MIke’s Bidding Quiz


Takeout doubles can be dangerous to your partnership harmony if not handled properly.

1. What’s so difficult about takeout doubles?
2. Why do so many “accidents” happen after takeout doubles?

To answer the questions from above, takeout doubles are not really difficult if you avoid certain pitfalls, including takeout doubles with inappropriate distribution — for example, lacking support for unbid suits without compensating high-card values and a strong suit. The following disaster is a case in point.

♠ 9 2
A 8 2
8 7 4
♣ Q J 6 5 3
♠ 6 5
5 3
A 9 5 2
♣ K 9 8 4 2
♠ Q J 10 3
K 10 9 6
Q J 10 6
♣ A
♠ A K 8 7 4
Q J 7 4
K 3
♣ 10 7
WEst North East South
1 Dbl
2 3♣ Pass 3♠
Pass Pass Dbl All Pass
See Mike's Advice

This is a nightmare sequence in which one player was perfect and the other was awful.

Three calls are in question here: South’s double, North’s 3♣ bid and South’s 3♠ bid.

East bid 1 and South was correct to be in the auction, but his choice of action was flawed. South should have selected a bid of 1♠, not a double. Double will work if North bids a major, but a bid of notrump or clubs won’t be good for North–South.

North’s 3♣ bid was fine. He has five good clubs, and he expects club support. North has seven good high-card points, so all in all, the 3♣ bid comes with no apologies.

South got himself in the usual turmoil that comes after making a bad takeout double. He hated his hand and ran to 3♠. Doubling and then bidding a suit requires about 18 high-card points. South’s hand is shy of that by more than an ace. East’s double was a just ending to the sequence.

South went down a few and North apologized for bidding 3♣. This was an unnecessary apology. South should have been apologizing to North.

If South bids 1♠, West will bid 2. This will be passed to South, who will bid 2. This will end the North–South bidding. East–West may decide to bid to 3, but that is their business, not North–South’s.

Here is another example of a poor takeout double.

♠ Q 9 2
A 9 5 2
7 6 2
♣ 10 7 3
♠ 10 4
10 6 3
K 9 5 3
♣ 9 8 4 2
♠ A K J 8 5
K 8 4
10 4
♣ A Q 5
♠ 7 6 3
Q J 7
A Q J 8
♣ K J 6
WEst North East South
1♠ Dbl
Pass 2 All Pass
See Mike's Advice

Where did North–South go wrong? One call is in question here: South’s double.

South had an opening bid and was faced with a 1♠ opener by East. South did what a lot of players do — he doubled because “I had an opening bid, partner.”

North bid 2, which was the correct bid, and he felt okay with that bid. He did have four hearts to the ace, which was better than if he had no points at all.

It turned out that this was not good enough. 2 was passed out after a good bidding decision by East and it went down two tricks when East got a
diamond ruff. North was disappointed that the diamond finesse lost, but the ♣Q was onside, so the luck was relatively even.

South should remember this little professional secret: “Spades rule.” When an opponent bids spades, you have to be more cautious about bidding than when they bid one of some other suit.

How should the bidding have gone? In this case, if South passes 1♠ as he should, that will become the final contract. Seven tricks are easy enough on the normal lead of the Q, but that’s only plus 80 for East–West. Unless East got a glimpse of all the cards, he would be unlikely to take eight tricks.