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Takeout Doubles

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Takeout Double is often abbreviated TOX because X is a common abbreviation for double.

This file covers standard TOXs. An alternative to standard TOXs is Minimum OffShape Takeout Doubles (MOST Doubles). As with the strong offshape TOX, MOST Doubles do not promise support for the unbid suits, but do promise opening strength and 2.5 defensive quick tricks.

Takeout Doubles can be bid other than in the direct position, but this file's emphasis is on doubles in direct position (where doubler is directly behind opener). Advancer is doubler's partner. (Responder is a term normally applied to opener's partner.)

Also see Balancing for information about balancing doubles.

In Bidbase, citing a source in the Reference field does not imply an endorsement by that source for the entry's specs nor for BidBase in general, only that the source is a place to look for more information. Likewise, this file is not an authoritative tutorial nor reference, only an explanation of the specs used for the entries in BidBase. Mike Lawrence's book, Takeout Doubles is an authoritative source and should be read for a fuller understanding of the subject.


Takeout Double Requirements

Shape:

A standard TOX promises support for the unbid suits. Ideally, the support should be at least 4 cards in each suit, but as a practical matter, 3-card support is acceptable, particularly when 3 suits are unbid and you have a good hand.

If the doubler's LHO passes, doubler's partner is forced to bid (to take out the double, as opposed to leaving it in), even with no points. This is why the doubler must have support for any suit partner might bid.

The exception is when doubler is strong enough to bid again even when partner has little. This usually requires 18+ HCP or equivalent playing strength. With a strong hand, the player can double with any shape, then if his LHO passes and doubler's partner is forced to bid, possibly with no points and only a 3- or 4-card suit, then if doubler has no support for that suit, doubler can bid his own suit.

Another possible exception to the TOX showing 4 of the unbid major is in 4th chair when three suits have been bid. Then a TOX is often used to show exactly 5 of the unbid major and 2 to 3 card support for partner's minor. If partner's suit is a major, then the bid shows 2-card support along with a 5-card suit, since with 3-card support for a major in this situation, you would just raise partner's major. See the bidding database for alternatives to this meaning of a double after 3 suits have been bid.

Equal Level Conversion (ELC) is a third exception to having support for all unbid suits. ELC is when you have a two-suited hand, such as 4=1=6=2 and RHO opens 1. You can double, hoping partner will bid your 4-card Spade suit, but if he bids 2, you can bid 2 (on an "equal level" to his 2) without promising great strength. To use ELC, you and your partner must agree to it in advance and the opponents must be told.

Strength:

With a weakish hand, shape is more important than strength because with shortness in opener's suit and support for all the other suits, the chances are very good that you will find at least an 8-card fit with partner, and the Law Of Total Tricks tells us that you are usually safe on the 2 level with an 8-card fit, no matter how many points you have.

The real risk of doubling with a very weak hand is that partner may take you seriously and jump (or compete) to game, so it is best to have 13+ HCPs, although with a lot of intermediates and perfect shape (4-card or better support for each unbid suit), you can go as low as 10 HCPs.

As mentioned above, with a strong hand (18+ HCPs), you can double without having support for every unbid suit, then bid again your next turn to show your strength.

BidBase Entries For Standard TOXs:

(The Order Numbers for TOXs are the same over 1, 1, 1, 1.)

Order# Description of Hand
050000 Any shape with a strong hand, usually 18+ HCPs. Fewer HCPs are allowed with more winners, such as running suits.
051000 10-17 HCPs and 3-4 card support for each unbid suit.
057000 Equal Level Conversion bids. Normally a 4-card major and 5-6 Diamonds. Over partner's 2, you can bid 2 without extra strength.
058000 TOXs by a passed hand. 8-12 HCPs. Being a passed hand, this is all that partner can expect from you.
059000 TOXs by partner of a passed hand
[e.g.: P-(1)-Dbl]. In this situation, you can stretch to TOX because partner, being a passed hand, is unlikely to get carried away.


Responses To TOX

When RHO Passes

With 0-8 HCPs: When your partner makes a TOX and your RHO passes, you are forced to bid, even with no HCPs. Simply bid your longest and strongest suit at the lowest possible level. With 4-10 HCPs and a stopper in opener's suit, you can bid 1N.

With 9-11 HCPs: Jump a level. After 1-D-P, this means jumping to the 3 level to show 9-11 HCPs. In Takeout Doubles, Mike Lawrence says: You kind of hate to [jump to 3-level, such as 1-D-P-3, with a 4-card suit, like 8653 AJT4 KJ3 43] because partner is allowed to have only 3 card support and being at the three level may prove difficult. (He gives an even worse case after this one.)

A jump of 1 level is invitational, not forcing, since doubler may have acted with as few as 10 HCPs and perfect shape. Also note that you may find yourself in a 4-4 fit on the 3 level with 9 HCPs opposite 10 or even in a 4-3 fit if doubler has a few more HCPs.

(This is where MOST Doubles has some advantages. Any bid on the 2 level in MOSTD shows 9-11 HCPs, giving doubler more room to bid, and a 2-level bid by advancer is forcing in MOSTD. Finally, a 2-level bid other than 2C by advancer shows a 5+ card suit.)

With 12+ HCPs and a good suit: Jump 2 levels. Again, if your suit is lower ranked than opener's, this means jumping to the 4 level, which is often going to impede your search for the best contract.

With 12+ HCPs and no other clear bid, cue bid opener's suit. You may also cue bid with fewer points and equal support for the majors, asking doubler to pick a major.

Most experts play that a cue bid is forcing to game when followed by bidding a new suit or notrump, but is only invitational when you raise partner's suit.


When RHO Bids A Suit

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 most of the time, you will be competing for the partscore, which means you should bid early to increase your chances of finding a fit at a low level. Therefore, responder should be able to compete with only a few points without doubler getting carried away.

On the other hand, when your RHO bids, you are no longer forced to bid, since doubler will get another chance to bid, so you should have at least a few HCPs and/or a good suit.

How many HCPs do you need to bid when RHO has bid?

In Bidding Dictionary, Truscott says 4-7 HCPs, but gives no further explanation. In Takeout Doubles, Lawrence says that after (1)-D-(1): J872-873-KQ2-762 is about minimum for a 1 bid, which is 6 HCPs, but then says to bid 2 with 5-873-KJT73-9873, which is only 4 HCPs.

We take this to mean that with only 4-5 HCPs, you should have a decent 5+ card suit, especially if you are bypassing an unbid suit which may turn out to be doubler's best suit, forcing him to bid higher. But with 6+ HCPs, you can bid almost any junky 4-card or longer suit, especially on the 1 level and if you are not bypassing any unbid suits..

In BidBase, we use 4-9 HCPs to bid a new suit, and then cue bid with any 10+ HCP hand. (If you have 10+, somebody else doesn't have the points for their bid.)

What does a Double by advancer show?

After, say, 1-Dbl-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). Then, just as in Negative Doubles, a free bid such as 1-D-1-1 or 1-D-1-2 shows 5+ cards in the suit.

The distinction between having 4 or 5 cards in a suit is very important so that doubler knows how high he can compete based on the Law of Total Tricks.

To illustrate: partner may have made a Takeout Double with only 3 of your major. If you make a free bid with only 4 in the suit, you may already be too high if you had to bid on the 2 level.

Or if partner has 4-card support, but opener's rebid forces doubler to the 3 level, a Total Tricks bid requires him to know if you have 4 or 5 for your bid. And if he passes it back to you, then even if you have 5, you cannot bid on the 3 level without knowing if partner has 3- or 4-card support.

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+.

An exception to the above is that after 1-D-1, a double should show 4-4 in the majors, so a bid of 1 or 1 can be made with just 4 of the suit without 4 of the other major. 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.

When RHO raises opener:

When RHO raises opener, the odds increase that your side also has a fit, particularly if you have 4+ cards in what is an unbid major. The assumption then becomes that doubler does have 4-card support the great majority of the time, so with 4+ of the major, you should just bid it.

In this case, a double by advancer initially emphasizes the minors. An example hand is 843 75 AT42 K984. Partner knows that you are emphasizing the minors and do not have 4 Spades since you didn't just bid Spades outright, but he may bid Spades to play in a 4-3 fit if he thinks that's preferable to bidding a minor one level higher.

However, you could also double with 43 875 AT42 K984, and if doubler bids Spades, you have to correct to Clubs.

You can also double with 4 very bad cards in the unbid major, such as 8654 2 QT52 K963.

Also see the file on Responsive Doubles.

When you have a long suit and a weak hand:

In the Nov.2005 issue of the ACBL Bulletin, page 35, #5, is the hand T98762 952 962 7 and bidding up to it of 1-D-1.

Out of 19 experts, 11 passed, intending to balance later, but 8 bid 3 at favorable vulnerability to preempt the opponents now. At the time this is written, BidBase passes.


When RHO Redoubles

When RHO redoubles, both Truscott (in Bidding Dictionary) and Lawrence (in Takeout Doubles) say that you should jump to the 2 level with a 5-card suit, regardless of HCPs.

Pass is for penalty when the opponents have bid on the 2 level or higher. For example: 2H-D-R-? Pass is for penalty.

Pass is also for penalty if advancer is sitting over the bidder. Example: 1S-P-2S-D-R-? Pass is for penalty.

Otherwise, pass is S.O.S. and asks doubler to bid his best suit.

In the first two cases, where pass is for penalty, what do you do with a bust and no good suit to bid? Mike Lawrence suggests bidding 2N, which could show a real hand (see next section), but if someone doubles, you redouble, which is S.O.S.


Notrump Responses

When RHO passes, advancer can bid 1N with a stopper in opener's suit and 7-10 HCPs if you go by Alan Truscott's Bidding Dictionary or 4-11 HCPs if you go by Mike Lawrence's Takeout Doubles.

Lawrence also says to jump to 2N with a stopper and 12-13 HCPs versus 11-12 HCPs per Truscott. A jump to 2N is not forcing since doubler may have acted with perfect shape and as few as 10 HCPs.

Finally, Lawrence recommends jumping to 3N with a long minor, and gives as an example the hand T KJ9 AQ7652 T75. His rationale is:

    1. [Doubler] will not have enough points to go

      slamming [since] West opened the bidding

    2. [Doubler] doesn't have 5 or 6 Spades [so he

      will not] run to 4.

Except that doubler may have a shapely 17 or 18 HCPs, leaving 12+ HCPs for opener with which to open, and if doubler is, indeed, that strong, he would double even with 5 or 6+ Spades and he might have very strong interest in slam, depending on your response.

BidBase goes with Lawrence, since he's the pro -- plus we can't see a really good way to get around this problem, other than playing MOST Doubles, where 2N is forcing and leaves doubler more room to explore.

When RHO raises opener, Mike Lawrence makes a convincing argument that you do not want to bid 2N with a balanced 11+ HCPs and stopper(s) in the opponents' suit. Instead, he recommends bidding 2N with an unbalanced hand with a 5+ card minor headed by honors.


Rebids By Doubler

When doubler's LHO bids and partner passes, then if opener makes a minimum bid (or passes), a 2nd double is for takeout, not penalty. While the first TOX may be made on less than 4-card support for each unbid suit, the 2nd double promises at least 4-card support.

When doubler's LHO bids and partner doubles, he is asking doubler to pick a suit.

When LHO redoubles and partner passes, it is an S.O.S. pass indicating that partner has a weak hand with no good bid of his own and asking doubler to bid his best suit.

When LHO passes and advancer makes a non-jump bid...

    If opener passes,
    • Doubler can raise with 4+ card support and a good hand. While a raise may induce a try for game by advancer if he is at the top of his range, more often it just serves to help keep doubler's LHO from bidding again.
    • Bidding a new suit requires an even better hand unless playing Equal Level Conversion.
    • Bidding 1N shows 18-19 HCPs -- a hand too strong to overcall 1N the first time.

    If opener doubles, the original doubler can jump-raise with the same hand with which he made a simple raise over a pass by opener. Again, the purpose is to keep LHO out of the bidding.

    If opener bids a new suit, doubler can make a simple raise with a slightly weaker hand than if opener had passed (but still must have 4+ trumps). A 2nd double (rather than raising) is for penalty.

    If opener rebids his suit, a double is Responsive, promising 18+ HCPs and 3-card support.

When LHO bids and advancer competes...

    When LHO bids 1 of a suit and advancer bids 1 of a higher suit, the criteria for doubler to bid on are the same as above. If advancer bids 1N, he is showing 7-10 HCPs and a stopper in intervenor's suit.

    When LHO bid 1 of a major and advancer bid 2 of a minor, advancer generally has a better hand than when bidding 1-over-1. If opener passes, then...

    • If doubler cue bids opener's suit, he is asking for a stopper in that suit for bidding NT.
    • If doubler bids 2N, he is showing opening NT strength (15-17) and usually some top honors to solidify advancer's minor, plus some other quick tricks, as well as stoppers in the opponents' suits.

    When LHO bids 1N and advancer bids 2 of a suit, he is showing a weak hand with a 5-card (maybe longer) suit. Any further bids by doubler should reflect that.

    When LHO raises opener and advancer bids, LHO is limiting his hand, thus advancer's hand tends to be a little stronger, on average, plu his bid will still be based on a 5+ card suit.

    When LHO redoubles and advancer bids, advancer's strength and suit length are the same as if LHO had passed, except that with no clear bid, advancer will pass and leave the choice to doubler. If partner bids 1N, a bid of 2C or 2D by doubler shows a 5-card suit and is an attempt to get to a better contract than 1N.

When LHO passes and advancer jumps...

    Doubler may pass, since a jump by advancer is only invitational. Advancer may also have only a 4-card suit, so any action by doubler should be based on that (i.e.: don't raise with 3 trumps and a blah hand).

When LHO bids and advancer jumps...

    Action by doubler depends on whether the jump is, by agreement, weak or strong.




Takeout Doubles By Opener

When the opponents bid and opener's partner passes, opener can invite partner to bid by making a takeout double. In fact, when opener's LHO bids and RHO passes, opener should stretch to reopen with a double when short in LHO's suit in case partner trap-passed. (See Negative Doubles.)

When LHO makes a takeout double and his partner bids a suit, a double is for takeout, showing at least 3-card support for the unbid suits. The same is true if LHO overcalls and RHO raises.

The same applies for overcaller after opener's partner raises and it is passed back to overcaller -- a double shows support for the unbid suits.

In his book Takeout Doubles, page 73, Mike Lawrence says that the doubler has no reason to hope for [partner] to have a big hand, so he needs two or three extra points to double after, say, 1-1-P-2, and shows as an example: QJ9 6 AQ82 AQJ82, which is a 16-HCP hand.

Yet on page 80, he shows a balancing double with only 12 HCPs: J72 AJ7 3 AQT976.

In BidBase, we have gone with the "2-3 extra points". If you want to stick your neck out with 12-HCP hands, change the database.