Negative Doubles
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The Negative Doubles, aka Sputnik double

75 Your partner opens 1 . No problem, you simply bid 1 (you would not, course, not even dream of bidding 1NT and suppressing the 4 card suit ).
Q4 Unfortunately, RHO intervenes with 1 . So what do you bid now?

Under traditional methods there is no sensible bid.

    You have to employ a Negative Double.
  There are various different ways of playing them, but I think the easiest (and best) is that they simply promise unbid majors(s) and sufficient points to compete (but they are unlimited – just the same as a new suit if RHO had not intervened). So with this hand, a double of the 1 overcall promises a suit and enough points to compete to 2. And how should opener respond?  
  - Just the same as he would have if his LHO had passed and partner had bid 1. So 2 by opener is non-forcing. Easy eh?  
  But some people may say ‘I like to have my nice juicy penalty double – especially if playing against some of the wilder elements in the club'. The answer is that you can have your cake and eat it too. And very often you get a much bigger cake!  
  So you do not lose your penalty double when you play negative doubles – you simply need a disciplined partner. And sometimes the opposition don't know what's happening until it's too late! In principle, opener should always re-open with a double (there are a few exceptions, but generally speaking, opener will double 95% of the time, just in case partner has a penalty pass). Occasionally this tactic can lead to a bonanza. This is a hand from the club. It is a typical penalty double of 2 , so I passed awaiting partner's re-opening double. West did not like 's so (unwisely) bid 2. Unaware of the mis-fit and impending disaster, East re-bid his suit. Who says you cannot give a penalty double when you have to pass initially? – I managed four having passed initially!! 1100 thank you.  
South (me) West North East   South  
AJ3 1 2 pass (1) 2 (2)  
93 pass (3) 3 (4) dbl (5) 3  
K75 pass pass dbl   4  
K8753 pass pass dbl   pass  
    pass 4 dbl   all pass  
(1) either a penalty double hand or a hand too weak for a forcing bid.
(2) unwise with a mis-fit
(3) no need to re-open now
(4) unaware that south had a stack.
(5) I wanted to defend 2 doubled, so this is fine.
  This bidding was a bit freakish, but you really do get the opponents one level higher quite often, and the penalty doubles are not often (never!) missed if opener re-opens with a double when he should (nearly always).  
  When you do not re-open with a double.  

I was asked under what circumstances opener should not re-open with the automatic re-opening double when playing negative doubles.


Now as I have frequently said, every pair plays negative double differently. I won't go into my preferred treatment again, but I will answer the question.


When you play negative doubles; you open, LHO overcalls and this is passed round to you, it is usually correct to ‘automatically' re-open with a double. But there are hands when you should not. The hand types where you should not re-open with a double are as below where you have opened 1 and LHO has overcalled 1.

(a) Hand A

When you have a very powerful hand with game virtually in your own hand and where you may well make slam opposite very little. With Hand A, I would jump to 2. I guess that some would have opened 2, but I prefer the natural slow approach with two-suiters.

(b) Hand B

When you have a decent opener but have so much in the opponent's suit that you know that partner cannot possibly be sitting with a penalty hand. I would pass with Hand B

(c) Hand C

When you have a weak distributional hand with little defensive values. I think that 1 is reasonable with Hand C although I would not argue with double. Some might say that they would not have opened, but it does conform to the rule of 20 and a 1 opening would be a popular choice these days.

  There are hundreds of examples of negative doubles and automatic re-opening doubles in the news-sheets. You can look for them using one of the the site's search engines but probably the best method is to open up a news-sheet yearbook in (pdf or Word doc) and search it using cntrl+F.  
  For more about negative doubles, with plenty of examples, here are a few books:  
  Negative Doubles: A must read for every partnership - Marty Bergen  
  Negative Doubles for Acol Players (Master Bridge Series) - Marty Bergen & Tim Bourke  
  Negative doubles (Championship bridge series) - Alvin Roth  
  Negative, responsive, and other competitive doubles - Harold Feldheim  
  Pattaya Bridge Club -
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