1. What is the most popular convention in the world?
It is the takeout double. It does not require an Alert, but it is a convention and bridge, as we know it, would not be the same without it.
2. Are there exceptions to the rule about not leading aces against suit contracts?
It is the takeout double. Whenever I talk with a group about takeout doubles, there is a small sigh from the audience to the effect that, “We have heard this stuff before.” During the ensuing discussion I quickly determine that my audience has not heard this stuff before.
Knowing when to make a takeout double and in fact, knowing what your partner’s doubles mean, is a big deal in bridge.
If you think about this, you will probably agree that your side makes a lot of takeout doubles, making it one of the most common conventions to come up at the table.
But making this double is just the beginning. One might feel that making a takeout double is the start and the end. In fact, when someone makes a takeout double, it is just the beginning of what may be a contentious auction with a lot at stake.
You have to know how to respond to that takeout double — and the takeout doubler has to know how to continue bidding on the next few rounds of the auction.
What does a takeout double look like? Can you make a takeout double of 1♥ with only three spades? What is the weakest hand you can have for a takeout double? What is the strongest hand you can have for a takeout double?
You double 1♣ and the next player passes. What does your partner show when he bids 1NT? What if you double 1♠ and he bids 1NT? Does he show the same points in both cases?
Here is a preview of one of the most important aspects of takeout doubles. You, South, hold:
♠ J 7 6 4 3 ♥ K 4 3 ♦ 8 7 3 ♣ 9 3
This is the auction:
Do you bid 2♠ or do you pass?
The first thing you do with this hand is evaluate it — but not in the usual way. When you rate a hand, you usually count the points and note the distribution and make a bid.
Things are different when answering a takeout double. When your partner doubles, you can tell when you have a fit and when you do not have a fit. Your partner doubled 1♦, saying he has something in the unbid suits. You know that he has at least three spades and that you can evaluate your hand in terms of having a known spade fit.
he point that I am making is one that you should learn right now.
RULE — When you have normal values for a takeout double, never double without proper support for all the unbid suits. Your partner has to be able to count on you for this.
Let’s go back to that hand above. Your partner doubled 1♦ and your RHO raised to 2♦. If you can trust your partner to have spade support, you can bid 2♠ with a totally clear conscience. In support of spades you have 4 high-card points, but they are good points because they are in the suits your partner is asking about. Also, you have five spades, not just four, and you have a doubleton club, a possible ruffing asset. This should be a shameless 2♠ bid.
Here are two possible hands that North may have. One of them is a good double. The other is a bad double. Note how comfortable you are when partner has the good double and how uncomfortable you are when partner has the bad double.
♥ Q J 8 2
♦ 10 2
♣ K 10 5 2
♥ A Q J 2
♦ J 9 4
♣ K Q 4 2
On the first layout, it is easy to imagine that 2♠ will make opposite the hand above.
Dummy has 2 more high-card points on the second layout, but 2♠ is a terrible contract. You rate to lose three or four spades, three diamonds and one club.
The problem is that your partner did not have the right distribution.