Bridge & other card games/takeout doubles


rho opens 4H, I double, lho passes, my partner passes thinking I made a penalty double. DISASTER!!!


Doubles of an opening 4H preempt are definitely intended as takeout. With a weakish flat hand, for example 3-4-3-3 distribution, partner may choose to pass and hope to set 4H since this might be easier than trying to make your own 5 level contract. However, this does not change the fact that the primary purpose of the double is still takeout.

Expert Larry Cohen makes the following comments.

4-Level Doubles

A double should be takeout. Some teachers espouse that doubles of 4H are takeout but doubles of 4S are penalty. What do I think of that one?

Let's put it this way: What would you do if RHO opened 4S and you held:
S  3
H  A K 5 4
D  A Q 7 4
C  K 8 4 2
? You would double, of course. But, to call this a "Penalty" double makes no sense. You would be delighted to hear partner remove to 5 with, say,
S  8 6 2
H  Q J 10 8 7 2
D  K J 2
C  3
.  You would make 5H instead of collecting (at best) a measly penalty. If your double of 4S is "Penalty," partner won't remove it. So, it is silly to define doubles of any preempt as penalty. (What are the odds that you will get dealt a trump stack when your opponent also has a very long, usually good suit? Infinitesimal!) If you ever do get dealt a penalty double, you have to calmly pass, hopefully in tempo, and pray that your partner doubles for takeout. You will then be able to convert (by passing) for penalties. If they buy it undoubled, so be it--you can't cater to everything. In case you are wondering, a bid of 4NT would show a 2-suited takeout (at least 5-5).

More on High-level Doubles

So, doubles of 4H, 4S (and 5C and 5D for that matter) are NOT Penalty. They are "takeout." Note the quotes around takeout. Your partner does not have to take out these high-level doubles. On low levels, partner will rarely convert  a takeout double for penalties. But, over 4H--Double--Pass, what is partner to do, with, say:
S  8 6 4
H  A 4 2
D  J 8 7
C  J 6 5 3
? He shouldn't take out to the 5-level with such flat shape. So, he will pass and hope to beat 4 doubled.  A high-level takeout double should be removed only if the partner of the doubler has lots of shape. Certainly a pull to the 5-level should not be undertaken unless the distribution is extreme (like a 6-card suit, or a big 2-suiter, or a void...). To take out on the 4-level (especially 4S over 4H), not as much shape is needed to pull.  In all cases, it is a judgment call -- that's why people preempt

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I can answer questions on bidding and on cardplay with the caveat that the former may necessarily involve some subjectivity. I have been playing tournament bridge for over 20 years and I have won several regional tournaments.

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