Responding to takeout doubles

by Chris Jagger

The aim of this article is to improve on the use of a cue bid after partner has made a takeout double. We shall start by reviewing standard methods, then explain why these methods are in need of improvement, and finally present an improved version.

Standard methods are as follows:

1d-X-P-1h = 0-7 pts

1d-X-P-2h = 8-10 pts

1d-X-P-2d = 11+ pts

The last sequence is `forcing to suit agreement', hence:

1d-X-P-2d, P-2h = Forcing since no suit is agreed

1d-X-P-2d, P-2h-P-3h = Non-forcing.

1d-X-P-2d. P-2h-P-3c = Forcing.

There are three basic problems with the use of the cue-bid in standard methods:

(a) The bidding can get too high (to 4c if you are agreeing clubs.)

(b) The sequence 1d-X-P-2h may or may not include 4 spades, so that a minimum 4-3-2-4 doubler is fixed.

(c) There is a traditional view that a takeout double should show opening values, whilst an overcall need not. This leads to people overcalling on hands that would be better suited to a double, or passing and doubling later (at a time when it is actually more dangerous to come in, and involves giving your own side `the last guess', rather than opponents). If you are to double more frequently it is even more important to be able to stay low.

Suggested methods

Let's see how these methods can be improved. The meaning of the natural calls will remain the same, save that the sequence 1d-X-P-2h cannot be 4-4 in the majors.

One of the main ideas is to use 2NT to show some of the weak hands. The key in the following sequences is that if partner has a natural no trump he should have bid it earlier. Thus:

1h-X-P-2h, P-2s = Forcing (does not require extra strength)

1h-X-P-2h, P-2NT = Weak, partner picks a minor

1h-X-P-2h, P-3c/d = Forcing

1h-X-P-2h, P-3NT = 19-21 balanced.

1h-X-P-2h, P-2s-P-2NT = Weak with a minor (by the responding hand this time)

1h-X-P-2h, P-2s-P-3c/d = Forcing

Over a 1s opener it works in much the same way. Over the minors, the cue now only shows 8-10 points with both majors, or 11+ any shape.

1c-X-P-2c, P-2h/s/3h/s = Non forcing (eg 3h is invitational opposite 8-10).

1c-X-P-2c, P-2d = Forcing (may be minimum, but it is better though not necessary to bid 2h with both red suits and less than 14 pts)

1c-X-P-2c, P-2d-P-2h = 8-10 both majors

1c-X-P-2c, P-2d-P-2s = Forcing, 11+ pts

1c-X-P-2c, P-2d-P-2NT = Non-forcing (but with 4 hearts, else the response would have been 2NT instead of 2c).

1c-X-P-2c, P-2d-P-3c = Game-forcing

1c-X-P-2c, P-2h-P-2s = Forcing

1c-X-P-2c, P-2NT = 19-21.

Over a 1d opener it works similarly, though in fact I prefer to play that 1d-X-P-2d, P-2NT is weak without a major.

As you can see, these methods need a little more thought and partnership discussion, but I think you will find the accuracy of your bidding is improved. Give it a go!