Troubles with Redoubles -- Part 2  (October 2003)

When you learned to play bridge, you were probably given a good number of “never” and “always” rules for bidding. I was taught two that applied after partner opened and RHO made a takeout double:

    Always redouble with any hand of 10 or more points.

    Never make a freebid on a weak 4-card suit.

These were handy guidelines for a beginner, but as I gained experience, I noticed they didn’t always work that well. I was so afraid to break an “always” rule – or make a “never” bid – that I was getting pushed around in takeout-double auctions. Even when it was “our” hand, the opponents always seemed to outbid us.

My results began improving once I realized these “rules” weren’t written in stone. Before you reflexively redouble or pass in these situations, it’s wise to consider your alternatives.

Responder’s redouble

A redouble is still the accepted way to show strength over an opponent’s takeout double. It promises at least 10 high-card points and sends a “this is our hand” message. As such, it sets up a penalty situation. Your redouble forces the opponents to bid, and after they do, any double by you or partner is penalty.

The redouble isn’t recommended with just any 10-point hand, though. Before you reach for the blue XX card, stop to consider your next bid, too. After the opponents run to a suit, how will you continue? Will the vulnerability affect your decision?

A redouble works best when your hand is suitable for one of three rebid strategies:

1 – You hope to double the opponents’ runout -- 10+ points, shortness in partner’s suit and strong holdings at least two unbid suits. This option is most attractive when the opponents are vulnerable and you are not.

2 – Youintend to rebid notrump (or steer partner toward notrump) – 10+ points, usually with fairly balanced distribution in the unbid suits. Your holdings may not be powerful enough for a double, or the vulnerability may be wrong.

3 – You intend to raise partner’s suit -- 11+ support points and a moderate fit (3 cards in a major, 4+ cards in a minor).

This leaves a lot of other hand types, including one-suiters, two-suiters and hands with stronger support for partner. You’ll often find it easier to describe these hands if you forego the redouble and just bid naturally.

Suppose, for example, that partner opens 1D, RHO doubles, and you hold   S-4  H-AJ872  D-Q54  C-KJ63 .

The opponents have at least an 8-card spade fit, and a redouble will force them to bid it. The auction might even be at 2S when it gets back to you. Now what? You’ll have to begin searching for a fit at the 3-level, and if partner has a non-fitting minimum, there won’t be any way to stop below game.

With this hand type, it’s better to bid 1H, which does not deny 10+ points. Over a takeout double, a new suit at the 1-level is forcing one round (there’s a checkbox for this on the convention card). Partner will make his natural rebid and you can have a “normal” invitational auction (New Minor Forcing is still “on” for your rebid). Even if the opponents bid their spades, you’ll be well placed to compete because you’ve already begun showing your suits.

“Ignore the double” style

Note that a freebid does not promise a 5-card suit. There are many situations where you’ll want to bid a 4-card suit, even if you have 10+ points. After 1D-Double, bid 1S with  S-KQ104  H-D-AJ632  C-QJ5.  You don’t plan to rebid notrump nor sit a double of 1H (or even 2H), so a redouble is pointless. The takeout double shouldn’t talk you out of searching for a 4-4 fit. The doubler doesn’t always have 4 spades, and even when he does, 4S may still be the right game.

The same logic applies when you have a weaker response. After 1C-Double, bid 1H with  S-54  H-Q754  D-K642  C-Q82 .

Don’t let the “never bid a weak 4-card suit” rule keep you from making your natural response. If you pass, LHO will probably bid 1S, and you’ll be shut out. Partner won’t raise hearts unless he has 4-card support (or a strong 3 cards and a ruffing value).

This bidding style is sometimes called “ignore the double”. You still use a redouble with suitable hands, but otherwise, you strive to make the same bid you would have made if RHO had passed.

The “ignore the double” style applies only to 1-level bids. Over RHO’s double, your 2-level bid of a new suit is non-forcing, showing 5-9 pts. and a 6+-card suit. A jump in a new suit is preemptive. After 1H-Double, bid 2D (or 3D, depending on the vulnerability) with   S-75   H-42  D-KJ10762  C-Q43 .

If you have a stronger hand -- S-75   H-42  D-AKJ762  C-K43 -- you have to start with a redouble and bid your suit later.

Copyright  ©  2003 Karen Walker