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District 6
Shawn Stringer, President
American Contract Bridge League
Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference
District 7
Zero Tolerance, D6 policy
Apr/MayArticle by Steve RobinsonDec/Jan 13
ArticlesDoubles After 2 (Jun/Jul 2012)
You open 2 which is strong and artificial. If your LHO overcalls 2, what should responder's double mean, assuming you're not playing controls, which makes double conventional? What about doubles of 3, four-of-a-minor, 4 and 4?

When I started playing bridge in 1959, all doubles after a 2 opener by responder were penalty doubles. I don’t think the book has changed since then. Later some experts decided that maybe double should show a bust hand. My opinion hasn’t changed. I think double should say that you think that the opponent has made a big mistake. This stops an opponent from overcalling 2 holding six spades and two hearts. Since passes are forcing, I think that all direct doubles should be penalty doubles, even by opener. Reopening doubles are takeoutish. The 2 opener either has a balanced 22+ or a nine-winner or better suited hand. If the opponents are not in the auction, you could stop short of game. However, once the opponents enter the auction you don’t have room to investigate so you might as well bite the bullet and get to game or double them. When partner opens 2, the opponents cannot play an undoubled contract.

Two experts make a reasonable point. It doesn’t matter what you play as long as you and your partner know what it means.


Larry Cohen---Anything the partnership can agree upon and remember on the rare occasion that it comes up.

Joel Wooldridge---Italians like negative doubles, Americans like values, at least four HCP versus bust. What it should mean? I have no idea. Maybe cooperative makes sense? Negative is ok, too, I guess.

Some experts agree with me and play penalty doubles.

Kit Woolsey---After a two-level overcall over 2, double is for penalty even when playing control responses. Against higher-level overcalls, doubles are cards.

Jon Wittes---We play doubles are penalty, showing values (usually not top controls) in the overcalled suit and little else. Pass is noncommittal. A free bid at the three-level would show at least a five-card suit (probably six) headed by at least two of the top three honors.

I don’t like to be so rigid about my suit bids. After a 2 overcall, I see nothing wrong with bidding 3 holding xxKxxxxAQxxxx or even xxJxxxxAQxJxx. You can always use keycard to check on the quality of the suit.

Adam Wildavsky---I prefer Kaplan's treatment: A double is for penalty and shows a poor hand with trump tricks. I don't think this is standard, but I have no idea what is.

Jeff Rubens---All doubles are penalty and strongly suggestive of a final contract. At lower levels, expectation of roughly equal or larger penalty score than game opposite a normal hand with a singleton in intervener’s suit. At higher levels, double is a warning against opener bidding his own suit. At the three-level, double is an in-between hand.

Ralph Katz--- Even if you do not play controls, I still believe that a double of an overcall should be either showing or denying a certain number of controls. Playing that a double shows one or two or more controls or less than one or two controls is ok, as long as you agree to the number. If playing controls is out of the question, then double is penalty-oriented, but not a certain number of points.

Joe Kivel---I'm old fashioned. Perhaps there are better ways to play it, but I still have QJxx in that suit (or thereabouts) and not much else on the side. It’s the same for any other two- or three-level bids. If I double over a four-level bid, I am showing values. S

Some experts play double as a game-forcing hand.

Neil Chambers---We play doubles as game forcing with no easily biddable suit. Often 2 is 20-21 balanced.

Danny Gerstman---Double is cards; pass is second negative; possible refinement: double at two-level only is penalty; pass is waiting. I prefer the first option as you're poorly placed with a raise on your right with the second.

I don’t agree. Suppose the auction goes 2 - 2 - pass (which doesn’t promise anything or show anything) – 3. Opener knows that responder does not have a five-card suit with a good hand. With that knowledge he could double to show a defensive hand, pass as a takeout bid or bid his suit.

Marinesa Letizia---I like to play double as takeout, as the 2 opener is obliged to take more action. With a penalty double you're likely to get a reopening double by partner. I like to play the same thing through 4.

Doug Doub--I think that a double by responder of an overcall after partner opens 2 is best used to show values, which I normally define as a decent seven or more HCP. Pass shows 0-6 HCP, and a bid would be natural with seven or more HCP, but possibly slightly shaded with a suit that you are anxious to show. The level does not matter (though an adjustment could be made for an overcall of 6 or higher, in practice, it would come up so rarely, I doubt it would be worth the time studying).

Billy Pollack---All of these doubles show "a sign of life" with some transferable values.

Some experts have different understandings depending on the level. That could cause problems.

Zia---I play double of a non-jump shows at least six HCP with a balanced hand with at least two in the opponent’s suit. Double of a jump is double negative. Bidding a suit can be very light.

Kerri Sanborn---I like to play that double shows values until the opponents reach the four-level. Then it would be "no interest" in bidding - likely a second negative.

Fred Hamilton---One can play that double shows a poor hand and that pass is encouraging, or that double shows some strength and pass is weak. I do not see much difference in the two methods. What about double at the two-level is penalty since they could easily psych an overcall with a place to run and higher doubles show some values?

Eric Greco---I think doubles of any bids should be the same for simplicity. I like playing them to show a little something, i.e. at least an Ace or King or two queens. You might not count the queen if it is in the opponent’s suit but that is a matter of judgment. It might be even better to eliminate the two queens and promise an Ace or King when you double, or better yet any Ace or a King not in the opponent’s suit because very often that is all partner needs to bid slam. If you want to penalize the opponents you must pass of course regardless of values.   

Ron Smith---I've gone the other way and play doubles at low level are cards and pass retains its original meaning. Double of higher contracts tends to be penalties.

Some experts play negative doubles.

Chuck Berger---Double is negative less than three queens through all those bids.

George Jacobs---Double is negative, allowing the strong hand to pass for penalties. Pass is game forcing with values. All doubles of other bids are the same.

Roy Welland---I play they are all shortness - not promising any strength, but of course at higher levels, some strength and balance are necessary.

Some experts play that double shows a bust.

Frank Stewart--I think after 2 - 2, a double should show something like Q10xxxxxxxxxxx, a hopeless hand with spade values. Basically the same idea at higher levels.

John Carruthers---In my view, double should be regressive as we are in a forcing pass situation.  

Karen Allison---The double of 2 should show the weakest hand you can have. I have no agreements with my partners about these doubles, but I can see very little reason to change from 'weak' as the meaning. Passes are forcing in all of those auctions.

Barry Rigal---Doubles through 3 as double negatives. Above that level semi-positives with pass consistent with a bust.

Marty Bergen---All doubles are bad hands. Pass shows at least some values.

Eddie Kantar---Right or wrong, I play them all as double negatives.

Mark Lair---I play the widespread usage of double being a double negative and pass as game-forcing.

Richard Schwartz---I haven't spent a lot of time on theory, but I play it's a double negative as many others do. As for the three- and four- level, pass is weaker than double.

Alan Sontag---I play all of these doubles and a redouble of 2 as a double negative. I have been doing this for a zillion years and have yet to have a poor result with this treatment.

Henry Bethe---I think the default in all of these is double says "I got nothing" and pass says "I got something." Sort of by analogy to all forcing pass situations. Whether this is best I don't know, but it is what I was taught many years ago.

Jill Meyers---The meaning of double is conventional. With some partners I play double at the two-level is negative, with others penalty. I like penalty. Doubles of 3 and higher I like to play as negative and pass is forcing.

Bobby Wolff---I think responder's first bid will either resemble what suit he bids and leave double to always be double negative through 4 by the opponent with pass game-forcing and showing at least four HCP's at the lower levels and possibly a little more than that over 4. However, if I held xxxx-xxxxxxxxx and heard RHO chirp 4 over my partner's 2 opening I would pass, certainly not double. Perfect it isn't, but I have yet to hear any other method that I consider superior.

Larry Mori---Double by many people is a double negative whereas pass is forcing. The inversion of it is playable where the double is game-forcing, but then it becomes a problem where the partnership has to decide whether it is a penalty double or a takeout double. It seems easier to play double as a double negative and the strong bidder can then double for takeout, bid a suit or 3NT. If the takeout double comes around, then the responder might have a hand that is suitable to pass, although it is probably rare. I think it is more flexible that double by the responder is double negative so that suit bids by the opener are forcing to game.

Mike Lawrence---I like playing pass as a positive bid. This means that if opener bids a suit or doubles, responder has already shown some values. Hence after 2 - 2 - Pass – Pass, double is takeout. Then 3 has Lebensohl overtones, at least five or six or whatever you prefer points. This feels like a nice thing. After 2 - 2 - Pass – Pass, opener can bid 2NT on 22+ since responder’s original pass was game-forcing.

I personally think that the Standard meaning of responder’s double is for penalty. If I were playing with you, un-discussed I would take it as such. You and your regular partner can use whichever expert’s advice you think is best.
Don Berman, Web Master.