DOUBLES - GENERAL INFORMATION
WHAT IS A "DOUBLE"?
When the last positive bid was made by an opponent, either player may make the call of double. If this is immediately followed by three passes, the contract is played doubled. The number of tricks required for the contract is not affected, but if the contract is defeated the defending side will score additional points. Conversely, if the contract is made, the declaring side will score additional points.
If either side makes a further bid, the earlier double is cancelled. It is possible for this new bid to be doubled.
A double cannot be followed by another double (by either side), unless there is an intervening bid. After a double, it is possible for the declaring side to redouble, in which case even more points are at stake if this is the final contract.
WHAT IS THE NORMAL REASON FOR DOUBLING?
A player may decide to double a contract if they suspect that the contract will be defeated. This may be based upon the player's hand alone, or (more often) on the earlier bidding. For example, if a player makes an opening bid at the one level, it's likely that they will be able to take at least a trick or two in defence.
This sort of double is known as a "penalty double".
Examples of penalty doubles
ARE THERE OTHER REASONS FOR DOUBLING?
Long ago, it was realised that in certain situations, a penalty double would rarely be justified. For example, if the opponent opens one of a suit, it is most unlikely that the next player could be reasonably confident of defeating the contract. Even then, the defending side might be able to score more points in a contract of their own. For this reason, the double of an opening bid of one of a suit has an entirely different meaning: it asks partner to bid. This is an example of a "takeout double".
TAKEOUT DOUBLES - TRADITIONAL APPROACH
In the early days of bridge (up to, say, 1960), there were only a few situations where a double was regarded as for takeout.
All other doubles were traditionally regarded as penalty doubles. This approach is still perfectly acceptable for beginners and improvers.
MODERN APPROACH: SOME OTHER DOUBLES ARE NOT FOR PENALTIES
There are clear advantages to defining the double of an opening bid of one of a suit as a takeout double. When the next player has a reasonable hand but no long suit, it can often be beneficial to suggest this sort of holding by means of a takeout double. Furthermore, there is no real need for a penalty double of an opening bid of one of a suit. The same applies for the other traditional takeout doubles.
It can also be beneficial for doubles in some other situations to be regarded as not for penalties. For example, consider the following sequence:
Suppose that South has a hand that would have responded 1 without East's overcall. In some cases he could bid 2 instead, but this bid requires at least 10 points and also a 5 card heart suit. With fewer points or fewer hearts he would have to pass, or find some alternative (and less descriptive) bid.
The best way to resolve this problem is to dispense with the penalty double. In this particular situation, a double merely shows 4 hearts and at least 6 points (or perhaps a longer heart suit in a limited hand).
NAMES FOR DOUBLES THAT ARE NOT FOR PENALTIES
In some modern bridge literature, all non-penalty doubles are described as takeout doubles. Other books provide different names for various kinds of double.
One important class of double occurs when partner has opened one of a suit and the next hand has overcalled in a new suit (up to the level of 3). This sort of double is generally known as a "negative double". One example of a negative double is discussed above.
More about negative doubles
OTHER DOUBLES THAT ARE NOT FOR PENALTIES
As you become more experienced, you will learn about some other situations where a double is best played as not for penalties.
PARTNERSHIP UNDERSTANDINGS CONCERNING DOUBLES
It is very important that both players in a partnership have the same understanding as to which doubles are for takeout. The following is recommended:
Beginners should limited themselves to traditional takeout doubles and regard all other doubles as for penalty.
Improvers could use negative doubles as well as traditional takeout doubles.
Advancers could add some other non-penalty doubles, but only if these are fully understood.
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