Mike’s Advice


What to do when your RHO doubles your partner’s strong notrump opening bid — Part 2

You have a weak two-suited hand.

When your partner opens a strong notrump and is doubled for penalties, you may be in trouble. Fortunately, most players play the double is artificial and they don’t defend against 1NTX. But sometimes the double is for penalty and you need to know how to escape if you have a bad hand.

Remember. With a balanced hand, you generally pass the double and hope to survive.

If you have a weak hand with one suit, ideally a six-carder, you escape by redoubling as I showed last week.

If you have a weak hand with two suits, you can use a convention you rate to be familiar with, but did not think of using it in this situation. Do you play DONT, or do you know about it?

You can use the DONT mechanism to show a two-suited hand by bidding the lower suit. Your partner will understand that you have two suits. He will pass if he has three card support for the suit you are showing and he will bid the next suit if he wishes to find the other suit you have.

Here are some examples of complete DONT sequences with two-suited hands.

This auction will apply in all of these cases. RHO doubles your partner for penalty in 1NT. How do you find your best home?

West North East South
1NT Dbl ?

♠ J 8 7 6 4
6 4
Q 8 7 6 3
♣ 7

Bid 2, showing diamonds and a higher suit. If partner has three or more diamonds he passes. If not, he bids 2. You will pass if you have hearts and you will bid 2♠ (as here) to show your second suit is spades.

This hand happens to have two five card suits so it is perfectly suited to this method. Note that if you did not have the DONT bid to use, you would have to guess what to do. Likely, you would bid 2♠ and hope for partner to like them. With DONT, you can offer both of your suits.

Mostly you will have hands with 5-4 distribution. These are more exciting.

♠ 5 4
10 9 7 4 3
8 4
♣ Q J 5 4

When 1NT is doubled, you have choices. You can bid to 2 by using the redouble (discussed in the last issue) or you can bid 2♣, which shows clubs and a higher suit. Surprisingly, showing a two-suited hand with these cards is often the winning bid. You have a fair chance of finding the best escape suit and your sequence may be difficult for the opponents to double when you are in trouble.

♠ 9 7 6 2
Q 8 7 3
♣ 10 7 3 2

This hand is a bit fanciful but I would bet that bidding 2♣, showing clubs and a higher suit, is better than passing it out in 1NTX.

Here are some hands from your partner’s point of view

West North East South
1NT Dbl 2 Pass

♠ A J 7 4
K Q 4
6 3
♣ A J 8 3

Opener knows East has a bad hand with diamonds and one of the majors. If West had three diamonds, he would tend to pass. Here he has only two so he knows that diamonds is not the best spot. Whichever major East has is better than diamonds. Hence West bids 2. What will happen now is that East will pass if he has hearts and diamonds and he will bid 2♠ if he has spades and diamonds.

♠ Q 3
A Q 10 7 4
K 8 3
♣ K Q 8

If you chose to bid 1NT and partner bid 2 over a penalty double, you should pass. You can’t bid 2 because that bid says you do not like diamonds and do have something in the majors. If you bid 2, your partner will probably bid 2♠, which you hate more than diamonds.

♠ K Q 8 4
A J 8 2
K J 2
♣ Q 10

This is a rare exception to the rule that says you should pass if you have three of partner’s suit. When partner bids 2, you know he has diamonds and a major. You know that you have an excellent major suit fit. Bid 2, which will get you to the best contract of 2 or 2♠.

This is a bad convention for partnerships that tend to forget things. It is only for partnerships that put in time on their system.