An alertable double ?

The hand sitting over a 1C opener (Acol 4+ cards) doubled with
AQxx 9xx 10x AQxx
described later as "take out showing opening values"
Partner of the doubler agreed it is a double of 1C.
The pair have played together for many years, once or twice a month.
Should the double be described as something other than take out (a 'values double') and if so, or not, should it be alerted ?

Comments

  • If partner is expected to bid unless they have a hand particularly suited to defence, I don't think this should be alerted, but should be clearly marked on the convention card (under "Aspects of the system the opponents should note" on the front page). I'm assuming that the partership would also double on e.g. AQxx Qxxx KJ10x x, so partner can't afford to pass unless they would be happy to pass opposite this hand also.

    If the double showed any opening hand, or promised a minimum number of clubs, or if partner is expected to pass it with an unusually short holding in clubs, it should be alerted.

    The Blue Book says of takeout doubles (3H3): "A take-out double suggests that the doubler wishes to compete, and invites partner to describe his hand. Partner is expected to bid, though a pass may be made on a hand very suitable for defence"

  • Taking those two hands as a brilliant pair to ask about 1C Dbl, "round here" I was told that the first double (on AQxx 9xx 10x AQxx) is "for take-out". "What does take-out mean?" I ask. "It means I have an opening hand and some clubs and if partner doesn't like it, he has to bid".
    "Hmmm, so what about the second hand (i.e. AQxx Qxxx KJ10x x)? Why don't you double 1C with that hand?" - answer "I can't, I don't have enough clubs".

  • edited October 2018

    It is NOT alertable but must be clearly disclosed as per the Blue Book.

    3 D 2 If a partnership agrees to make take-out doubles of suit bids on almost all hands with opening bid values including length in opener’s suit, this should be disclosed on the system card. Similarly the practice of doubling for take-out on unusually weak hands should be marked on the front of the system card.

    (The Blue Team used to make a lot of off-shape doubles . . .)

  • @TawVale said:
    Taking those two hands as a brilliant pair to ask about 1C Dbl, "round here" I was told that the first double (on AQxx 9xx 10x AQxx) is "for take-out". "What does take-out mean?" I ask. "It means I have an opening hand and some clubs and if partner doesn't like it, he has to bid".
    "Hmmm, so what about the second hand (i.e. AQxx Qxxx KJ10x x)? Why don't you double 1C with that hand?" - answer "I can't, I don't have enough clubs".

    This sounds like an "optional double" to me, not a "takeout double". Optional doubles are defined by showing the ability to both penalise and to play constructively, and request the partner to choose between passing and bidding (with neither particularly suggested over the other). Describing this as "takeout" would be misinformation (the defining feature of a takeout double is that the partner is requested to bid without a really good reason not to).

    Optional doubles are always alerted unless the bid doubled is at the 4 level or higher. (Takeout/optional/penalty doubles tend to all blur together at the four level as it is.)

  • I play at a few ebu affilliated clubs which alas do not overly encourage system cards.Take a 7-table movement, possibly only four or five pairs will have a card. This non-system card approach includes some pairs who have played regularly together for years. And even with those who have a completed system card,there would very rarely be an exchange of cards for the 2 or 3 boards played in an evening duplicate session. Realistically they would not drill down to such fine detail about the idiosyncrasy of this sort of “value “double.
    So,the one or two suggestions of “no alert” requirement will mean that the “doubling” pair may have information not obviously available to the opposition.
    That said,it may be a wider issue of EBU affilliated clubs not actively encouraging the use of completed system cards.

  • @ais523 said:
    Optional doubles are always alerted unless the bid doubled is at the 4 level or higher. (Takeout/optional/penalty doubles tend to all blur together at the four level as it is.)

    I agree. The higher the level the less likely you are to have a sensible alternative to double, irrespective of your actual agreement. Las week I picked up a 2-4-3-4 26-count in fourth seat and RHO elected to open 4!d in third seat at Love all. I'd have doubled if it had been for takeout or for penalties - I was just too strong and anything else was a pure guess (including whether 4NT was to play - probably not). But even if you play high-level doubles as mostly for takeout, it is sensible for partner to pass them with nothing better to do (my partner passed it on a 4-2-2-5 5-count and would certainly have passed it on a balanced Yarborough). At lower levels you only pass with a trump stack because you are effectively trying to make a contract with the suit the opponents have opened as trumps.

    I don't know who has been teaching TawVale's clubmates. Quite apart from the odd use of the terminology, it seems a difficult style to play. Sure you can play equal level conversion, but that necessitates jumping around or cuebidding on good hands, and I would have thought that the suit lengths might get lost. And if you have to pass on what for most is an ideal shape for a take-out double...

  • [gcd] "So,the one or two suggestions of “no alert” requirement will mean that the “doubling” pair may have information not obviously available to the opposition.
    That said,it may be a wider issue of EBU affilliated clubs not actively encouraging the use of completed system cards."

    Just because clubs don't insist on convention cards, or fall short of actively encouraging players to use them, doesn't mean that players can evade their obligations of full disclosure by refusing to fill one in. I think the director or management committee would be well within their rights to tell this pair that if they want to play this method they have disclose it properly, which means completing convention cards and exchanging them with their opponents in each round.

    I think a good balance to strike with convention cards in clubs is to allow pairs without convention cards to play simple or familiar methods (these can be defined locally) but not complicated methods.

  • I concur with this. Sadly, at club level you're fighting a losing battle with convention cards and with most of the pairs it's not such a problem. But there are pairs at my club that I will expect to carry a convention card, and will remind to do so.

  • As other's have noted above, the Blue book guidance is clear (3 D 2), the double is not alertable, but this partnership style should be disclosed on the system card.

    Nevertheless, I have on a number of occasions found myself disadvantaged in the play of the hand because I was not aware that our opponents were playing this style of take-out double. Most recently, on Sunday, I misplayed a 3NT contract because I drew an incorrect inference about the opposing shape based on the opponent's double.

    Is there a reason why this is deemed to be a matter of style, to be disclosed on the system card only and not alerted? It is not a style that most would expect.

    Given that this is the regulation, what advice should be given to players? Should they ask to see a system card whenever an opponent makes a take-out double? Or ask about the style of take-out double? Or just accept that they have less knowledge than their opponents?

  • One possibility would to be to ask at the point where the inference becomes relevant (thus saving the need to ask every time the bid comes up). As long as you were declarer (and you typically would be), there'd be no real UI issues in doing that.

    I've been known to ask about specific bids by the opponents after the opening lead (e.g. "does your weak two promise six cards or could it have five?"), as that's the point at which it became relevant (in this case, to know how many rounds to duck).

  • Having thought about this some more, there are perhaps two styles here, in terms of potentially off-shape doubles:

    One is quite common, and involves quite a low upper limit on simple overcalls, so that anything stronger has to double first, whether shape-suitable or not. With one partner I play that in most situations a simple overcall will be less than a sound opening bid, so that all sound opening hands or better that wish to compete have to double first. For us, at least, this is still a takeout double. Partner does not assume any holding in the suit opened and will take out unless holding a traditional penalty pass, and we play a Herbert negative and equal level conversion.

    The other I have not come across, but it is clearly prevalent to some degree where TawVale plays. If I understand it correctly a double does suggest a minimum of some length or strength in the suit opened, and a hand which is a traditional "shape-suitable" takeout double would not double in this style. This suggests that the default is that the double will be left in ("if partner doesn't like it he has to bid"). I don't think that this style is in any real sense a takeout double, and should therefore be alerted.

    I do think that it is reasonably common to find opponents playing potentially off-shape takeout doubles in some variant of the first style. I would not therefore tend to assume anything particular about the hand held by an unknown opponent who makes a takeout double. As declarer I think you should ask about the style as soon as it occurs to you that it might be relevant to your line of play, but as ais523 says, you can ask at any point without compromising your side. I confess that I occasionally do get caught out when it doesn't occur to me early enough to ask.

    As a defender there are three situations to consider.

    First is the opening lead (whether the doubler is going to be declarer or dummy). I think that most of the time there will be something to help you decide if you need to ask any questions. For example, if the doubler changes suit after his partner's response, it will be fairly routine to ask what strength this shows and what the implications may be for the rest of the hand.

    Second is the unexpected dummy: either the doubler goes down as dummy and it is not what you would expect, or the doubler is declarer but the auction and the sight of dummy do not really add up unless the doubler is off-shape. Here you have the opportunity to ask questions and there is only a problem if the answers suggest that the opening lead may not have been the best. As long as you don't make your questions too pointed, there shouldn't be much danger of constraining partner's actions in defence because of UI.

    Third is where the doubler is declarer and the sight of dummy doesn't ring any alarm bells. Here I think that most of the time the auction will give some clue in situations where declarer may be off-shape. There is some danger of constraining partner's actions in defence (from UI) if questions are too specific or are left to the point where you actually have the defensive problem, so an early general question about doubling style may be sensible. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to envisage the possibility that declarer's hand might be unexpected until (say) he shows out early of a suit in which, with a traditional doubling style, he would be expected to have some length.

    When I am playing the style mentioned above I do tend to say something at the end of the auction if declarer or dummy, to the effect that although the doubler's hand may be in the traditional mould, equally it may not. I think this is helpful, although it is certainly not a requirement, but I guess a lot of people who play a non-traditional style will not think to do this because they do not recognise that what they are doing is unusual.

  • Thanks for comments.

    A related/similar query:
    Several pairs now play, for example, a strong NT and their 1C may only be 2 (announced) with 11-14/18-19 balanced.
    If one's double of that includes a weak NT e.g. a 13 count any 4432 is that alertable ?
    I assume the 1C is considered 'natural' rather than artificial so a double isn't assumed to be clubs ?
  • edited November 2018

    4 B 2 Doubles
    The rules for alerting doubles are:
    (a) Suit bids that show the suit bid
    Alert, unless the double is for take-out.
    (b) Minor suit openings which may be shorter than three cards but which may be natural and which do not promise a strong hand

    Alert, unless the double is for take-out.

    3 H 3 Take-out doubles
    A take-out double suggests that the doubler wishes to compete, and invites partner to describe his hand. Partner is expected to bid, though a pass may be made on a hand very suitable for defence in the context of the level of bid doubled and what he can be expected to hold for his actions (if any) to date.

  • @Gra said:
    A related/similar query:
    Several pairs now play, for example, a strong NT and their 1C may only be 2 (announced) with 11-14/18-19 balanced.
    If one's double of that includes a weak NT e.g. a 13 count any 4432 is that alertable ?
    I assume the 1C is considered 'natural' rather than artificial so a double isn't assumed to be clubs ?

    I think this double is a takeout double and should therefore not be alerted, per the regulations quoted by weejonnie.

    If advancer responds in his longest suit and doubler rebids 1NT with a weak NT when advancer has bid his doubleton, that will be unexpected to some because double then no-trumps is commonly played as too strong to overcall 1NT. I would therefore personally alert the 1NT rebid in those circumstances if playing that style. Do others agree?

  • (1X) Double (Pass) 1Y (Pass) 1NT as 19-21 is a rare sequence, in practice.

    Playing online with random Europeans (?), the double can be a weak NT regardless of which suit is opened, and the 1NT rebid is less than (or different from) an immediate 1NT overcall.

    I think opponents should not have any expectations as to the strength of the 1NT, and it should not be alerted.

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:
    (1X) Double (Pass) 1Y (Pass) 1NT as 19-21 is a rare sequence, in practice.

    Two sources that I checked for Acol both agree that this should be defined as 18-20 balanced (one of them gives the range as good 18-bad 20; the other defines it only implicitly by saying that this sort of should be natural and show 18+ points, but doesn't talk about 1NT specifically). However, one of them mentions that the sequence is very rare. That might be enough of a consensus on the meaning of the bid that it should be alerted, perhaps? But I wouldn't expect most people to know what the consensus meaning was!

    Thinking about it, it would considerably simplify working out when to alert if the alerting rules were defined as "if a bidding sequence is sufficiently rare that partnerships would be expected not to have an agreement about it, players should alert if they have agreed a meaning for it, not alert if it's undiscussed". (This is arguably consistent with the alerting rules at the moment, with a discussed meaning being the unexpected/alertable meaning!) Opponents often get confused and/or annoyed when you alert a bid and explain it as undiscussed! (The last time I did it, my opponents insisted that I explained how I was interpreting the bid. Are they allowed to do that? I was willing to explain all the possible meanings that would be consistent with our other agreements, but that's not what they wanted to hear.)

  • The last time I did it, my opponents insisted that I explained how I was interpreting the bid. Are they allowed to do that? I was willing to explain all the possible meanings that would be consistent with our other agreements, but that's not what they wanted to hear.)

    In one word: No!
    In two words H**l No!

    I suppose the long answer woujld be "I would love to, but by doing so I would be giving my partner unauthorised information."

    (I assume your opponents asked about this double each in turn when it was their turn to make a call - otherwise they are in breach of law 20F1 - something that is often forgotten)

  • @ais523 said:
    Thinking about it, it would considerably simplify working out when to alert if the alerting rules were defined as "if a bidding sequence is sufficiently rare that partnerships would be expected not to have an agreement about it, players should alert if they have agreed a meaning for it, not alert if it's undiscussed".

    I have suggested "alert if you know what you are doing".

    In Malmo 2004, Gold/Townsend had an auction where they passed over a redouble and both knew the pass was to play (a hand that would have passed the double if the next hand passed rather than redoubled). They did not alert (on either side of the screen) because it was natural/"to play". Opponents went off redoubled when they could do better by bidding. There was a ruling/appeal which appeared to conclude that the Pass was alertable because they had an understanding - even if that understanding was not unexpected.

  • @Robin_BarkerTD said:
    I have suggested "alert if you know what you are doing".

    Whereas in fact we now have the situation where "no agreement" is technically alertable.

    When players make a bid whose meaning is undiscussed most will have at least some expectation that partner will be on the same wavelength, else why risk it? Some more sophisticated partnerships may have "meta-agreements" such as:
    (a) if a bid can plausibly be interpreted as natural, then it's natural;
    (b) if it's unclear whether a bid is forcing or non-forcing, treat it as forcing; or
    (c) if it's unclear what a double is, [insert preferred default].

    In those circumstances you can explain an undiscussed bid as "we haven't specifically discussed it but it appears to be covered by a general agreement which suggests that it's natural and forcing / takeout / whatever".

    Even if that doesn't apply you may have a situation where the bidder has a high expectation that partner will work it out because of actually discussed meanings for sequences which both partners are likely to treat as analogous. In those circumstances, again, an explanation of the likely meaning seems called for, albeit with a caveat that it is not a 100% secure agreement.

    But at the other end of the spectrum, particularly in an unpractised partnership which doesn't have a lot of agreements, players should not say how they are going to take an undiscussed bid.

    @ais523 said:
    I was willing to explain all the possible meanings that would be consistent with our other agreements, but that's not what they wanted to hear.

    I think it boils down to the fact that they are entitled to know about your agreements (or the lack of them). If you think you have an implicit agreement (albeit one which may need a caveat about not being 100% secure), you tell them; if not, it's a matter of you working out what to do on the basis of general bridge knowledge, and they are not entitled to further information on how you propose to set about this.

  • edited November 2018

    The actual bidding sequence was:

    (1NT), X, (Pass), 2!c

    We didn't have an agreement about this specific sequence (it was a very new partnership), but 2!c was conventional in many similar sequences (e.g. 1NT, (X), 2!c was conventional, as was 1NT, (X), XX, (Pass); 2!c, as was (1NT), 2!c, and obviously 1NT, (Pass), 2!c would have been). The bid itself was weird enough that I guessed it was conventional, but didn't know the meaning (the four 2!c bids above all had different meanings). Partner had in fact mistaken the bidding sequence for one of the sequences above (i.e. they weren't trying to analogise a bid; they'd simply misread the bidding cards); from my point of view, either that situation had happened, or else they were trying to analogise one of those conventional bids but I wasn't sure which. So I was placed in the situation of having to guess which one was meant.

    This situation is very complex to explain to opponents in a reasonable length of time, though, and I wasn't given a chance to do so (and in fact, a full explanation would be unreasonably long).

  • @ais523 said:
    The actual bidding sequence was:

    (1NT), X, (Pass), 2!c

    We didn't have an agreement about this specific sequence (it was a very new partnership), but 2!c was conventional in many similar sequences (e.g. 1NT, (X), 2!c was conventional, as was 1NT, (X), XX, (Pass); 2!c, as was (1NT), 2!c, and obviously 1NT, (Pass), 2!c would have been). The bid itself was weird enough that I guessed it was conventional, but didn't know the meaning (the four 2!c bids above all had different meanings). Partner had in fact mistaken the bidding sequence for one of the sequences above (i.e. they weren't trying to analogise a bid; they'd simply misread the bidding cards); from my point of view, either that situation had happened, or else they were trying to analogise one of those conventional bids but I wasn't sure which. So I was placed in the situation of having to guess which one was meant.

    I'm not sure that it would occur to me to analogise from any of the other sequences which you quote, or to assume that partner was likely to be doing so. The first two are a function of the particular escape mechanism you choose to play when your 1NT is doubled. The third is your choice of defence to opponents' 1NT and the fourth your choice of responding structure to 1NT, whether it be Stayman, some Stayman variant, Gladiator, Keri or whatever. The first two are inter-dependent, but none of the others are logically associated with each other.

    The fact that you play these four 2!c bids as conventional affords no presumption in my mind that this particular 2!c bid, if undiscussed, should be conventional. Whatever I played for the other four sequences, if I hadn't discussed this one I'd assume that it was a weak hand with a club suit, concerned that 1NT doubled was likely to make.

    The explanation I would suggest is "undiscussed, but we certainly have no agreement that it is anything other than natural and non-forcing", the latter being the default meaning, IMO.

  • edited November 2018

    Well, despite it being a new partnership, I believed my partner was likely to have meant it as conventional, and they had in fact meant it as conventional (they'd mistaken the bidding sequence up to them as 1NT, (X), XX, (Pass) and bid accordingly). So if I hadn't alerted, or explained it as you suggested, I'd plausibly have been guilty of giving misinformation.

    In general, players often have an idea of how likely their partner is to make an undiscussed bid. I often play in bridge clubs where most players prefer not to make undiscussed bids at all (and more generally, don't try to apply "bridge logic" to bids that can't possibly make sense, but take them at face value nonetheless). If you know that your partner is like that, "my partner has misbid" is a more plausible explanation than "this bid has the obvious, natural, logical meaning"! So that counts as relevant partnership experience that you should be disclosing.

  • Can you really alert and when asked say, "partner has forgotten the system", but based on past experience he will be meaning this to be 'X' convention, but this would clearly be nonsense in this situation?

  • edited November 2018

    You can - in fact the White book has this to say. (1.4.1 in part)

    Players are required to disclose their agreements, both explicit and implicit. If a player believes, from partnership experience, that partner may have deviated from the system this must be disclosed to the opponents. If a player properly discloses this possibility, the player will not be penalised for fielding it, although there may be a penalty for playing an illegal method.

    And of course the explanation is UI for said partner.

  • I had one the other week which went... 1NT-(x)-2S, which I alerted. When asked, I simply said that the bid was out-of-system. Everyone worked out that partner had misbid and was showing spades (we play Halmic).

  • @Tag said:
    I had one the other week which went... 1NT-(x)-2S, which I alerted. When asked, I simply said that the bid was out-of-system. Everyone worked out that partner had misbid and was showing spades (we play Halmic).

    If you have a bit of system where a lot of bids are well-defined (such as your response structure to 1NT or your escape mechanism when your 1NT is doubled) and partner produces a bid which is not defined, such as your example, then you are surely right to explain that you have a system for this situation and partner has made a bid that does not exist in that system. There are two situations to consider:

    (a) Partner has never done this before. Then you have no basis for offering to the opponents any speculation as to what partner has, and you and they are each on your own in trying to make sense of it. (I would tend to assume, as you and your opponents did, that partner has forgotten the system and has spades).

    (b) Partner makes a habit of this sort of thing. Now you have partnership experience as to what partner might have when he forgets, which is disclosable.

    I am a little surprised that ais523 felt that he had enough to go on to persuade himself that his new partner intended 2!c as conventional, but perhaps there was indirect partnership experience from other partners in common, or knowledge of his partner's style from playing a lot against him.

    In general I think that players should not stretch to offer speculation about the meaning of undiscussed calls unless there is something tangible by way of partnership experience to base it on. Sometimes "your guess is as good as mine" (put in context as necessary) is the right explanation.

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