The following provides some general information about takeout doubles, i.e. doubles where partner is expected to bid any one of the unbid suits (excluding other kinds of doubles with specific meanings such as negative doubles).
A double is for takeout if all of the following are true:
As its name suggests, a takeout double asks partner to bid. The doubler must bear in mind that a minimum response could be very weak since his partner normally must bid. It is possible for partner to convert a takeout double to a penalty double by passing, but this requires very strong trumps and should never be done on weakness. Passing a takeout double at the one level is therefore very rare, although it's a more likely option at the two or three level.
The following sections cover the various kinds of takeout double. In each case there is an example sequence and a summary of the requirements for the double.
This is the most common type of takeout double.
The double normally shows 3+ cards in each unbid suit and about 12+ points. In addition, a takeout double is made on most hands with 16+ points, regardless of distribution.
This is a typical minimum takeout double hand.
This is an example of a takeout double with a strong hand. If partner responds 2, we rebid 2.
This double is similar to an immediate double, but can be bid with as low as 9+ points if support for all unbid suits is held. Again, it might also be bid on any hand with 16+ points.
This is a typical minimum takeout double.
South's opening bid shows long hearts and a weak hand. Although North's pass might conceal fair values, it's generally worth taking a risk to enter the auction. A takeout double is often the best option. The minimum holding for the above protective double is about the same as that for an immediate double of one of a suit. The minimum for an immediate double of three of a suit is only about a queen stronger.
Even against a strong 2 bid it's still possible to enter the auction with a takeout double. (In practice, many partnerships play an opening bid of 2 or 2 as weak, in which case the above auction would become a lot more frequent.)
When the opponents have found a fit, it's usually safe to enter the auction with a moderate hand. A takeout double in this situation is a flexible action and requires no more strength than a takeout double of a 1 opening.
If North had raised to 3, a double would still be for takeout, although here it requires a slightly stronger hand.
Here, the second double is still for takeout.
The double here is still for takeout, showing at least 4 cards in each of the unbid suits (or else a very strong hand). This double is more dangerous than when North raises his partner's suit, but it's reasonable to enter the auction with opening bid values.
South's opening bid doesn't cause any of the criteria for a takeout double to be violated. South is probably short in spades and is offering North the choice between the unbid suits, or else to bid NT or give delayed support to diamonds. With long and strong spades sitting over the bidder North might sometimes convert the double to a penalty double by passing. (This would occur more often if the partnership were playing negative doubles.)
Other example sequences:
These doubles are also for takeout, although both require additional values.
West is showing a maximum overcall (13-15 points) and shortage in diamonds.
Normally, any double of a NT bid is for penalty. The only exception is a double of a 1NT response. Although East might sometimes want to double for penalty in this situation, it's much more likely that he's short in diamonds and wishes to compete in one of the unbid suits.
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