1. What do you need to make a takeout double and bid notrump?
2. Are there any general rules?
Just as there is confusion about what you need to double and then bid a new suit, there is uncertainty about what it takes to double and then bid notrump.
You have already seen that doubling and bidding a new suit promises a big hand. You need around 18 to 20 points.
For example, you would double 1♣ and then bid spades with this hand:
♠ K Q J 9 8 7 ♥ A Q ♦ A J 9 5 ♣ 3
You would fear (correctly) that a 1♠ overcall, might be passed and game missed when partner has a few points and spade support.
The same theme exists when you bid notrump after an opening bid by your right-hand opponent.
Say that East opens 1♦ and you have this hand:
♠ K J 3 ♥ 10 8 ♦ A J 8 7 ♣ A K J 2
You would open this hand with 1NT, showing 15–17 HCP, and you should overcall 1NT with it as well.
Usually I present a group of hands for your consideration. We’ll start with just one this month because there are some important principles to discuss. First, here are some general rules.
- If you double and then bid a suit, you promise a strong hand.
- If you double and then bid notrump, you promise a bit more than a 1NT overcall.
In both of these situations, your partner will think you have extra points — and partner will bid as if you have them. If you promise extra values and you do not provide them and you go down, it is usually your bidding, not your partner’s, that causes you to get a bad result.
Here is a hand and an auction. Decide if you like the bidding and then read the discussion. You are South.
♠ K Q ♥ A J 10 7 ♦ Q J 8 ♣ J 10 8 2
How do you like this bidding?
South’s bidding is bad. He is right to want to bid something, but doubling is not the way to bid. You may recall my statement from an earlier article on takeout doubles. Here it is again.
There is no dishonor in passing when your RHO opens and you have an opening bid that does not have the right qualities for action.
This hand is not worth a 1NT overcall and it does not have the spade support needed for a takeout double.
When South doubled 1♦, he made a gamble that North would bid hearts or clubs. North did not do that. North bid 1♠, something that South knows is likely to happen.
Partners try to bid a major suit in response to a takeout double, and that is exactly what North did.
So South has the choice of passing 1♠ and leaving North to play in a potential 4–2 fit or bidding 1NT and hoping that North has enough points to make 1NT a safe contract.
Here is why that thinking is wrong. When South doubles 1♦ and then bids 1NT, his bid promises something in the range of a good 17 HCP up to a terrible 20. This range is not quite as well defined as an opening 1NT bid because the opponents have opened the bidding, which adds a little murkiness to the auction. The one thing that is
clear is that if a 1NT bid shows 15–17, doubling and then bidding notrump should show a little more than an opening 1NT bid. Do not forget this rule and do not violate it.
Think about this. If you end up in 1NT, your partner will need to have about 7 HCP if you wish to make 1NT. Your partner, if he has 7 points, will be thinking you have 18 or 19 HCP, and he won’t be passing you in 1NT. He will be raising you with his 7 HCP, and you will be higher than you wanted to be. In fact, if he has 8 HCP, he should raise to 3NT.
The answer is that you need a good hand to double and then bid notrump. You do not bid this way just because you do not like the suit your partner has bid. If you know your partner is likely to bid something you do not like, then the answer is probably that you should not have doubled in the first place.