, KQ or the like in spades. With a singleton heart, you need extra playing strength, but not necessarily more than a minimum. xxxKQxx AKxxxx would routinely rebid 2. Change one of the minor suit kings to spades and I would pass. The same parameters apply over a 2 overcall. The middle would be AxKxxQxxKJ10xx.


If you hold a void in their suit, you want to reopen but the inability to lead trumps from your hand will hurt the defense. You need a lot of extra values to compensate. With a minimum opener, reopen with a suit. Also, avoid reopening with a double with a weak distributional  hand with poor defensive cards. xKQxQJxKJ10xxx is a 2-reopener.


Another reason to reopen is to compete for the plus score. Since your double is a takeout double, you could find partner with a 3-3-5-2 eight-count, and you would find your diamond fit. If you have a very strong one-suited hand, you can double first and then bid your suit. xAxAKxxAKxxxx is a double and then a club bid. If partner passes the takeout double, the opponents will be hurting.     


Marinesa Letizia: If I have the right shape for a takeout double, providing I don't have two high honor cards in my doubleton in their suit (where it is less likely that partner trap passed), I reopen. I can't imagine hand I would double to reopen with singleton heart; but I would reopen in a suit with a big distributional hand that had a singleton heart. After a 2 overcall, I would need spade shortness, takeout shape, and considerable extra values as I'm forcing partner to three-level if partner doesn't have a trap-pass. Partner can double for penalty if I pass, so I don't need to worry about protection as much when RHO raises his partner’s preempt.

Billy Eisenberg: If I have three spades, I need to be too strong to open 1NT. i.e. 18+. HCP. I would also reopen with a doubleton spades and sound minimum. 


Bobby Wolff: I am less often a reopener than most players. With xAJxxKxxAxxxx I would reopen with a double, but with xQJ10xQJxKQJ10x, I would not  (but perhaps rebid 2 instead). Again, because I have always thought that bridge is a partnership game, the reopener as well as the responder has a responsibility to have a hand partner would not mind defending against a doubled low-level contract. Holding AxxxKQJxAQJxx and having the bidding go 1 by me 1 - pass -, pass I would bid 2. With xxKxxKxxAQxxx and having it go 1- 1- pass - pass I would pass, but upgrading to xxAxxAxxAQxxx I would reopen with a double.


Drew Cason: With spade length, I would only reopen with hand that was worth a 2NT rebid (17+), even with a singleton heart.


Barry Rigal: If I held a strong NT with the ´wrong´ shape. KxAQxxxxAQxxx I probably would reopen, though switch the red suits and pass is clear. Soften the defensive tricks: KxKQxxJxAQxxx and pass is probably right, although I might still bid.

With a singleton heart and 3-½ defensive tricks I might reopen.

AxxAKxxAxxxxx is surely a 2 call. But AxxAxxxAKxxxx is not so clear (less defense). Even so, I might bid despite believing it to be wrong. Over a 2 overcall I would reopen with most hands under discussion unless tempo or RHO had told me not to.


Jeff Rubens: The spade needs to be a singleton (including singleton ace) for me to reopen. With a minimum opener and two spades, I would pass. With a singleton heart I would need (including revaluation for position and location of honors): with a three-suiter; or a two-suiter with three spades, strong enough to bid one notrump (shows more than a strong-notrump opening); with a two-suiter including four spades, treat as one-suiter; with a two-suiter and at most two spades, strong enough for an initial reverse as opener; with a one-suiter, either treat as a notrump hand or with three spades, I’d want  the strength of an initial reverse as opener. My requirements would gradually shade downwards as the number of spades decreases.


Marty Bergen :  Reopen all hands with zero or one spade. Reopen most of the hands with two spades. Need a reason to reopen with three or more spades. HCP are not as relevant as number of spades. Holding a singleton heart would suggest not reopening. Against a 2 overcall, reopen all with fewer then two spades; pass a lot with more than one spade.


Eddie Kantar: Holding four spades, I would need 18-19 balanced to rebid 1NT or 2NT Holding four spades and a singleton heart, I would need a sixth club or a fourth diamond with at least 18 HCP to bid against 1 or 2 overcalls.


Lynn Deas: I would have to make changes in the length of my spades. My general policy for reopening is the shorter you are in their suit, the fewer points you must have to reopen. I would reopen with even a minimum hand if I held only one spade. I always reopen with two or fewer cards in their suit and generally pass with three or more unless I have substantially more HCP. If they bid 2 the same rules applies. I would tend to reopen with double unless very distributional.


If you’re in passout seat, and you’re short in the opponent’s suit it usually pays to reopen. If you’re long in the opponent’s suit with a minimum opener it usually pays to pass. Remember that if you double, your partner will frequently bid your shortest suit. Be prepared for it. It’s dangerous to bid with shortness in an unbid suit Avoid doubling with a void in the opponent’s suit.

Don Berman, Web Master.