Troubles with Redoubles -- Part XIII  (September 04)

SOS redoubles – After we overcall

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

Both vulnerable, do you sit the double with S-J102    H-J8654   D-4   C-A1072 ?

Your decision may depend on partner’s overcalling style. If he would bid here with 13 points and an “average” 5-card suit, you definitely have cause for concern.

Your alternatives, though, are not attractive. Bidding 2H could put you in a weak 5-1 or 5-2 fit that plays worse than 2D. An SOS redouble asks partner to choose an unbid suit, but since he’s likely to hold more clubs than hearts, that could force him into a 4-3 fit at a higher level – doubled again, of course.

Most experienced players, however, won’t have this worry. It’s not because they don’t get doubled (and go for numbers) in these auctions. They do, but they also trust their partners to have good suits for two-level overcalls, so they don’t have such a dilemma sitting the double with hands like this one.

This is such a common penalty-double situation that even the most aggressive bidders like to promise extra playing strength at the two-level. A two-level vulnerable overcall should show a good 6-card suit (or very strong 5-carder) and close to opening-bid point-count. The longer and stronger the suit, the fewer high-card points are necessary.

In the auction above, the expert would overcall 2D with  S-A54   H-3   D-AQJ1063   C-953  but pass with more points and a weaker suit:  S-A54   H-Q2   D-AQ863   C-Q53

 If your partner promises a strong suit, you have a fairly easy pass with the hand at the beginning of this article. You’d consider an SOS redouble only with extreme shortness in partner’s suit and extra length in unbid suits (5-5 or better).

Running from one-level doubles

The situation is different when partner’s one-level overcall is doubled. Your opponents may double a two-level bid when they hold just moderate trump length and strength – an offside K1082, for example. At the one-level, though, they’ll often forego a “close” double and go for the penalty only with a bigger trump stack.

Your other concern is suit quality. Even vulnerable, partner will make one-level overcalls with suits that he’d never consider bidding at the two-level. As a result, you should actually be more anxious to run from a double at the one-level than the two-level.

If the opponents open 1C and subsequently double partner’s 1H overcall, you know he’s in trouble if you hold  S-QJ54   H-4   D-Q8763   C-732

This is a hand for the SOS redouble. If partner doesn’t have a 4-card side suit, he’ll bid his cheaper 3-card suit and you should land in a reasonable contract.

Doubles of other overcalls

The higher the level of partner’s overcall, the less likely he needs or wants to be rescued. That’s why SOS redoubles are rare above the two-level. When partner bids at the three-level – whether it’s a preemptive jump or a simple overcall of their opening preempt -- he has a one-suiter, so you can’t expect support for your suits. And if he jumps to the four-level, don’t even think about redoubling unless you want to hear him pass.

 If partner’s 1NT overcall is doubled, standard SOS redoubles are “off” in direct seat. Unless you play a conventional rescue, a redouble here shows strength. Play “system on” (Stayman and transfers) to escape.

Avoiding SOS situations

The SOS redouble can save many IMPs and matchpoints, but it works best only when you’re desperate, you have near-perfect distribution in unbid suits, and you’re certain partner will understand your intent. When considering one, keep in mind that your objective is not necessarily to find a making contract. It’s to find one that won’t be doubled – or, at worst, that won’t go down as many tricks as the original bid.

Your main goal, though, is not to have to use SOS redoubles at all. You’ll have more success with this if your partnership agrees that one-level overcalls may be fairly light and competitive, but two-level bids will always be sound and constructive. If you beef up your two-level overcalls, the opponents won’t be doubling you nearly as often, and when they do, your rescue decisions will be easier.

Next: New tricks for redoubles

 ©  2005 Karen Walker