Playing Bridge: The Negative Double - dummies

Playing Bridge: The Negative Double

By Eddie Kantar

In Bridge, you bid a negative double when you want to tell the opener, your partner, about four- or five-card length in the unbid major(s). You use this bid when, for one reason or another, you can’t just bid the major. Only the responder can make a negative double (but he just says the one word, “Double”) after partner opens the bidding and an intervening overcall takes place.

Making a negative double when you have hearts and the opponents have spades

When your partner opens the bidding in a minor suit and second hand overcalls 1♠, you may have enough to respond, and you may have four or five hearts. Why not just bid 2♥? Because a 2♥ response shows at least five hearts with 11 or more HCP. You may have five hearts with fewer than 11 HCP or you may have four hearts. In neither case can you bid 2♥ — enter the negative double.

This double of 1♠ tells your partner that you either have four hearts with eight or more HCP (an unlimited bid) or five hearts with specifically seven to ten HCP, a limited bid. The subsequent bidding will clarify which type of hand you have.

Assume that the bidding sequence has gone as follows:

North (Your Partner) East South (You) West
1♣ or 1♦ 1♠ ?  

Consider the responding hands here. Hearts is your longest suit (you have five in each hand), and keep in mind that a 2♥ response promises five hearts with 11 or more HCP.

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You may not need to make a negative double when you hold five hearts.

The first hand above fills the bill: five hearts and 11 HCP. Respond 2♥. The second hand has five hearts but only eight HCP. It’s not strong enough to respond 2♥, but it is strong enough to make a negative double, which shows seven to ten HCP.

In this next hand, it’s time to deal with responding hands that have four hearts, the more common length. For openers, in this sequence you can’t respond 2♥ with four hearts, no matter how strong you are, so forget that. However, you can make a negative double with eight or more HCP.

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Holding four hearts rather than five is more common when you make a negative double after a 1♠ overcall.

Both hands above have four hearts with eight or more HCP. Double with both hands. But how will your partner know that you have 8 HCP in one hand and 14 HCP in the other? She won’t — until you make your next bid. When you make a negative double with 11 or more HCP, you come out of the bushes on your next bid perhaps by raising your partner’s suit or bidding some number of notrump. In the meantime, your partner, the opener, rebids as if you had responded 1♥. Important!

Making a negative double when you have spades and the opponents have hearts

When your partner opens the bidding with 1♣ or 1♦ and the second hand overcalls 1♥, you have a neat way of differentiating whether you have four or five spades. Assuming you have enough points (six or more) to respond, double with four spades and bid 1♠ with five (or more) spades. How sweet it is.

Assume that the bidding sequence has gone as follows:

North (Your Partner) East South (You) West
1♣ or 1♦ 1♥ ?  

Consider these responding hands. Spades is your longest suit, and keep in mind that a 1♠ response promises five spades.

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Double with four; bid 1♠ with more.

With the first hand in 15-14, double 1♥ to show exactly four spades with six or more HCP. But how will partner know you have such a nice hand? She won’t until you make your next bid. With the second hand, respond 1♠ to show five spades with six or more HCP. This way, your partner knows how many spades you have; how great is that? When partner doubles a 1♥ overcall showing four spades, make your rebid as if partner had responded 1♠.

Sometimes your opponent will overcall 1♥, say, and you may have five or even six strong hearts! You’ll face a strong temptation to double to show your partner that you have strong hearts. Quench that temptation! You will be showing your partner four spades, not hearts! Your best bet, by far, is to pass for the time being. Your day will come.

Making a negative double after a weak jump overcall

In case you think the opponents are always friendly enough to overcall at the one level, think again. Opponents are forever making weak jump overcalls to screw you up. And what is your defense? Usually a negative double. And what does a negative double mean at the three level? It means you have a good hand, ten or more HCP, without a really long suit to bid. It says to your partner, “We have the majority of the high-card points and they’re trying to screw us big time, and I’m not about to let it happen!”

This hand shows a classic case of using a negative double after a weak jump overcall.

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Combat a weak jump overcall with a negative double.

For this hand, assume that the bidding has proceeded like so:

North (Your Partner) East South (You) West
1♦ 3♥ ?  

You can’t let your opponents steal the pot right out from under you when you have two aces and a king, your partner has opened the bidding, and you have no long suit of your own to bid. The answer is to make a negative double telling your partner that at this level you have ten or more HCP (usually more) and (usually) a hand without a long suit, and let your partner decide what to do.

Who knows? Your partner may have four spades to match up with your four spades, may be able to bid 3NT with heart strength, may have a long suit of his own to repeat, or may pass at this level with a defensive hand, converting your lovely negative double into a penalty double!

At this stratospheric level, the negative double says you have no really long suit to bid and suggests four cards in the unbid major. Above all, it says your side has the majority of points.