Take-out doubles are extremely useful and versatile but often forgotten. Most of the time we will like one of the options partner has given us, but what do we do when we don’t? 

When thinking about what to respond to partner’s double, we consider:

  1. What’s the best strain to play in?
    • A major whenever we have a fit is our first choice.
    • NTs if we have a good stop in the opponent’s suit is our second choice.
    • A fit in a minor is our third choice.
    • With none of the above, we have a problem! We’ll come back to this in a bit.
  2. What level do we want to play at?
    • With values for game and we know which strain we want to play in, we just bid it.
    • With a weak hand with little to no interest in game, we bid our best strain at the lowest level.
  3. Do I have to bid?
    • If the opponent has bid in between, we are allowed to pass.
    • If the opponent has not bid in between, we can only pass if we want to convert partner’s takeout double into penalties. We need something exceptional for this.
    • Otherwise we must bid something.

Let’s consider the two biggest problems you may have after partner has done a takeout double. The auction has gone 1♥ – X – P – ? to us. What should we bid with each of these hands:

  1. ♠ 432 ♥ 87653 ♣ 432 ♦ 32

Oh no! We have no points and no fit anywhere. Do we panic, think for ages, and let our opponents know we have a problem? Hopefully not!  We cannot pass as we expect 1♥X will make. Therefore, we smoothly bid 1♠ as this is the suit we have the most cards in other than hearts plus we’re only at the one level. 

  1. ♠ 2 ♥ KQJT98 ♣ 432 ♦ 432

1♥ looks like a very bad spot for our opponents. We have 6 solid hearts and so will win five heart tricks ourselves! Here we convert our partner’s takeout double to penalties and pass! (Note: this is a rare exception and we can only pass because we have good quality and long trumps.)


Which of these are exceptional enough hands to convert partner’s takeout double to penalties? The auction has gone 1♠ – X – P – ?

  1. ♠ KT643 ♥ K543 ♣ 43 ♦ 43
  2. ♠ KQT98 ♥ A32 ♣ 4 ♦ 5432
  3. ♠ AKQJ ♥ 987 ♣ A32 ♦ 432
  4. ♠ AKQJT2 ♥ – ♣ 54 ♦ 65432

Please comment below your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you.