Minimum Off-Shape
Takeout Double

By Nelson Ford
BidBase Bridge Bidding Program


Double suit symbols indicates either suit is bid.


      1 = 1 or 1
      3 = 3 or 3

What Is A Standard Takeout Double?

In standard takeout doubles, you can double with as few as 10 high card points and the "right shape", which is 4-card support for each unbid suit. If partner does not jump, you intend to pass whatever he bids.

With 13-17 points, you can double even with only 3 card support for one of the majors. Again, you intend to pass partner's non-jump response, which may mean playing in a 4-3 fit. If partner replies 1 with 3=3=4=3 distribution, you may be playing in a 3-3 fit, which won't be fun, but that is one of the risks of standard Takeout doubles -- partner has to assume you have at least 4-card support and you have to assume that he has at least 4 in the suit which he bids.

With 18+ points, you can double with any shape, intending to bid again over whatever partner replies. For example, you may have 1=3=2=7 and 18 HCP. When partner bids 1 or 1, you will reply 2, and partner will know that you must have a big hand with a good Club suit, and that you are no longer promising support for the other unbid suits. Remember this before jumping to 4 (or even 3) in response to a TOX with a good hand and only 4 or 5 Spades.

What Is A Minimum Off-Shape Takeout Double?

As just noted, with a very strong hand (18+ HCPs), you can double without support for some of the unbid suits, say, 1=3=2=7 shape. This is known as an offshape takeout double. If you do this with less than 18+, then you have made a minimum offshape takeout double.

It's that simple.

A Minimum Off-Shape Takeout Double (MOSTD, or a more apt nickname, since you get to double more: MOST Doubles) allows you to make a takeout double even with a hand like 2=3=6=2 and a minimum (12+ HCP, normally at least 2.5 Quick Tricks, however).

The most important distinction between MOSTD and standard TOXs is that in MOSTD, a rebid by doubler does not promise a big hand like it does in standard TOXs.

In fact, the expectation is that a significant percentage of the time, doubler will make another bid to show his suit after you respond to his MOSTD.

Interestingly enough, ACBL's convention cards lists MOSTD, yet I have never been able to find a mention of MOSTD in any bridge books or magazines. One wonders how it got to become well-known enough to warrant a spot on the convention card.

It would appear that for some reason, MOSTD has fallen completely out of fashion. In these pages, we'll attempt to see if that was justified. (It should be noted that playing Equal Level Conversions also allows doubler to bid minimum offshape TOXs, but only with specific types of holdings, such as 4=1=6=2 after RHO opens 1, intending to correct a 2 advance to 2. It should also be noted that MOSTD applies only to takeout doubles on the 1 level.)

2018 UPDATE:

This system was developed in 1998 and was used with a regular partner until 2006. It relatively often resulted in very positive scores and never a very bad score.

A Google of Minimum Off-Shape Takout Double found several articles mentioning it:

A page on BridgeGuys is mainly about an off-shape double of 3 in the 2007 Third European Open Bridge Championships, but as will be shown later, our system of MOST Doubles is only on over 1-level opening bids. Standard TOXs can be used over higher-level opening bids. In particular Lebensohl uses a response in response to a double of a Weak-Two in a way similar to the way MOSTD uses the 1N response.

Another page online refers to Equal Level Conversions but says No one advocates off-shape doubles that show just point-count.. If no one advocates MOST Doubles, why are they on the ACBL convention card -- and not even alertable any more?

A 2011 article on BridgeWinners starts by saying

    When holding an off-shape hand, waiting around in hopes of balancing into the auction later can be a dangerous strategy. In this age of light opening bids and light responses, we can easily get blocked from showing our suits and finding a fit. That means when reasonable values are held it pays to act if the decision is close. 
    The best way to enter the auction after the opponents open the bidding is usually through making a takeout double. Takeout doubles are inherently flexible because they leave partner more room compared to an overcall. That means they are generally the safest way to show values, because all options remain open for partner.

However, this article does not develop a whole MOST Doubles system. It only refers to using MOST Doubles with a 4-3-3-3 or 4-2-5-2 hand shape.

A 2014 article by Brent Manley is basically about making a MOST Double when partner thinks you are playing standard TOXs. Of course, the same can be said about any bidding agreement misunderstanding and has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the convention itself.

A 2014 thread at BridgeWinners is titled The Minimum Off-shape Take-out Double but is actually about the author's view that such a double no longer being alertable is "deplorable". 
I made a post referring to this document on the BidBase web site. The author of the BridgeWinners thread replied:

    Thank you for this post and link. Quite interesting. 
    It reinforces the point that there is nothing "wrong" or inherently theoretically inferior about the use of such doubles. I recall that some experts, Bart Bramley in particular, are enthusiastic users, and I gather, the Italian experts in years ago also were.

In Bobby Wolff's Aces On Bridge Nov.3, 2018 column, [this is not a link; the dates of the newspaper columns don't match the dates of his online posts] Wolff comments about using a standard TOX over a Weak Two:

    An idea much favored by experts is to respond to the double of a weak two to show a weak hand either by bidding a suit at the two level or by bidding two notrump [Lebensohl] as a puppet to three clubs. He then shows his suit or passes three clubs at his next turn. A direct bid [bypassing 2NT] of three clubs or three hearts would be at least a king better than this hand. [64-A652-T52-T982]

As will be discussed later, this is essentially the way a MOST Double over a 1-level opening bid works where with a minimum, responder bids his suit on the 1-level or bids 1NT asking doubler to bid his own suit.

So over the last 20 years, MOST Doubles have been talked about a few times, but not in terms of working out a complete system. 

The Problems With Standard takeout Doubles

Playing standard takeout doubles, if you have an offshape hand, you cannot make a TOX, even though you may have opening strength. If you have a suit which is good enough for overcalling, you may do so, but otherwise, you are supposed to pass with as many as 17 (or more!) HCPs. Then if the bidding goes something like 1-Pass-4 (preemptive), what is your partner to do? He has no clue that you have a good hand, nor can you take action after he passes when you have no idea of the strength of his hand.

Even if you can overcall, you may have to do so with up to 17 (or more) HCPs. Since many people will make a 1-level overcall with as few as 8 points (or even less), you are presenting partner with a wide range of points (8-17) when you overcall, which is only marginally better than having passed, in terms of giving partner information about the strength of your hand.

Say that you are sitting in fourth chair and hear the bidding go 1-1-4 and you have 11 HCPs in a hand like AJ63 K2 K93 9754.

Partner may have overcalled with 8 HCPs, or 17+, or anything in between.

So do you double for penalties, sacrifice at 4, or just pass quietly? The answer depends on whether partner overcalled with something closer to 8 or 17 points, and with a 4-card suit, a shabby 5-card suit, or a good 6-card suit, and with 2-3 good defensive tricks or no defensive tricks. You have no way of knowing which of those is the actual situation.

Playing MOSTD, instead of overcalling with opening strength hands (and 2.5 quick tricks), you double -- no matter what shape.

So if you are holding AJ63 K2 K93 9754 and the bidding goes 1-1-4, you know that partner normally has 8-11 HCPs because he just overcalled 1 instead of making a MOST Double. With almost half your points in partner's long suit, the chances of setting 4 seem slim, so you bid 4.

If the bidding had instead gone 1-D-4, partner has promised 2.5 good defensive tricks ("good defensive" means not counting more than 1 trick for multiple honors in a 6-card suit). Your hand has at least another 1.5 tricks, so you may choose to double (at matchpoints).

Another situation is when the bidding goes 1-P-P and you have KQ853 K932 54 84. Do you balance?

This came up on on the Internet. Most said they would pass, fearing that opener has a powerhouse or that opener's partner is setting a trap. Virtually nobody was willing to consider that partner may have had to pass with a good hand and the wrong shape to either double or overcall, such as J94 A4 K732 KQJ3 (after 1 by RHO).

If you do not balance, you give the opponents a good score, but if you do balance and partner had a real pass, you may also give the opponents a good score.

With MOSTD, partner can make his double, promising 2.5+ quick tricks. Now with KQ853 K932 54 84, you have an easy 1 advance.

Responses To MOSTD With A Bad Hand

The risk of making an offshape TOX is that you are forcing partner to bid with perhaps a bust hand with the expectation that you may have to bid over him to show your suit. Say that you double an opening 1 holding Axxx xx Ax KQTxx. After a pass by your LHO, partner must bid even with a hand like Qxx xxx Kxxxx xx.

Using standard takeout doubles, partner will bid 2 because you have promised at least 3-card support, and you are expected to pass unless you have a very strong hand, because otherwise, you would have to show your Clubs on the 3-level. As a result, standard TOXs require a very strong hand (18+ HCPs or equivalent playing strength) to TOX then bid, so with Axxx xx Ax KQTxx, you would have to overcall 2 rather than double, missing a superior Diamond contract when partner is too weak to bid over 2 with Qxx xxx Kxxxx xx.

MOSTD avoids this problem (showing your suit on the 3 level without an 18+ HCP hand) by requiring advancer to stay on the 1 level with a poor hand (less than 9 points) so that you can bid your minor suit on the 2 level.

The Artificial 1N Advance:

If the bidding goes 1-D-P, advancer can simply bid 1 with 4+ Spades. But with something like 3=3=5=2, as we have already seen, advancer would have to bid 2, even with 0 HCPs. However, in MOSTD, advancer must stay on the 1 level with <9 HCPs, and if he cannot bid 1, that only leaves 1N. This makes a 1N advance artificial, so it must be alerted.

After the 1N advance, doubler can bid 2 (assuming that is his suit) and his partner will pass.

They are no worse off than if the bidding had gone 1-2 (instead of doubling). In fact, they are better off, because with MOSTD, they have a better picture of each other's hands.

The only cost to this approach is that advancer cannot bid 1N to play with a weak hand, but that should rarely occur anyway. And in fact, the popular 2-Over-1 system, 1N by responder is also forcing and my experience is that MOST Doubles come up a lot more often than do 2-Over-1 hands which require opening strength facing opening strength and is off if either opponent intervenes or if advancer is a passed hand or if opener bids 1 and advancer bids 1.

Responding With A Good Hand

With 12+ HCPs, advancer jumps to the 3 level with a good 5+ card suit. With a balanced hand, and a stopper in opener's suit, advancer bids 2N. Without a stopper, he can cue bid opener's suit.

A responding jump to 2N is not forcing in standard TOXs where doubler may have as few as 10 HCPs when he has perfect shape (4-4-4-1), but in MOSTD, where doubler always promises opening strength, a 2N jump response is forcing; therefore, a jump to 3N should be avoided in MOSTD since it may block doubler from showing his suit and/or exploring for slam. Playing 2N forcing to game is another advantage of MOSTD over standard TOXs.

With 9-11 HCPs, advancer bids on the 2 level. Say that the bidding has gone 1-D-P and you have xx KQJxx Jxx Kxx. With 10 HCPs, you have enough that you must bid up one level (just as in standard TOXs), so you bid 2. Doubler has to bid 3 to show a Club suit, but with a combined 24+ points, it is safe to bid on the 3 level.

However, in standard TOXs, if the bidding goes 1-D-P, if advancer has 9-11 HCPs and 4-5 Hearts, he cannot bid 2 because he would do that with 0-8 HCPs, so he must jump to 3. That's not too bad if doubler had perfect shape, but what if he had 18+ HCPs and 2=3=6=2? Now he must bid 4. Look how much bidding space has been used. Advancer may feel compelled to raise Diamonds with 3 of them, but if he had 5 Hearts, you have missed the 4 game.

The 2 Waiting Bid: With 9-11 HCPs but without a 5-card suit (say, Ax KQJx xxx xxxx), you should stall to give doubler a chance to bid his suit on the 2-level. You stall by bidding 2, which must be alerted as artificial, showing 9-11 HCPs and no 5-card suit (unless Clubs happens to be a 5-card suit).

After doubler bids, say, 2 (with Kx Axx KQTxxx Qx), advancer can bid 2 to show a 4-card suit. To recap the bidding: 1-D-P-2, P-2-P-2. (Bidding continues from there, of course.)

Playing standard doubles, the bidding would have gone 1-2-P-2, reaching the same place. So with these hands we reach the same point with MOSTD as with standard TOXs, but we have the previously discussed advantages of using MOSTD, including the fact that now each player has a much clearer picture of his partner's hand.

Better yet, if advancer had the hand with 5 Hearts and 9-11 HCPs, he would have bid 2 (rather than the waiting 2) and doubler would have known they had at least a 5-3 fit. As we saw before, in standard TOXs, even if advancer bid Hearts on the 3 level, doubler could not be sure that he had more than 4 of them.

To recap the rules of responding to MOSTD after RHO has passed:

  • With <9 HCPs, bid on the same level as the doubled bid. Example: 1-D-P-1 with 4+ Spades and 0-8 HCPs.

  • With <9 HCPs, if you cannot show your suit on the same level, bid 1N (which is alertable). The reason for bidding 1N is to give doubler the chance to show his suit at the lowest possible level.

    Example: 1-D-P-?? with, say, 3=3=6=1 and 0-8 HCPs, bid 1N. Now if doubler's suit is Clubs, he can bid 2, then you can bid 2. Doubler knows that you would not bid again if you had support for Clubs, and he also knows that you have less then 9 HCPs, so he most likely will pass your 2 bid.

    Using standard TOX's, the bidding would go 1-D-P-2, P-?? and now doubler must either pass or, if he has 18+ HCPs, and something like 3-3-2-5, he must bid his Club suit on the 3 level opposite your possible 3-3-6-1 and zero points -- not a good contract.

  • With 9-11 HCPs, bid one level up in a 5-card suit.
    • With 3=3=1=6 bid 2.
    • With 5=3=4=1 bid 2.
    • With 4=3=5=1 bid 2,
      - not 1, because 1 shows less than 9 HCPs,
      - not 2, because 2 shows a 5+ card suit.
      If doubler has 4+ Spades, he will bid them.
    • With 9-11 HCPs and no 5-card suit, bid 2, which is alertable as: 9+ HCPs and either no 5+ card suit, or Clubs is a 5+ card suit. Example: With 4=3=4=2 and 9-11 HCPs, bid 2.
      Doubler may pass advancer's 2 with a minimum in HCPs and a good Club suit, such as 4=1=2=6.

  • With 12+ HCPs, jump 2 levels in a 5+ card suit or cue bid or bid 2N with no 5-card suit.
    • With 3=3=1=6 bid 3
    • With 5=3=4=1 bid 3
    • With stoppers in opener's suit and no
      5+ card suit, bid 2N; otherwise, cue bid.
      E.g.: A432 AJ2 32 A432 : 1-D-P-2N
      but   A432 852 A2 AJ32 : 1-D-P-2
    • Each of these bids is forcing to game.

If opener's partner bids anything other than Pass, everything changes. Game is no longer likely for doubler's side (unless one or both opponents made some sort of weak bid or doubler's side has some sort of mega-fit), so any bid by advancer is competitive and does not promise points. Only a cue bid shows points.

In this situation, advancer must remember that doubler has not promised support for any particular suits, just as he has not in standard TOX when he has 18+ HCPs.

So after 1-D-2, you wouldn't want to jump to 4 with a 4-card suit playing either MOSTD or standard TOX. See the following for what you should do.

Bidding Over Intervention

When doubler's LHO intervenes, the odds of either side having game are greatly reduced to highly distributional hands, in which case BOTH sides may have game.

But usually, after an intervention, the goal is to compete for the partscore. Advancer should be able to compete even with few points without doubler getting carried away.

After, say, 1-D-1, Bidding Dictionary says that a double is for penalty and tends to show that RHO has psyched.

Since a psych is, by definition, rarely used, it seems more useful to have the double show something else, such as exactly four cards in the unbid major(s). This is known as a Responsive Double.

Just as in Negative Doubles, a free bid by advancer, such as 1-D-1-1 or 1-D-1-2 shows 5 or more (usually 5). The distinction between 4 or 5 is very important so that doubler knows how high he can compete based on the Law of Total Tricks.

So to recap:

    1-D-1-D shows 4 Spades while
    1-D-1-1 shows 5+ Spades. Likewise,
    1-D-1-D shows 4 Hearts while
    1-D-1-2 shows 5+ Hearts
    1-D-1-2 always shows 5+ in the suit.
    1-D-1-2 likewise shows 5+.
    However, when the opponents bid 1-D-1...
    1-D-1-D shows 4-4 in the majors, so
    1-D-1-1 can be bid with just 4 Hearts and
    1-D-1-1 can be bid with just 4 Spades..
    Since you make this bid on the one level, if doubler does not have support for your major, he can bid his own suit without getting too high. If the opponents bid and raise a minor and advancer is 4-6 in one major and the other minor, he can still advance a double and if Doubler bids the wrong major, advancer can bid the 6-card minor.

Rebids By Doubler

After 1-Level Responses By Advancer:

If advancer bids on the 1-level, he is limited to 0-8 HCPs. If RHO (opener) passes, here are doubler's alternatives:

    With 18+ HCPs:
    • With 3-card support:
      • Bid a good suit of your own.
      • Bid 1NT with a balanced hand and stoppers in RHO's suit (but see the problem hand below).
    • Cue Bid opener's suit with 4+ card support -- game invitational.
    • With the rare barn-burner, bid what you think you can make.

    With 12-17 HCPs:

    • With just 3-card support for partner:
      • Bid a very good 5-card suit or a good 6-card suit.
      • Otherwise, pass.
    • Single Raise - 4 card support -- preemptive. Passing on the 1 level invites LHO to balance.
    • Jump Raise - 5+ card support -- preemptive. Unless doubler has a minimum, a single raise should do.

The above list leaves a problem -- what to do with 12-17 HCPs when opener bids one of your long suits and you have shortness in Spades, such as xx Kxxx AKxx QJx when RHO opens 1.

If you double and your partner ("advancer") bids 1, you are too weak to bid 1NT, which normally shows 18+ HCPs (see above) --- unless...

Let's see what happens if we play a 1N rebid by doubler to show a hand such as the one above (stopper in RHO's suit, lack of support for partner, no other biddable suit, only intermediate strength).

  • First of all, if you double with this hand, there is still a chance that your LHO may not pass, meaning advancer will not be bidding Spades without a good 5- or 6-card suit and at least a few points.

  • If LHO does pass, it's possible that advancer may not bid Spades, so there is no problem.

  • If LHO passes and pard does bid Spades, RHO may bid again, allowing you to pass or double to deny support.

  • If bidding goes 1-D-P-1-P and 1N by you, advancer may have long Spades to rebid or a second suit (Clubs or Diamonds) to bid, or he may have a flat hand with 6-8 HCPS where 1N may be the best contract.

  • Advancer may have a weak flat hand like Jxxx xx xxx Txxx, in which case he should probably respond 2 to your 1N since he has nothing to contribute to a 1N contract.

    This is the worst-case scenario for the hand above, but with LHO passing and RHO not rebidding and your own hand being a minimum, it is much more likely that advancer is at the top of this 0-8 HCP range than at the bottom, as well as being less likely to be holding three Diamonds.

Given the above analysis, we think that bidding 1N in the situation above is a good alternative. But it brings up a different problem

A worse holding than the one above is when RHO opens 1 and you are 3=2=4=4 with no Spade stopper, such as 742 A2 KQ83 AQ84. If advancer is weak (and LHO passes), he will bid 1N.

Your best bet is to pass 1N, even without a Spade stopper. With LHO silent and RHO not rebidding, chances are that your side has half or more of the HCPs and 1N is a good contract.

Another problem is that 1N no longer show 18+ HCPs. If advancer has 6-8 HCPs, he would like to bid again. When the bidding has gone 1-D-P-1, P-1N-P-??, doubler has already denied Spades, so advancer now needs to bid a second suit, rebid Spades with 6+, or with a Diamond stopper and a flat hand, raise to 2N.

There is a risk of getting too high at 2N if doubler is at a minimum, but knowing that virtually all the remaining HCPs must be in opener's hand makes any contract easier to play with fewer HCPs.

Rebids By A Weak Advancer

Having limited your hand by making a 1-level bid, you can now bid again without worrying about partner continuing on (unless he has a huge hand).

If the bidding goes 1-D-P-1, P-2-P-??, you know that doubler does not have as many as 3 Spades, because he would have just passed with fewer than 18 HCPs.

With 3+ Hearts and less than 6 HCPs, you will happily pass.

With <3 Hearts, you can rebid 2 or 3 with 6+ in the suit; otherwise, pass. For example, with something like 4=1=2=6 and <9 HCPs, you could not bid 2 the first time because you lack the HCPs to bid on the 2 level, but after 1-D-P-1, P-2-??, you can show your shape by bidding 3.

With a Heart void, you can chance rebidding a 5-card Spade suit.

Exceptions to MOSTD

A Uniquely Bad Shape

With a hand like J7 AKQ6 876 K543 and RHO opening 1 of a minor, you are stuck for a rebid if you takeout double and advancer bids 1.

Alternatives to doubling are to overcall 1, if you don't mind overcalling a 4-card suit, or passing, if you don't mind hiding your HCPs from partner.

But you can still make a takeout double if you are willing to play 1N as not showing the normal 18-19 HCPs, as discussed above.

Overcalling On The 2-Level

When playing standard TOXs, a 1-level opening overcall can be made with anywhere from 8 to 17+ HCPs. With MOSTD, you can double with almost any 13+ HCP hand, creating an advantage over standard TOX's in that a 1-level overcall becomes limited in range (to 8-12 HCPs).

In contrast, when playing standard TOXs, a non-jump overcall on the two level or higher promises a hand of opening strength or better and a 6-card suit or a very good 5-card suit.

As Mike Lawrence says of 2+ level overcalls in The Complete Book On Overcalls:

    You need extra values to give you a shot at taking that extra trick, so right away, all of those weakish hands which qualified for one-level overcalls are eliminated... What's left are good hands with good suits.

Since overcalls on the 2 level or higher no longer have the wide range of 1-level overcalls, you can overcall on the 2 level rather than double when playing MOST Doubles when you have a hand with a good 5+ card suit.

However, with a stronger hand (18+ HCPs), off-shape doubles can still be made. See Lebensohl Responses to Double of Weak-2 in which responder with a bad hand must bid 2N as a relay to 3 if unable to bid his suit on the 2 level.

This idea is similar to what we use on the 1-level MOST Doubles.

Unfortunately, neither Wolff (quoted earlier in this document) nor the Lebensohl pages we read online provide actual point ranges. The hand Wolff shows for bidding 2N has only 4 HCPs and he says that making a direct suit response instead should be "at least [emphasis mine] a King better," or 7 HCP. says 0-8 points for bidding 2N with a bad hand.

Since neither overcalling with better hands on the two level nor using a response of 2N to relay to 3 are restricted to MOST Doubles, we do not refer to those entries as MOST Doubles.

 After an opening 1 --

  • Ax xx KQJTxx KJx - bid 2D. The hand appears to have the minimum 2.5 Quick Tricks ("QTs") required for a MOST Double, but not after we discount QTs in a long suit because the suit may not go two tricks without getting ruffed.

    Ax xx AQJTxx KJx - Double. Now you have 2.5 QTs, even with just counting 1 QT in Diamonds. Over advancer's 1-level bid, you bid 2D and you are no worse off than if you had just overcalled 2D to start with.

  • Ax xx KQJxx KJxx - Any hand with which you would overcall on the 2 level, you can instead make a MOST Double first and then bid your suit on the 2 level, assuming advancer is too weak to bid on the 2 level himself. If advancer is strong enough to bid on the 2 level, then you can have enough combined points for you to bid your suit on the 3 level if necessary.

  • KJxx xx AQJxx Ax -

    If 1 was opened, Double. In MOSTD, if advancer has a weak hand and lacks 4 Spades, he has to bid 1N, then doubler can bid 2D. Standard TOX bidders who play Equal Level Conversions ("ELC") will also double and correct a 2C bid by advancer to 2D.

    If 1 was opened, you can still Double. If advancer has <9 HCPs, he will bid 1N over 1 as an artificial waiting bid. You may then choose to leave it in 1N or correct to 2, as the spirit moves you. If advancer bids 2 over 1-D-P, he is showing 5+ Hearts and 9-11 HCPs, and you can respond 2N. Standard TOX-ers have no choice but to overcall with this hand.

  • KJxx xx Ax AQJxx - Over an opening 1, Double. The difference here is that ELC players cannot double because of the risk that advancer will bid 2, so standard TOXs have to overcall 2 and risk losing the Spade suit.

After an opening 1, the only non-jump 2-level overcall you can make is 2. The same rules above apply.

After an opening 2+ level bid, we used to say that MOST Doubles no longer apply, but Bobby Wolff has convinced us to also use MOSTD over Weak Twos without a good 5+ card suit to overcall with on the 2 level.

How MOSTD Handles
Problem TOX Hands

Problem Hands From Mike Lawrence's Takeout Doubles:

One of the best bridge writers around is Michael Lawrence. His book, Takeout Doubles, is must reading, even for MOSTD bidders, even though Lawrence doesn't mention MOSTD.

In fact, Lawrence's failure to consider MOST Doubles leads to some (with all due respect) circular logic in the book:  

  1. When you make a TOX, you must have support for the unbid suits.
  2. Why must you have such support?
  3. Because your partner will be expecting you to have that support.
  4. Why will he be expecting that support?
  5. Because... (return to reason 1.)

MOSTD breaks the above cycle. MOST Doubles don't promise support for the unbid suits, thus partner does not expect you to have support for each unbid suit. The real question is whether or not you can find a fit at a safe level once your partner has made a MOST Double and you don't have a long suit of your own.

If you can, then MOST Doubles present a huge advantage because:

  • MOSTD allows you to bid hands which you would otherwise have to pass when using standard TOXs, and
  • MOSTD allows you to show more information about your hands than by using standard TOXs.

The following are hands which Lawrence says should not use the takeout double because they lack support for the unbid suits or because of other "flaws".

The following assumes MOSTD is being played.

AJ83 A8 AJ73 872

    Yes, if you double, then advancer will probably respond 1, but then you can bid 1 and advancer knows you don't have 3 Hearts (you would have passed with 3 and taken a chance on a 4-3 fit at the 1 level, not that the opponents would let you play there anyway).

    So then over your 1, advancer can:

    • pass with 3 Spades (risking a 4-3 fit, but 4-3 fits are not the end of the world, and the opponents are unlikely to pass out 1 anyway), or
    • compete when holding 4+ Spades, or
    • bid 2 with fewer than 3 Spades and 4+D, or
    • bid 2 with 6+H.

    In contrast, if you pass the above hand and the bidding goes 1-P-3-?? (where 3 is weak), your side has just been preempted out of the bidding. (Another alternative is for you to bid 1 with your moderate 4-card Spade suit, but that has its drawbacks too, such as advancer's not knowing how strong you are and your LHO's preempting.)

AQ76 QJ762 87 A7

    Lawrence suggests bidding Michaels 2 with this hand, but says: This is a headache. There is no perfect bid.

    But after 1-Double-P, advancer has the chance to bid 1, putting you way ahead of the Michaels bidder.

    Without a 4-card major and fewer than 9 HCPs, advancer will bid 1N. Then you can bid 2 or even 2. If you bid Michaels instead of Doubling, you are not likely to do any better, and passing is worse.

KQ7 93 Q82 AKJ82
952 K8642 K54 63
Bidding: 1-D-1-2, P-??

    Note: Since opener's partner intervened, regular MOSTD responses by doubler's partner are off.

      Now everyone's just fighting for part-scores.

    Lawrence says: If everyone passes 2, it will go down two or three. This isn't very good.

    Since the opponents make at least 2 Spades with the hands shown in the book, down 2 non-vul is great at matchpoints.

    But the real issue is that advancer knows in MOSTD that doubler does not promise any Hearts, so he doesn't have to make a free bid of 2 with such a poor suit when doubler's hand might be 3=1=6=3. A very good alternative would be to make a Responsive Double to show the other major (Hearts) with some points. A Responsive Double normally shows 4, but it can be done with a poor 5 in good conscience.

    Even in MOSTD, a second takeout double (by the original doubler) does promise the unbid suits, so with the hand above, doubler cannot double again. He must either pass or bid 1N.

    And notice what happens when advancer has a different hand, such as 932 AQ3 AJ32 T52.

    Using standard TOXs, if the bidding had gone 1-P-2 (preemptive), your partner can't afford to bid even with a good hand, and after 1-P-2-P, P-??, are you (2nd chair) really going to balance with KQ7 93 Q82 AKJ82 when RHO may have opened with 17 HCPs and your partner may have zero?

    But with MOSTD, the bidding goes 1-D-2-??, and advancer now knows you have an opening strength hand and can comfortably bid 2N with 932 AQ3 AJ32 T52.

Q653 Q8 K84 AJ53
Bidding: 1-??
Lawrence passes.

    We pass this hand, too, because it lacks the required 2.5 Quick Tricks.

763 32 AKJ AJT83
Bidding: 1-??
Lawrence overcalls 2.

    Double. Here are possible bids by advancer and our responses:
    • 1 (<9 HCPs, 4+ Spades), we pass. We might be in a bad 4-3 fit, but 1S is not likely to get passed out, and if the opponents are not strong enough to bid again, 1S will probably make.
    • 2 (9-11 HCPs, 5+ Diamonds), we raise to 3.
    • 2 (9-11 HCPs, no 5-card suit or 5+ Clubs), we raise.

AJ3 K9863 82 KQ7
Bidding: 1-??
Lawrence overcalls 1.

    After 1-D-P-??, Lawrence says: Partner rates to bid spades, notrump, or clubs (which he describes as "awful"). Here are those responses in MOSTD:

      1 - The worst case is when advancer has only 4 little Spades opposite AJ3, and that is not that bad. In fact, if you opened this hand 1 and partner bid 1, most experts would raise to 2 with this same holding. And in the case at hand, 1 will rarely get passed out.

      1N - In MOSTD, 1N shows <4 and <9 HCPs. Assuming opener passes (and he may not), you can now bid 2 with a little more confidence, since LHO didn't bid Hearts and since advancer is known not to have 4 Spades, which raises the odds he has 3 Hearts.

      2 - In standard TOX, 2 can be bid with zero points. In MOSTD, 2 shows 9+ HCPs and either no 5-card suit, or a 5-card Club suit. Now you can bid 2 with confidence, knowing that partner has enough points to look for the best fit.

    Lawrence gives advancer T654 Q72 A94 982 and says: If you double, partner will bid 1. If you then bid 2, partner will raise. You would like to play in 2. The way to do that is to overcall.

    With all respect, this smacks of constructing a hand to prove a point. If you double then pass 1, you may be in a 4-3 spade fit, but at the 1 level instead of at the 2 level with a 5-who-knows-what fit. Let's give advancer some other hands:

    What if after opener's 1, you overcall 1 with AJ3 K9863 82 KQ7, as Mike suggests, and partner has 4=1=4=4 and 6 HCP?

    The Bidding Dictionary says that 1 by advancer would show 5+ Spades, so advancer cannot save by bailing out to 1. In fact, that book says that advancer must pass with the holding above, leaving you in 1 with a 5-1 fit. In contrast, after 1-D-P-1, P-P-P, you are in the best contract (1).

    Now let's give advancer 3=1=4=5 with 6 HCPs. You double 1 and advancer must bid 1N (<9 HCPs, <4 Hearts, <4 Spades). You bid 2, and advancer goes to 3. If you had overcalled 1, partner's going to bid 2 and you will likely raise to 3.

    This is just a reminder that overall, MOSTD has many advantages over standard TOXs, so if the worse-case scenario is that you sometimes arrive at the same contract both ways, then in the long run, you come out ahead with MOST Doubles.

QJ763 KJ2 3 AJT8
Bidding: 1-??

    We agree that this is not a TOX because it lacks 2.5 Quick Tricks. Lawrence says that after 1-D-2-2, 3 --

      Bidding 3 shows [18+] points and better Spades. Passing is giving up. Worst of all is bidding 3. If you bid 3, partner will never believe your bidding again [because] it promises 4 trumps.

    Lawrence says this because in regular TOXs, although you can TOX with only 3-card support in a major, you have to keep in mind that advancer may bid the major with only 4, expecting you to have 4 most of the time. So if you raise to the three level with only 3 opposite a possible 4-card suit, you are clearly going too high. Even raising to the 3 level with 4 opposite 4 is contrary to the Law Of Total Tricks, which says that to be safe in a part score, you should have as many trumps as the number of total tricks you expect to take (3 = 9 tricks = 9 trumps).

    Although we would not TOX with the hand above, we would (and Lawrence wouldn't) with AJ763 KJ2 3 AJT8 which now has 2.5 QTs, though only 2 more HCPs. In MOSTD, if advancer bids 2, he promises at least a 5-card suit and 9-11 HCPs, so we know we have at least an 8-card fit, so we can bid 3 with more confidence. In fact, with 16 total points with my honors sitting on top of opener's, I would just jump to 4.

A73 KQ872 762 A9
Bidding: 1-??

    Lawrence says to bid 1 because -- how can you show your Heart suit after 1-D-2-3, P?

    In MOSTD, advancer will almost certainly have a good 6-card Club suit to bid it on the 3 level since MOSTD does not promise any support for the suit, and 3 also tends to show a better hand than a response to a normal TOX, since otherwise he could wait for you to balance (after 1-D-2-P, P).

    In fact, it is easily possible for advancer to have 7+ Clubs, while it is pretty certain that he hasn't a 4-card major since he didn't make a Responsive Double.

Q2 AJ8 AJ KQJ763
Bidding: 1-??

    Lawrence says to overcall 2, despite having 18 HCP. On this hand and several others, the main part of his reasoning is that if you double and promise support for the unbid suits and don't have it, partner will no longer "take your bidding seriously." Of course, this is not a problem with MOSTD, which does not promise support for unbid suits.

    MOSTD bidding would likely go: 1-D-P-1N, P-2 (where 1N is artificial). You are no worse off than if you had overcalled 2, but now you and your partner have a much clearer picture of each other's hands. If opener throws in another bid, such as 2, you could still bid your Clubs (3) with such a good 6-card suit and outside aces.

Problem Hands From Points Schmoints:

In the highly regarded book Points Schmoints, Marty Bergen has a section titled: An Offshape Double Is Nothing But Trouble. Poetic, but let's look at his examples.

(First let me point out that Bergen isn't even talking about minimum offshape TOXs, but those with 18+ HCPs which most other experts say are safe for doubling because of the HCPs.)

7 A64 AKQ43 KJ54
Bidding: 1-D-4-4, P-??

    In the narrative style Marty employs, he has a dithering, hapless Little Old Lady as doubler, and she continues by bidding 5, misunderstood by advancer as a cue bid over which he bids 5. Oh, my, my, my. What's a LOL to do? According to Marty, the LOL should have simply overcalled 2 in the first place.

    Since we are not shown the other hand, let's assume that advancer actually had his bid -- at least a very good 5-card Spade suit (preferably a 6-card suit) and 10+ HCPs. Why a very good 5-card suit? Because even on a normal TOX, doubler may Double with as few as 3 cards for an unbid suit. Of course, 4=1=4=4 shape by doubler is preferable, but it's not always going to happen. If Doubler has 18+ HCPs, he may even have fewer than 3 Spades.

    Plus, if advancer has a 4-card or even a weak 5-card unbid major, he can make a Responsive Double, giving doubler the choice of passing for penalties or bidding 4 himself. This even has the advantage of right-siding the contract.

    The worst case scenario, then, will be that when advancer bids 4, he will have have a very good 5-card suit or a decent 6+ card suit. On the bidding by opponents, it is more likely that advancer will have a 6+ card suit. Either way, LOL should just pass the 4 bid. She has no reason to believe that bidding her own 5-bagger 1 level up will improve the contract.

    When doubler bids 5, advancer must take it as a real suit, not a cue bid, and he should have passed. If Bergen has an argument against offshape doubles, he would have been better served to have just stated it rather than having a couple of novices misbidding.

4 AQ865 AKJ QJ65
Bidding: 1-??

    Marty says he wouldn't double with this and neither would any other standard TOX bidder because of lack of support for the unbid major, so they pass with 17 HCPs.

    But as we have previously discussed, it is possible to double if you are willing to bid 1N next if the bidding goes 1-D-P-1-P.

void A653 AKJ75 AJ64
Bidding: 1-??

    Marty says to overcall 1 because somebody is sure to bid Spades and give you a second chance.

    What if you do overcall 1 and LHO makes a weak jump-shift to 3? Your partner doesn't know if you have 7 HCPs or 17 HCPs, a 4-card suit or a 7+card suit. And if it gets passed back to you, do you really want to force him to bid on the 4 level?

    But if you make a MOST Double and LHO bids 3, now partner has a better idea of what to do because you have promised 2.5+ QTs.

    Or if you double and LHO passes and partner bids 1 (<9 HCPs), passed to you, then you can bid 2. You're one level higher, but you've given partner a better picture of your hand.

    Say that you double and partner jumps to 2, showing 9+ HCPs and a 5+ card Spade suit. You know you have at least 26 HCPs between you. I would bid 3. I will be happy if partner bids 3, but if he bids 3, I'll bid 3N. This isn't an iron-clad contract, but the result figures to have just as good a chance as 1-1-3 passed out.

AK Q AJ63 K97654
Bidding: 1-??

    Marty says to bid 2 because playing Standard TOXs, advancer may bid 2 with as little as 0 HPCs and 4 Hearts, forcing you to save to 3.

    In MOSTD, we double. If partner has 0-8 HCPs, he'll bid 1N (artificial) and we'll bid 2 -- same place as the overcall, but we've conveyed more information and kept the Diamond suit in play. With 9+ HCPs, he'll bid his 5-card suit (probably 2) and we'll bid 3 -- one level higher than the overcall, but with all the other advantages of MOSTD and a known combined 26 HCPs. (Actually, your stiff Heart Q has gone up in value.)

Problem Hands From Other Sources:

7642 AKT5 AK64 J -- 1-P-P-??

    In his Aces newspaper column, Bobby Wolf says to bid 1N to avoid rebid problems after partner's expected 2 response. In regular TOXs, partner could bid 2 with 0 points and you would have a problem.

    In MOSTD, partner can only bid 2 with 9+ HCPs, so you would have enough points between you to be able to search for a fit. Meanwhile, you still leave open the possibility that if partner has a bust, he can bid a major on the 1 level.

    With a bust, on the slight chance that advancer doesn't have a 4-card major, he will bid 1N (artificial, showing <9 HCPs) and you can pass. But since your RHO didn't open a major and your LHO could not bid 1-over-1, it is more likely that your partner has a 4-card major and your LHO has Clubs but not enough points to bid them 2-over-1.

5 J7432 AKQ3 KQ6 opposite
T642 AK3 86 J842
    This deal from Bridge World, p. 23, deal 9 (sorry; seem to have missed the date), shows the problems which result from shape-required TOXs. Neither of the two teams in this bidding challenge could get to the winning contract of 4 using standard TOXs, even though they stretched normal TOX requirements to make TOXs.

    Bidding went 1-D-P-2, P-P-P by one pair while the other pair bid 1-D-P-1N, P-P-P.

    MOSTD goes:

      1-D-P-1N (artificial, showing <9 HCPs)
      P-2-P-3 (because of maximum + AK of trump.
      P-4-P-P, P

    Bridge World says: Neither doubler could correct to 2 without overstating his values. Doubling and rebidding shows a good 18+ HCPs in standard TOX, but not in MOSTD, so you can double then rebid 2.

North: T8 AJ92 K952 J84
South: AQJ4 K8 QJ86 T62
Bidding: East: 1
(If possible, West will bid 1 and East will rebid 2.)
    The source of this deal is ACBL Bridge Bulletin, March, 2004, The Bidding Box, page 27. The winning contract is 2, with 3 coming in second.

    Because of the off-shape (Hearts and Clubs short) and minimum range HCPs, both teams started by overcalling 1 with just 4 cards instead of doubling.

    For one team, the bidding went

    for a bad result. The other team bid
    for a fair, but not top, result.

    In MOSTD, the bidding would go

      1-D-1-D (showing the unbid suits),

    Under no circumstances will N-S get to 3, 2, or any of the other bad contracts if they bid MOSTD correctly.

AKT95 AQ3 A98 KT
3-D-P-3, P-??
    This hand from Bobby Wolff's Aces column raises an issue -- Wolff says to rebid 3, showing a big hand and leaving the final contract up to advancer.

    In MOSTD, rebidding a suit after a TOX of a 1-level bid does not promise a big hand. However, this hand is included here just to remind readers that when the opening bid is over the 1-level, MOSTD works like standard TOXs, so the 3 bid does show a big hand in either system.

    Compare this to 1-D-P-1, P-1, which does promise a big hand in standard TOXs, but not in MOSTD.

A AKT954 Q8 KT93
    In his bridge column, Bobby Wolff says: If you make a TOX, you might hear LHO (or worse, your partner!) jump to 4, setting you an impossible problem. ...simply overcall 1, then bid again to show a strong, unbalanced hand...

    If 1-D-4, sets an "impossible problem", what does 1-1-4 set? In neither case can you "bid again to show a strong hand" nor make a penalty double when partner may have 0 points.

    So much for you, the doubler - you're fixed either way - but what about your partner? Your 1 overcall could be made on as little as 7 HCPs and/or a 4-card suit or as much as 17+ HCPs and a 6+ card suit. With that broad a range, there is no sensible bid your partner can make after 1-1-4 --

    • He might sac at 5 with a weak hand when it turns out you were strong enough to set 4.
    • He might pass when it turns out 4 makes and 5 would have been a good sac.
    • Or he might pass with a good hand when a double would have paid off,
    • Or he might double when he should have passed.

    But after 1-D-4, at least your partner has a better idea of the strength of your hand -- opening strength and, more importantly, at least 2.5 Quick Tricks. Partner still is not able to make a sac bid, just as he is not able to if you overcall, but at least he knows whether or not to double for penalties.

    As for partner's jumping to 4 after 1-D-P -- Even playing standard TOXs, partner cannot expect 4-card support from you because you might have made a strong off-shape TOX which does not promise support for all suits. So if he jumps to 4 in either system, he should have a long, very good suit. Since he is lacking the Ace, he should, at a minimum, have a suit like KQJT92 (or longer). Also, there is no reason for him to jump to 4 in MOSTD when a jump to 3 is game forcing.

J7 AKQ6 876 K543
    Bobby Wolff says:

      Never, ever make a takeout double of a minor suit without [at least] 3-card support for [each] major unless you have at least an ace more than an opening bid. Overcalling an excellent 4-card suit is far less of a lie than doubling.

    Even in MOSTD, we would overcall 1 with this hand because of being dead minimum for a MOST Double plus having such a concentration of points in hearts. However, if you swap the Heart and Spade suits, we would double, intending to bid 1 over advancer's 1. If advancer rebids Hearts or Clubs, we could then pass in good conscience.

void AQT2 KJ953 A843 - Non-Vul vs. Vul
    From ACBL Bulletin, May 2004, page 34, problem 5. South (this hand) passes because of being off-shape for a double and not a good enough Diamond suit to bid 2. Of course, the bidding goes: 1-P-P-1, P-?? and now how do you show your 14-point hand? The 17 experts on the panel split 5, 4, 4, 4 among the bids 2N, 3N, 1N, and 2, indicating that having had to pass the first round leaves you with no clear direction now.

    Part of the problem is that given your favorable vulnerability, partner may have balanced at 1 with a weak hand, or he might have some real values. You have no way of knowing which.

    In MOSTD, bidding will go: 1-D-P-?? and now partner will bid 1 with fewer than 9 HCPs, 3 with 12+ and a good 6-card suit, and 2 with something in between (but at least 5 Spades).

    Over 1, you can bid 2. Over 2, bid 2N. Over 3, bid 3N. These are the same bids that the panelists were making, but because they were shooting in the dark, they could not agree on which bid to make.

Q65 742 KQT2 K75

    Bridge magazines frequently have problems bidding hands based on the very fact that when playing 8-17 point overcalls and shape-based TOXs, advancer has no clue what to do after a jump bid by opener's partner ("responder").

    The hand and bidding above are from the October 2002 issue of Bridge World. Everybody is guessing what to bid. One expert says:  It is tempting to bid 4 on the assumption that partner has five spades and a stiff heart, but who would not overcall nonvulnerable with A-K-J-x-x and out?

    Exactly. You have no way of knowing if overcaller has 8 points or 17. With MOSTD, an overcaller is limited to about 8-11, making advancer's bidding decision much easier after 1-1-4. It is true that after 1-D-4, the MOSTD advancer doesn't know what his partner's suit is, but this is no great loss compared to standard TOXs where advancer doesn't know what to bid even knowing what his partner's suit is.

    At least the MOSTD advancer knows his partner has 2.5+ Quick Tricks, so he can make a more intelligent decision about whether or not to make a penalty double while the TOX advancer, again, has no clue.

xx KQTx Kxx AJxx

    This hand came up on Rec.Games.Bridge newsgroup with the question: What do you bid after RHO opens 1?

    Good question. This is a minimum hand for making a MOST Double. If you double and advancer bids 1 and you have a minimum with concentrated values such as J7 AKQ6 876 K543, it is probably best to just pass.

    With our HCPs more spread out in the problem hand above, we would double and if advancer bids 1 (showing 4+ Spades and <9 HCPs), we would bid 1N, denying 3 Spades.

QJ7 AQ2 AQ8432 5 opposite
K653 K86 K97 J72
RHO opens 1
    This hand is from Bridge World, Nov.2005, p.67, #1. Both pairs overcalled 1D and eventually got to the top spot of 5D. This isn't so much of a problem hand (though I guess it was considered enough of a problem to be in a bidding contest), but it illustrates how nicely MOST Doubles bidding works:

    We double and partner bids 2, showing 9-11 HCPs and no 5-card suit to bid.

    We bid 2 and partner responds 2, which we know has to be a 4-card suit. We now know that a nice Moysian fit is available.

    It is unlikely that advancer had a Club stopper and still bid a 4-card suit in a flat hand, but we bid 3 anyway. In the unlikely event he has some kind of stopper, he can bid 3N. This is actually a win-win situation. If advancer has values in Clubs, we can play NT. If he doesn't, then he has no wasted values opposite our shortage.

    If advancer bids 3H, denying Diamond support, we can bid the Spade Moysian fit.

    In this case, advancer will raise 3, which shows at least 3 since we did not promise more than 5, and now we can simply bid 5D, knowing that partner has help in Spades and no wasted values in Clubs.

    Finally, it should be noted that even playing standard TOXs, Mike Lawrence says to double with a hand like this. See Takeout Doubles, p.12.

    However, the bidding then would continue with advancer jumping to 2. Doubler should bid 3, though the temptation must be strong to raise Spades with 3 to the QJ when advancer could easily have 5+. Over 3, advancer has to raise to 4. Doubler can hardly hide his Spade support any longer, so he bids 4.

    Now advancer has a tough decision. He assumes that doubler only has 3 Spades, but he doesn't know that he has 6 Diamonds. Do you stay on the 4 level with a likely 4-3 fit or go up one level with an assumed 5-3 fit? This whole auction is muddy, especially compared to the easy MOST Doubles auction.