Chris Hasney

Modern Bidding Practices Question

Assuming SAYC with 11-14 HCP range to balance over 1NT, P, P… and no conventional defenses to 1NT in that (or direct) seat, what is the meaning of double?
In his 1983 book on Balancing (I have the 1993 6th edition) Mike Lawrence suggests it is penalty, to be used sparingly. If that is the case, what would a 2C bid by Advancer mean? That came up today, and my partner played played in a 3-2 club fit (going down only 2 — I was so proud!). Of course, he meant the bid as Stayman.
I asked an an experienced bridge teacher for her interpretation of double, and she said “Takeout.”

A bid cannot have two meanings in the same auction. So, what is the consensus? And by the way, for novice/intermediate players out there, these are the discussions you need to have with partner rather than what to do over a reverse Watusi jump 3C opening bid by the opponents and whether we should agree to play 2-way checkback and 3-way NoTrumps.


Bobby WolffOctober 19th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Hi Chris,

To play a balancing double of 1NT as strictly penalties would be an odd use of it. If so, at least to me, it would then show at least a solid 5 card suit (or perhaps 6) plus side cards, since to double for penalties with the usual number of points for an old time double of 1NT (15-18) would be contra indicated since your points lose value by sitting in front of the 1NT opening bidder.

It is somewhat widely played, that after already passing, then a reopening double would mean holding a club suit which dovetails with other conventional responses which sometimes show one suit or a combination of specific suits. Of course, partner of the doubler can pass and lead a club (usually) which oft times is an effective counter. Still others expand the reopening double by a passed hand to include the possibility of only diamonds, but the possible uncertainty accruing to partner makes that version somewhat dubious.

The old time (perhaps 30+ years ago) balancing double of 1NT to show only a competitive hand has gone out with the morning milk, and most would say good riddance.

My preference (for what it is worth) is to play double by an unpassed hand as a random very good hand, but partner should take out with a poor hand and a five card suit by simply bidding it, suggesting to the doubler that he should have at least 3 spades to double or the ability to respond to partner’s possible 2 spade takeout.

All very convoluted, but somewhat necessary in trying to form a successful partnership.

Chris HasneyOctober 19th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Thanks Bobby. Awaiting other comments. Perhaps my next book will be to address topics like this one which come up but are rarely discussed until after the disaster occurs. Curiously, I looked in the best book on SAYC (Downey/Pomer) and the topic was not addressed. (You can’t do everything!) I’d love to see a new SAYC committee but I fear it would turn out to be 2/1 GF, and that’s a nightmare of non-standardization. As I wrote in the introduction to Simplicity Bridge, Goren was right to keep methods as simple as possible so that folks could play a nice game of bridge with one another and know what everyone’s bids meant.

Chris HasneyOctober 19th, 2009 at 11:34 pm

BTW, the intro can be read here:

MichaelOctober 22nd, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Depends on partnership agreement, time to discuss is when filling in the convention card.

It is seldom, one would want to play penalty double in front of the NT bidder unless one has a source of tricks. Even a random 18 high may not beat 1 NT if partner has nothing.

Either You play double as good hand, ask partner to do something. Partner will pull with a bad hand and a long suit. Will sit for penalty otherwise.

Or you can play double as one suited hand. The partner will bid 2C and you will pass or correct.

Chris HasneyOctober 23rd, 2009 at 9:24 pm

Thanks Michael. If two experts sat down to play SAYC undiscussed, which way do you think the doubler’s partner would take the double?

ToogshollisDecember 11th, 2011 at 6:44 am

must look at this for less at my estore

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