Consider these hands if RHO opens 1♥.
a) This must be some form of Chinese torture? You want to bid, yet you cannot make a suit overcall (no five card suit), neither can you bid a no trump overcall with a small singleton in the opposition suit. What you need is a three suited overcall, passing the message to partner.
“I have no desire to let them play in 1♥. I want to compete but cannot choose the suit myself “You choose.”
You can convey that message by the conventional call double. It makes sense to use the double in this conventional way on grounds of frequency. You are rarely confident of crushing an opponent’s suit opening bid. On the other hand you frequently want to compete without unilaterally choosing the suit. The double is called a take out double because partner must take it out. The take out double shows enough HCP for an opening bid and almost certainly shortage in the opponents suit. If you have the other three suits there isn’t room for you to have the opponents suit!
b) is an example of a minimum take out double. You might double with a doubleton in their suit with 13 points.
c) is an example where you could overcall 2♣ but there is a lot to be said for letting your partner choose the suit. Double is marginally better than 2♣.
Doubling a suit for takeout without support for all the other suits
How should you bid these hands if RHO opens 1♣?
They all have one thing in common. They are too strong. If they were a little weaker you would have a comfortable bid available.
a) is too strong for 1♥ (8-16 HCP) and lacks the six card suit necessary for a jump overcall of 2♥.
b) is too strong for 2♥ (12-16 HCP).
c) is too strong for a 1NT overcall (16-18 HCP).
The solution in each case is to start with a double and on the next round to make the bid for which you were too strong. Partner will initially think you have a three suited hand but when you ignore his choice of suit he will understand. He should notice a double that asks him to choose and then ignores his choice! Therefore:
a) Double and then bid hearts as cheaply as possible.
b) Double, and then jump in hearts.
c) Double and then bid 1NT (19-20 HCP).
Note that if you ask partner to choose and then ignore his choice you are showing a strong hand, not a hand where you had hoped for another response. If you make a takeout double with less than 16 HCP (or equivalent playing strength) you must pass partner’s choice.
Andrew Kambites is one of our bridge directors on our First for Bridge holidays.