Troubles with Redoubles -- Part 16   (December 2004)

New tricks for redoubles

In the last issue, we looked at the doubt-showing redouble, used to express uncertainty about stoppers after an opponent makes a lead-directing double of your 3NT contract. This redouble usually asks for help in a suit you’ve bid naturally, but in some situations, it can also be used to warn partner of other weaknesses in your hand.

The partial-stopper-showing redouble

A similar – and easier to interpret – redouble is useful in auctions where you’re searching for stoppers, but haven’t yet reached 3NT. It’s most commonly used after partner cuebids to ask for a stopper:

       You        LHO      Partner     RHO  
     1D         Pass          1H            2S
        Pass       Pass          3S            DBL

Your standard choices here are to bid 3NT with a full stopper or pass to deny one. You can take full advantage of the double, though, by using your other option – redouble – to show a partial stopper.

A partial stopper is typically Jxx or Qx (or 109xx). In the auction above, you would redouble with  S-J54   H-72   D-AQJ63   C-KQ7

If partner also has a partial stopper, he bids 3NT. Without one, he runs.

Defining partial stoppers

Some pairs also define 10xxx and singleton king as partial stoppers, depending on their positional value. In the auction above, you and partner can treat these “quarter stoppers” as partials because you expect RHO to hold all the missing spade honors for his double. Any combination of the four partial stoppers should protect the suit.

Caution is called for, though, if the auction suggests the opponents’ honors may be split. The weaker combinations -- Qx opposite 10xxx, stiff King opposite Jxx or 10xxx -- won’t always stop the run of the suit, so you’ll need to carefully judge the layout if you’re considering 3NT with these holdings.

After we overcall

Showing stoppers can be especially valuable after you overcall and partner advances with a cuebid.

       RHO      You        LHO      Partner    
1H           2D          Pass          2H
        DBL      RDBL

Partner is showing values, probably with diamond support, and he may be interested in 3NT. You can begin the investigation by redoubling to show a partial heart stopper – a hand such as  S-102   H-Q6   D-AQJ984   C-AJ7

Mike Lawrence proposed a good variation on this agreement. He calls it an “informatory redouble” and recommends that it show a partial or full stopper. This gives partner room to confirm the nature of his hand and can help you get 3NT played from the right side. If you have a full stopper and partner has the partial (Ax opposite Qx, for example), it may be important for partner to declare.

After a double calling for an unbid suit

The stopper-showing redouble can also come to the rescue if an opponent doubles to demand the lead of a specific unbid suit. Some defenders agree that against a 3NT contract where no suits have been bid (1NT-3NT, or 1NT-2NT-3NT), their “double out of nowhere” demands a spade lead. Others specify it’s a club or a heart.

If you encounter this double (which is alertable), the notrump opener can use two calls -- pass and redouble -- to show three different holdings in the critical suit. As with doubles of cuebids, opener redoubles to show the partial stopper and responder passes if he also has at least a partial stopper. If not, he runs to his cheapest 4-card suit and from there, you scramble to find a trump fit.

With either of the other possible holdings – no stopper ora full stopper – opener passes the double. Responder can pass this out only if he has a full stopper that can survive the lead through his hand (K10x or better). If responder does not have a full stopper, he must redouble because he doesn’t know which hand opener has. Opener then passes the redouble if he had the full stopper; he runs with the stopperless hand.

If this forced redouble makes you nervous, consider that once your opponent doubled, you were probably already in an all-or-nothing matchpoint spot. If you use the redouble to locate stoppers and your contract fails anyway, minus 400 may well be the same matchpoint score as minus 200. The ability to avoid the blind guess, though – and collect the occasional +1000 – make this redouble a valuable tool. And whether you make your contract or go set, you’ll have a good story after the session.

 ©  2005 Karen Walker