Raising Opener’s Minor . . .

Pat Harrington

Raising opener’s minor suit after a takeout double

The auction proceeds: 1♣ by partner, double by right-hand opponent. Redouble shows at least 10 high-card points. Unless you have other partnership agreements, after a takeout double, raises of opener’s suit do not show strength – not even jump raises.

Suppose you hold:

♠9 7   7 4 3   Q J 9 7   ♣K 7 5 4

Partner’s 1♣ opener bid is doubled. You have 6 HCP and can scrape up a bid. Had RHO passed, you might have bid 1, but your goal now should
be to make communication more difficult for the opponents. A 1 bid won’t do the job. Either major can easily be shown on the one level.

What if you bid 2♣? Some players are overly cautious, and you might talk doubler’s partner out of bidding. Are you concerned about whether you even have a club fit? Chances
are you do. Partner is much more likely to have four or five clubs than only three. In competition, you want to describe your hand while making it as difficult as possible for the opponents. Pass or 1 won’t do it. Bidding 2♣ might not bother them either, but it’s the best you can do. A nice side effect of your bid is that it may allow partner to compete higher.

Here’s another hand:

♠6 5 4   9   Q J 7 3   ♣K 9 8 7 4

Again, partner’s 1♣ is doubled by RHO. You probably feel comfortable with a 2♣ bid now, and it might make the opponents slightly uncomfortable, but there is still a lot of room for them to bid. You can do better.

Because partner is quite likely to have four or even five clubs, you can raise to 3♣. You are using the law of total tricks. The law suggests that you can compete for as many tricks
as your side has trumps. It’s reasonable to expect there to be a nine-card club fit, so you compete for nine tricks on that basis. Partner will not take you for a good hand (you didn’t redouble). Your 3♣ raise is weak and preemptive. Here is a complete deal that illustrates our topic.

Dlr: South ♠ 9 2
Vul:None 4 3
9 8 7 3
♣ A 10 9 8 2
♠ A 10 8 5 ♠ K 7 6 5
J 6 2 Q 8 5
A K 10 5 Q J 2
♣ 6 4 ♣ 7 3
♠ Q J 3
A 10 9 7
6 4
♣ K Q J 5
West North East South
Dbl 3♣ ?

West’s double is not perfect, but he does have adequate support for all unbid suits. East has a nice hand with 11 HCP. Had North not taken up so much room, East would be able to show this hand. East could jump in a major, but a better plan is to cuebid 2♣. Advancer to a takeout double uses the cuebid to show at least invitational strength and doubt about the best denomination.

After North’s jump to 3♣, a 2♣ cuebid isn’t possible. East could jump to game in a major or cuebid 4♣ to ask partner to choose. He could also bid a somewhat conservative 3 or 3♠ or make a responsive double (showing a desire to bid but with no clear direction) if the partnership uses that convention.

Whatever East does, some guesswork will be involved, and there are several ways for East–West to go wrong. They are okay in 3♠, but they might bid game and go down or get to 3 (also down). North’s 3♣ bid makes life hard for East–West. On occasion, North–South will play in 3♣ doubled. That’s down one, minus only 100 points — less than East–West can make in the correct contract. Using a preemptive jump raise after the opponent’s takeout double puts pressure on your opponents. When you make them guess, you have a better chance of getting a good score.