Quick summary

4-cards in the unbid Majors.

"Partner, I would have responded 1heart if opponents hadn't overcalled 1spade"

Allows you to keep bidding when opponents have messed it up !

The "negative" double promises:

But bidding the suit itself shows 5+ cards

If the suits bid so far are both Majors

Opener rebids as if the enemy had not interfered, and knowing the suit length


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
spade 9 3
heart K 10 8 3 2
diamond A J 10
club 10 9 4
Example Deal
You: South
Dealer: West
Vuln: none

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Doubles, Negative double

123. Negative doubles
Partner opens RHO's bid Bid Suits implied Cards HCP min
1club 1spade X heart 4+ 6
1club 1heart X spade 4= 6
1club 1diamond X heart & spade 4= 6
1heart 1spade X club & diamond 4= 6
1spade 2club X heart 4+ 6
1spade 2diamond X heart 4+ 8+
1spade 2heart X club & diamond 4= 8+
any 1NT X different   6/8+
with 5 cards and sufficient HCP, bid the suit.
1club 1heart 1spade spade 5 6
1club 1spade 2heart heart 5 9
when showing a minor, bid the suit directly if you've got 12+ HCP
1spade 2heart 3diamond diamond 4 12+
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I've got 4-cards in the unbid Majors

The "negative double" is a form of take-out double. It is made by the responder after his right-hand opponent overcalls your partner's opening bid on the first round of bidding. It's very useful: it's used to show both support for the unbid Major suits as well as some values, even though the enemy interference has tried to limit the bidding scope.

It is treated as forcing, but not unconditionally so. In practice, the negative double is sometimes used as a sort of catch-all, made when no other call properly describes responder's hand. Therefore, a partnership might even treat the negative double as a wide ranging call that merely shows some values.

(It's called "negative" because it doesn't guarantee the length and strength needed to bid the intended suit at the 2-level).

Suppose you are South:

  1club 1spade ?

... and have a hand like this:

Hand 1
S 7 5
H K Q 7 3
D K 8 3 2
C 9 8 4

You'd like to bid because your partner has 12-19 HCP, you have 8, and so you've got 20-27HCP between you. But your right hand opponent's bid of 1spade has made it difficult. If LHO replies 2spade, as he often will, you and partner are out of the bidding. You could try bidding 1NT, however not only does that leave you with an awkward weakness in Spades, but also your partner won't know if your bid means Hearts or Diamonds. If you pass, your partner will conclude you only have 0-5 points, and you could miss a game contract. So, in this situation you bid a "negative double".

Your bid really means "partner, I would have responded 1heart if opponents hadn't overcalled".

Your partner will treat your bid as forcing, which is exactly what he would have done if you had bid as you'd have liked to without the overcall.

He can convert it to a penalty double by passing, if he has reason to double for penalties.

How many cards are promised in the implied suits ?

Minimum four. Ideally four in both suits if 2 suits are implied, but not necessarily.

After 1club – 1diamond, a negative double is often understood to show four cards in both hearts and spades. (With only one, bid the suit. With 5-cards, bid the suit).

After 1diamond – 2club, a negative double shows four cards in one Major. Which one? The highest ranked unbid suit, which in this case is Spades. (With 5-cards, bid the suit).

After 1m – 1heart, a popular agreement is that a negative double shows specifically four spades ("ss"). With five+ spades, responder would bid 1spade.

After 1m – 1spade, a double shows 4 hearts or more.

If a "double" occurs after the two Major suits have been bid, it promises four cards in each of the minor suits.

How many points are promised ?

As with any change of suit after your partner's opening: 6 HCP at the one level. (And of course it's a forcing bid, unless the enemy immediately bid again after your double).

But it's a bit different at the 2 level, which normally promises 9/10HCP on a change of suit. In this "change of suit" situation, the negative double allows you to "bid" a suit without actually saying it, and therefore without consuming any of the auction space, and this reduces the HCP protection that you need back down again to only 6HCP.

For example, suppose you have a nice 5-card Heart suit, but only 7 HCP. If your partner opens 1spade, you'd have to bid heart at the two level. But oh dear you don't have enough HCP for that. So you'd have to reply 1NT (dustbin 6-9 HCP), and your partner would have to guess in which of the 3 non-Spade suits your length lies.

However, if the enemy interfere with a 2club or 2diamond overcall, a Negative Double allows you to tell your partner that you have Hearts, and also that you were short in either the strength or the length department - not having both the 9HCP and the 5-cards needed to raise to 2heart directly.

As you can see, in this case, the Negative Double lowers the HCP need down to only 6HCP - and your partner will know this, won't he?

But beware: The one time you do need a bit more strength is if your forcing bid could oblige partner to re-bid at the 3 level. She might only have 12 HCP, so you'll need 8+, not 6. E.g. 1spade, 2diamond, x. Your Negative Double here forces your partner to re-bid at the 3 level if his second suit is club.

Another name

Sometimes known as Sputnik double, which was orbiting when the idea was invented in 1957

What if the overcall was in NT ?

Well, that's quite different. The double is 50% for takeout, saying "Hey partner, I've got some values, but I don't like your suit, please can you bid again". And it's 50% for penalties, saying "Partner, actually if you are strong, they must be in trouble, because I've got some useful points. So let's leave them in 1NT doubled".

Opener's rebid

When your partner bids a negative double, it's because he would have bid a suit if the enemy had not interfered. All you have to do when responding is to assume that he has the strength that would have been needed to bid the suit without the enemy interference

The table above shows the suit your partner holds and how many cards in that suit.

You are North in this example:

  1diamond 1spade x
pass ?    

You should re-bid as if your partner (South) had bid 1heart, and has a 4-card suit.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 2
S 7 5 3
H K Q 4 3
D A K J 3 2
C 9

The first thing to note is that you and partner have an 8-card Major fit in Hearts, so yours is therefore a 6-loser hand, (or given the fit you can add three points for the singleton, making 16 points altogether). Either way, it's worth a raise to 3heart, after a partner bid-sequence that was in effect 1diamond-1heart. You should assume that your partner had 6HCP and wanted to bid 1heart.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 3
S K 7 5 3
H 4 3
D A Q J 3 2
C K 9

Despite partner's Hearts, DONT be tempted to bid NT, even though you seem to have all the suits stopped. That's because a NT rebid implies 15 to 17 HCP - yet you only have 13 points. And you wouldn't want to deceive your faithful partner, would you? You can't really bid Spades either, since your Left Hand enemy has at least 5 of them! Yet your partner has forced you to bid; you are not strong enough in Spades to let it pass (and thus convert into a penalty double); so you'll have to rebid the diamonds.

Raise to 2diamond. You should assume that your partner had 6HCP and wanted to bid 1heart.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 4
S K Q 5 3
H 4 3
D A Q 8 3 2

Here you DO have 15-17HCP, and a stopper in the enemy suit, so it's correct this time to rebid 1NT.

What should North rebid with a hand like this?:

Hand 5
S 5
H K 4 3
D A Q J 3 2
C A J 8 4

Again, it's important to remember that your partner had 6HCP and wanted to bid 1heart. So you don't yet have an 8-card Heart fit: your partner would have bid 2heart if she'd had 5 of them (provided she had enough points).

With your a 5-4 distribution, you would continue to describe your hand by bidding the second suit, 2club, at the level below the barrier so as to indicate a 12-15HCP hand.


Reopening double, for Negative Double players

Let's say your opening bid is overcalled by the second player and followed by a pass from your partner. Partner might have wanted to show a strong holding in the enemy suit, but could not "double for penalties" as doubling has another meaning.

However, as will often be the case in this situation, if you hold only one card in the opponent's suit, or a void, you can re-open the bidding with a re-opening double, to show the shape of your hand. Your partner can then ignore the re-opening double - and pass, creating the penalty double he'd wanted.

Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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