I asked my expert panel, “Right Hand Opponent (RHO) opens a weak notrump and you
double for penalties. If partner doubled a natural 2
by Left Hand Opponent (LHO),
what would that mean? If partner doubled LHO's natural 2, what would that mean? If partner
doubled LHO's 2
meant as Stayman what would that mean? If partner passed 2
could you also pass? What are your understandings of the follow-ups after
a penalty double of a weak notrump?”
Here is another subject where we have no clear
answer. Half of the experts play double of a natural bid as penalties and half play it as takeout.
There is also no agreement about which bids by the opponents can
be passed out and which bids are forcing. What’s important is that you know what
your partner’s doubles mean and which bids are forcing. You don’t want to let them
play a contract when you are cold for game.
--- We like to play that the first double by either of us AFTER we have
doubled a weak NT is for takeout. Thereafter our doubles are penalties because we
have BOTH shown values. However, we are only in a forcing pass situation on the
player that is short in their suit. If I double a weak notrump and they run to an
AKJx suit, and my partner cannot double it for takeout, then I know he is very weak
and I can pass it out. They can trick us by bidding their short suits.
I suggest having the first double be a takeout double or a strength showing double.
This way if Advancer passes and Overcaller is long in their suit, he knows partner
is broke or the opponents are playing in a poor fit. Unless you have a game, having
them play in one of your fits will get you a good score. What’s important is getting
to game when you belong in game and getting a plus score if you don’t have a game.
If you happen to get a number, that’s a secondary concern. If double of 2
shows three or more clubs, what do you do with
AxxxKxxxxxxxx? This is a hand where you want to
compete for the partscore. Add a king and you have to take some action because you
don’t want to miss a game.
---I have a simple rule with my partners. All doubles
are takeout until the weak hand shows values. That means that once the card showing
or penalty double occurs, the "weak" hand cannot make a penalty double at its next
bid. With what amounts to the typical penalty, it must wait for partner to reopen,
much as with negative doubles. Once this hand has acted to show some interest in
competing or defending, now either side's new doubles are for penalty.
---We play a negative double/forcing pass and treat
all bids as natural. We're forced through 2
except a bid of a suit at the two-level breaks the negative double/forcing pass
If you hold
KxKJxxKxxAxxx and 2
is passed back to you, why would you disturb it?
---If the partner of the original doubler doubles any
suit bid at the two-level, regardless of meaning, that typically shows a doubleton
in the suit doubled and some values. With a yarborough and a doubleton in their
suit, the partner of the original doubler may pass. If the partner of the original
doubler has done nothing but pass and the 1NT bidder bids two-of-a-suit, the original
doubler's double shows typically a doubleton in the suit. It does not show any extra
strength. The original doubler is required to double with a doubleton in their suit.
With more length, he may pass and we can sell out if his partner has a yarborough.
Thus, the auction: 1NT - Double - 2
- all pass is quite legal provided the original doubler has three or more cards
in clubs. If he has a doubleton club he is required to double, so we can't sell
Once either partner has made the "short-suit double" that puts us in a force even
if the double did not show extra strength. Subsequent doubles are all penalties.
If fourth seat passes the double of 1NT and opener runs, the same rules apply. Sometimes
we will wind up being in a force whether we like it or not; sometimes we will be
able to sell depending on how the auction comes up and the relevant suit lengths.
If responder does not pass or double, two-level bids by him are to play. Three-level
bids are natural forces.
With Fred Stewart, I play that the double of the weak NT is penalties but denies
a four-card or longer major. 2
shows a strong hand and promises a four-card major. Same follow-up principles are
involved, but of course we have a more accurate decision-making process with this
kind of pinning down of the doubler's hand.
---My usual agreement is that we are forced through
only. We don't have to act when we might be doubling them into game. I've had various
agreements about the meaning of doubles of two-of-a-minor and higher doubles. My
current agreement is that the first double after the initial double is "takeout".
Of course, some doubles are "more takeout" than others; when a force is in effect
a direct double should really be takeout, but a balancing double has to cover more
ground. When there is no force a double may be pure takeout or a hand with enough
extra values to get involved. A double of an artificial bid shows cards. Bids by
doubler's partner are natural. I don't like "our notrump system on", which works
poorly if doubler is unbalanced.
---If partner doubled LHO’s natural 2
, it would be a takeout double. If partner doubled
LHO’s natural 2
, it would be a
takeout double. If partner doubled LHO’s 2
(Stayman), it would show a good hand, values, typically at least eight HCP, what
Kokish would call cooperative penalty. I could pass if partner passed 2
but I couldn’t pass 2
pass is forcing through 2
After 1NT – Double – two-of-anything, double = takeout, new suit is not forcing,
jump in new suit is "almost" forcing. 2NT by the doubler shows 18-20.
---After the double of a weak notrump, the first subsequent
double by either partner of a natural bid is takeout. The double of an artificial
bid shows the suit doubled. The partner of the initial doubler may bid a suit at
the two-level without showing strength, but a responsive double or any bid at the
three-level shows at least seven HCP, and any jump by responder is forcing. We are
on a force until the opponents bid 2
---First double is for takeout.
---I play the next double by either hand is takeout/cards.
If their bid is a transfer or is artificial then the double is just cards. If it
is natural or could be natural then it is takeoutish/cards. I would likely not double
with a singleton and certainly not with a void. I would play invitational Lebensohl
where say bidding 3
is invitational. To force you must double first or cuebid as Stayman. When they
pass I play 2
as a scramble and anything else as natural.
If LHO bids two-of-a-major, it makes sense to treat the auction as if it went 1NT
(by you) - two-of-a-major by LHO.
---After 1NT - double by us, the first subsequent
double by either of us is takeout. All subsequent doubles by us are penalty. We
cannot let them play in two-of-a-minor undoubled, however, we can let them play
---Over natural bids, double is takeout. Over artificial
bids double shows cards. Can’t let them play undoubled below 2
---Ross Grabel and I play after a penalty double of a
weak 1NT, our first double over any natural bid is negative, and doubles after that
are penalty. So, doubles of 2
natural or 2
natural are negative. The double of 2
Stayman should show clubs. If we double a weak notrump, we cannot sell out to anything
at the 2
level or below, so if it goes 2
natural or 2
natural – Pass - Pass, doubler is obligated to reopen with a double with club shortness,
or something else with club length.
—Double of 2
are for takeout. Double of 2
Stayman shows values. Can’t pass 2
Can pass 2
with length unless unfavorable.
---After 1NT - double we are forced as long as there
is something to bid at the two-level. That is, we are forced if the opponents bid
or less. We are not forced over the opponents' 2
. If we are forced, doubles of natural bids are negative. Doubles
of artificial bids show length in the suit doubled and create a force to the three-level.
If we are no longer in a force, e.g. over 2
or higher, double is cooperative showing high card values and typically about three-card
length in the suit doubled. Over 2
specifically I play Lebensohl.
---If partner doubles a weak notrump and the opponent
runs, I proceed on the assumption that we own the hand through the two-level. If
I double a natural 2
, or any natural
bid through 2
it shows cards and is primarily for take-out but partner, of course, is free to
convert to penalty. If I pass, partner cannot pass but must protect my own penalty
potential and double again, allowing me to pass for penalty. Unless his hand indicates
otherwise, e.g. he has length in the opponent's suit. If I double 2
Stayman, it shows clubs, and if I double a transfer, it shows the suit called. The
rub comes with that natural 2
bid. A forcing pass propels you to the three-level if you don't have spades, and
double--unless you make it penalty--forces partner to the three-level if he doesn't
have spades. I suggest you treat a natural 2
call as if partner opened a strong notrump and double would mean whatever you play
over notrump interference, including Lebensohl. i.e. double is negative, if that's
what you play when partner opens a 1NT; or it shows cards (equivalent to a raise
to 2NT) if that's what you play; or, it's penalty, if that's what you play. Utilize
Lebensohl with a long suit and a weakish hand; and show a strong hand if you bid
on the three-level directly.
---Double of a natural 2
would show values and be for takeout. After 2
has been doubled all subsequent doubles are for penalty. If partner doubled LHO’s
Stayman it would be the same showing values and be for takeout. After doubling 1NT
I could not pass 2
. They could
but not 2
---Doubles of natural runouts are loosely defined
as negative, say five or six HCP or more with support for the unbid suits. Doubles
mean the same thing, though with a little more required to double 2
. A double of Stayman shows cards. By choice I play
that Advancer's passes are non-forcing, though some of my partners prefer otherwise.
I certainly don't play "Front of card" when responder passes -- I don't think it's
---If I doubled a natural 2
it would show clubs and values. If I doubled a natural 2
it would show spades and values. If I doubled 2
meant as Stayman it would show clubs and values. If prefer to play partner’s pass
as forcing. My requirements for doubling 1NT are much higher than most--under the
more popular treatment(s), I imagine that it is inappropriate to treat such passes,
especially over 2
, as forcing.
My choice of high requirements to double 1NT is based largely on long experience
as a weak notrumper; these indicate that doubling with a hand at least as strong,
or even at least a little stronger than that, is a losing strategy. The apparent
reason for this is the great advantage that responder has over Advancer--responder
knows his partner's approximate distribution; Advancer knows very little about his
partner's distribution. That means that unless the defensive side can extract a
penalty, which is much harder than it might sound, in view of the distributional
consideration mentioned, the difficulty of the defensive bidders knowing how many
trumps they have, and declarer's advantage when the contract is 1NT doubled, the
offensive side is much more likely to find its correct contract when it has one
than the defensive side is to find its correct contract when it has one.
After a penalty double, all doubles are for penalty. If Advancer shows values, new-suit
bids or 2NT by either partner are forcing, old-suit bids are not. A penalty double
of a suit counts, for later such purposes, as a "bid of that suit”.
---If partner doubled LHO’s natural 2
, it would show three or more clubs and cards. If partner
doubled LHO’s natural 2
, it would
be a negative double. If partner doubled LHO’s 2
Stayman, it would show three or more clubs and cards. I could pass if partner passed
---One key to this answer would be: What do we mean
by a penalty double? May it be a six-card running suit and an outside trick or should
it be either a strong-notrump more balanced type 15+-17 or a maximum weak NT 13+-15.
If double is either of the last two types, then partner's double of 2
natural would be penalty and a double of Stayman should be like a redouble of an
opponent's takeout double of partner's one-of-a-suit opening.
If the partner of the notrump doubler passes at his first turn then all forces are
off, but if partner doubles to show cards or penalty, then if the doubler passes
at his second turn and the opponents continue to bid, the partner of the original
doubler is forced through the opponent's 2
to do something other than pass it out.
The situation you are now covering is one of the least consistent parts of high-level
partnership (HLP) understandings with constant changes and too much room for misunderstandings.
Various problems emerge, not the least of which are maintaining ethical tempos,
throughout the auction. Add to that the problem of most HLP's playing differently
defending weak and strong notrump openings and only then are we beginning to scratch
the surface of this considerable problem.
If you, during your survey, can suggest a reasonable, fairly consistent method to
handle two types of notrump openings, you will be doing the HLP's a significant
service. To deal with all the other players is also worthwhile, but probably all
in vain, since very few will take your suggestions to heart and will just hope they
never encounter needing to have it all worked out, but we all know that when it
comes up it is important.
---We are in a force through 2
therefore double is penalty when we are in a force and pass is forcing. 2
and higher we are not in a force so double is cards and pass not forcing.
---Simplest and not clear that it's not best to play:
all continuations, whether they run or not, as over your strong notrump opening.
Play take-out doubles, transfers, and play double of two-any as Stayman, with forcing
passes of two-of-a-minor, and maybe 2
as well. I think, but I'm not sure that negative doubles after forcing pass of two-of-a-minor
and take-out double by strong hand is theoretically best. 1NT – double – two-of-a-minor
- Pass (forcing) – Pass – Double is takeout.
---I now like to play, suggested by Michael Rosenberg,
that once you double a weak notrump your side is in a force thru 2
. Therefore anytime you are in a force, pass is forcing
so double is penalty. If the opponents bid more than 2
then doubles are card showing. So if it goes 1NT – double, pass over 2
is forcing and over 2
or anything higher it is non-forcing.
---We are committed to either double them or bid through
. All doubles are penalty. The
double of Stayman is cards.
is Stayman, double is for penalty. In all other cases, double shows cards. If 2
natural is passed around, I can't pass. This might work, but it is crazy. If the
opponents know what we are doing, they can respond with strong hands and the doubler
is forced to bid again.
---I play that we pretend the bidding went a strong
notrump by the doubler. Then I play Transfer Lebensohl; and other toys if they show
two suits, Landy defense etc. We are not forced if partner passes. Doubles generally
show a raise to 2NT or better except doubling 2
may be Stayman.
---After I double the weak notrump for penalties, we
pretend I opened 1NT. So, it is system on as if I opened 1NT. Whatever you play
after they interfere with your strong notrump, you use here. The only issue is whether
or not pass is forcing and we say YES if they bid below 2
I play Transfer Lebensohl after 1NT – DBL – Two-of-a-major, regular Lebensohl over
, and over 2
I play double shows three or more clubs and 2
---I have the understanding that after a weak notrump
is doubled, the first double from either side is takeout; then everything is penalty.
It seems to create easier situations to compete and easier to double for penalty
from either side. We like to play Lebensohl at the three-level as if partner had
The general rule of competing is to compete strongly when short in the opponent’s
suit and be conservative when long. With this in mind, after a penalty double of
1NT, double by Advancer of Stayman or Jacoby should be strength showing. If Responder
makes a natural bid, double shows shortness or a game-forcing hand. If Advancer
is long in Responder’s suit with a fair hand he waits for partner to reopen. If
Advancer is long in their suit and has a good hand he can’t pass. Sometimes they
If Advancer passes Stayman or Jacoby, play double of the response as takeout. If
the penalty doubler is strong in the suit that Opener bid and has a minimum penalty
double, he has to wait for Advancer to reopen with a double. If Responder makes
a natural bid and you have a minimum penalty double you can pass it out if you have
at least three cards in their suit. With fewer than three cards in Responder’s suit,
reopen with a double. After any second double by your side all subsequent doubles
are penalties. Using these methods the opponents could play in your six-card or
longer fit undoubled. This would only occur if this is a part score battle.