Troubles with Redoubles -- Part XII   (August 2004)

SOS redoubles

My introduction to the SOS redouble was at a club game on my college campus. The opponents made a penalty double of my opening 1C bid and my partner redoubled, unaware that I had no idea what his bid meant.

After I passed and went down 1000, partner patiently explained the rescue meaning of his redouble. He also created a monster of sorts. Armed with this new bidding tool, I began making frequent and highly dubious use of it in auctions where my partners didnít need to be rescued or, worse, where they misunderstood my intentions.

I soon learned that although these rescue situations are rare, the SOS redouble is nevertheless an overused bid. Itís not an easy escape from a bad contract, and its use is sometimes based on two false assumptions: ďAny contract has to be better than this oneĒ and/or ďPartner must have support for one of my suits.Ē

SOS redoubles after our opening bid

When used wisely, the SOS redouble can, however, be quite valuable. In general, the lower the contract, the more strongly you should consider it. The opponents wonít double a low-level contract unless they have a big trump stack, and by running, you can often find a better fit, or at least a suit where the trumps are breaking more evenly.

One of the most common uses of the SOS redouble is after partnerís opening one-bid has been doubled for penalty. To redouble, you usually need at least four cards in all unbid suits. Partner may be forced to run to a 3-card suit, so you want to be sure youíre landing in at least 7-card fit.

In some cases, you can use the redouble successfully when you have length in just two of three unbid suits. If partnerís 1H opening is doubled for penalty, you can redouble with  S-52   H-2   D-J10864   C-Q10654

If partner bids 1S, youíll bid 2C to ask him to choose again between clubs and diamonds.

When not to redouble

There are many situations where it will work out better to sit the double or bid your own suit, even if you have the right distribution for a redouble. When in doubt, think twice about using the SOS redouble if:

Youíll increase the level of the contract.  In the auction above, bid 1S instead of redoubling if you hold   S-J10863   H-Void   D-J943   C-10872

This keeps the auction low and communicates less doubt (and fear) than a redouble sequence. Itís possible you have a fit in a minor, but your opponents will be more likely to let you off the hook if you escape at the one-level.

Partner is doubled in 1NT and you have a relatively balanced hand. Even if you have a conventional rescue sequence, itís often best to sit the double if you lack a five-card suit. A redouble will take you to the two-level, probably in a 4-3 fit, and unless the trump suit plays two tricks better, youíre no better off than you were in 1NT.

Note that after partner opens 1NT, your redouble is SOS only if youíre in the passout seat (your LHO has doubled). If partner opens 1NT and your RHO doubles, a redouble should be for ďbusinessĒ, showing  invitational-or-better values.

Partner has promised a 6-card or longer suit.  If partner has bid a suit twice or made a preemptive bid, youíre much less likely to find him with adequate support for your suits. Youíll rarely want to force partner to choose another suit if heís opened a 3-bid, and virtually never if he makes a 4-bid.

The same logic applies to weak 2-bids, but there are cases where it can be wise to run. If partnerís weak 2D opening is doubled for penalty, you have a good redouble with   S-AJ103   H-Q9843   D-Void   C-KQJ5

Two two-level contracts are available, and since partner will escape to his cheaper 3-card suit, you may even find a decent 5-3 heart fit.

Redoubles after partner overcalls

Suppose you hold S-J102   H-J8654   D-4   C-A1072  and the auction goes:

  LHO      Partner    RHO     You       
   1S           2D          Pass        Pass
   Double     Pass      Pass        ???

Do you sit the double, or do you run? More about SOS redoubles after overcalls in the next installment.

 ©  2005 Karen Walker