Saturday, November 24, 2012

Responsive Doubles (Part 1)

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone and without a doubt I have a lot to be thankful for, mostly surviving a number of these holidays. Actually I am tied with Willie Nelson, but I am worried his “Grass” consumption will give him an edge in the end. Anyway, it was not the big event of the week, I am really celebrating my reinstatement as a Notary Public as decreed by the Legislature, Governor and Secretary of State of the Great State of Florida.

This is good news for all my unmarried readers or the great pretenders. If you are contemplating marriage, or maybe just a rehearsal, you can come to Florida for my winter special. My big extravaganza is poolside ceremonies, but also offer palm tree or golf course venues. All Florida requires is a license ($93.50 on your Visa) and my only requirement is a certification of competency from your psychiatrist. If you are ambivalent, I also do “no license marriages”, since the Holiday Inn down the road has a “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Same Don Ho Music, Champagne toast and Ice Carving.

Like many of my blog post, this one is directed to the “duplicate wars.” You can teach uncontested bidding in a week, but it takes a lifetime to understand how to effectively interfere in competitive auctions. Many of the competing opportunities come up in auctions where “Opponents Bid And Raise” the same suit. Marty Bergen uses the acronym OBAR to generically describe these auctions. Most often it is 1major/2major, but can also be in the minors. In this discussion your partner has competed over the opening bid with a Take Out Double. Thus you are sitting behind RHO who has raised to the two level. It’s now or never and you need to take never out of your vocabulary. Not to be lost in this discussion is that partner having made a take out double has a real opening hand.

In my last blog post, we looked at the 1h/2h OBAR sequence where partner had passed in-between the bids. With xxx, x, AQxxx, KJxx (non-vul, 10 hcps and 2 quick tricks) I advocated the call of 2NT to be Unusual No Trump showing minors and a desire to compete. Yes, I am forcing partner to the 3 level but with decent shape and hand strength it is the right call. We are favorites to have at least half the points and maybe more.

Today, we are going to stay with OBAR sequences, but change the facts so that partner makes a Take Out Double over the opening bid. Assume first that the OBAR sequence is in either minor, say 1c/x/2c, and as advancer you hold xxxx, Jxxx, AKx, xx. It looks like you have a major fit somewhere, but how can you explore it with only 8 hcps. Partner by his double has announced shortness in clubs, so presumably he has at least one 4 card major. You really don’t care which major and with this minimal hand you do not want to take two bids, so you need a bid that says “pick a major partner.” Actually we do have a bidding card for that, it is red with an X, and in this sequence is called a Responsive Double. The quality of my majors is lousy, but my hand is plenty strong for this action. In discussing Responsive Doubles, Karen Walker (a Bulletin Columnist) says you need only 6-7 points since in this auction partner is still able to bid at the 2 level. Responsive doubles have a lot in common with Negative Doubles, just in a different seat and several commentators recommend that you play them through the same level as you play negative doubles to make it easy to remember.

The other OBAR auction is 1major/2major. Again partner makes an intervening Take Out Double. Let's say it is 1h/x/2h/. Partner, for his take out double, hopefully has a heart shortage, likely 4 spades and tolerable support for the other 2 suits. Let’s assumes you hold Qxx, xx, AKxx. JTxx. A Responsive Double on this hand runs the risk that partner will respond in spades with his 4 card suit. You want to restrict his choice to minors so we don’t end up declaring with a 7 card spade suit. The best practice is that if you have 4 spades, you bid 2 spades to show them. If you fail to bid 2 spades and instead make a Responsive Double, the take out doubler assumes you have minors. So with the above hand you make a Responsive Double asking partner to bid his 4+ card minor. In this case you are forcing partner to bid at the 3 level with the Responsive Double, so you need more stuff to enter the auction, but 8 or 10 working points are sufficient. We want to challenge the commitment of opponents with a 3 level minor suit bid. In this case the Responsive Double asks “pick a minor partner.”

If the major suit auction is 1s/x/2s, bidding 3 hearts to show a 4+ card heart suit is not as easy, since to do so at the 3 level requires at least a good limit raise. In spite of the fact that partner’s take out double of spades strongly suggests 4 hearts, if you have fewer than 10-12 working points you will be misleading partner and be in 4 hearts before you can catch your breath. Max Hardy, a fallen hero of mine, suggests that the way to slow down this auction is to make a Responsive Double asking partner to pick a minor. When he picks a minor you now rebid 3 hearts to show him you have hearts, but not enough in values to make a 3 heart call over 2 spades.

Responsive Doubles are vastly under used in today’s competitive auctions. If everybody who has them checked on their convention card knew how to use them, we would hear of them more often. Her are some simple guidelines:

Responsive Double after Minor suit OBAR

1. A minor suit OBAR auction by opponents with an intervening take out double by partner.

2. To make a responsive double, you need 6-7 points and 4 cards in both majors.

3. Take out doubler picks a major and all hands rest (hopefully).

4. If the Responsive Doubler takes a second call after the Responsive Double it is definitely game invitational.

Responsive Double after Major Suit OBAR

1. A Major Suit OBAR by opponents with an intervening take out double by partner.

2. If you make a Responsive Double it will ask partner to pick a minor.

3. Alternatively if you bid hearts at the 3 level as suggested by the take out double, it show a good invitational hand with 4+ hearts.

4. If you have 4+ hearts but less than limit raise values, make a Responsive Double first asking partner to pick a minor. When he bids a minor you now bid 3 hearts to show a minimal hand with 4 hearts that could not bid hearts directly over 2 spades. This warns partner of your more limited values and should slow the auction way down.

Look for opportunities to make a Responsive Double when you hear 1y/x/2y. You are telling partner to pick a suit and you save a level of bidding. Remember the risk is always in not acting after an OBAR sequence. Pass is for “newbies”, not for bridge warriors and winners.

The next post will continue to deal with OBAR sequences, but instead of making a take out double, partner makes an overcall. The responsive double will continue to serve us in this bidding sequence, but some of the meanings change. Comments and Questions directly to .

No comments: