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Doubles

Double (X) is the most versatile and flexible bid in bridge. It’s used more and more these days at all levels. When the opponents have started the bidding (making the auction competitive), double gives you a new bid. It doesn’t take up any bidding room, and works well when other bids are not practical.
It usually shows a hand with points but without a clear cut long suit that you could have overcalled in.
Most doubles at low levels are for take-out, meaning that the doubler wants their partner to bid. The opposite is a penalty double, meaning “don’t bid!”

The Classic Takeout Double shows

  • an opening hand (add extra for shortage)
  • shortage (ideally two or fewer cards) in the opponent’s opened suit 
  • support for the suits not opened by the opponents (eg they open 1♥, you double to show at least three cards in ♣, ♦ and ♠, probably four ♠).

A double is forcing, unless the next hand bids after it, and asks partner to bid their longest suit, even with no points. The higher the level opened (e.g. preempts at the two+ level), the stronger the doubler needs to be. But, with very few cards in the opponents’ suit, you should try to enter the auction with a double. The more points you hold, the less important is the shape requirement. 
 
Responding to a Takeout Double

  •  0-8 points, bid your longest or best suit, especially a major, at the cheapest level (e.g. 1♣ X pass 1♦/♥/♠).
  • 9-11 points, jump a level bid in your best suit (e.g. 1♣ X pass 2♦/♥/♠). Shows four+ cards
  • 12 + points, bid to game or cue bid the opener (e.g. 1♣ X pass, 4♥/♠: or 1♣ X pass 2♣)

Doubler’s Next Move                                                           
The doubler must remember that partner, who was forced to bid, may be weak. So, after partner’s response to your double,

  • Pass with minimum 13-15
  • Raise one level with 16-18
  • Jump raise with 19-20

Coping with Doubles  
As a general rule, most jump bids in competitive auctions show weak rather than strong hands. (e.g. 1♥ X 3♥ = less than 8 points, with four trumps). The idea is to stop the doubler’s side finding a good two level fit, and playing there.
The way to show a stronger hand, is to redouble, which shows 10+ points, and denies a fit for partner.
To show a good hand with a fit, bid 2NT – Truscott/Jordan(1♥ X 2NT)  =10+ points and a fit. 
Other popular takeout doubles are Negative,  Support, and Responsive. 
 
Penalty Doubles
The opposite of take out doubles, these occur when you believe the opponents have bid too much and you know the trump suit is breaking badly for them, or sometimes over their 1NT openings. 
Successful doubles increase the penalty score a lot. 
How do you tell if a double is for penalty or takeout? 
It’s sometimes hard to know, but if your partner has not yet bid in the auction, and you double this will be for takeout. (e.g. 1♥ p 3♥ X = take out with spades, but 1♥ (2♣) 3♥ X = penalty, i.e. they are not making 3♥).


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