Meaning of this double

E/W are decidely inexperienced players. South is a nationally recognised expert and former Director, North is experienced but on this particular night was unwell.

I was called about this sequence (E/W vulnerable):

West opened a 12-14 NT on a 4333 12-count. North bid 2 Hearts. East, holding (S) ATxxxx. (H)x, (D) KJxx, (C) xx, and would have bid 2H as transfer, chose to double. The double was not alerted. South passed, East bid 2 Spades, E/W ended in 3 spades, making 9 tricks though 10 tricks were available and made at other tables.

South did not ask the meaning of the double. He thought a double in that position was was penalties. East and West were familiar with the EBU convention that doubles of NT are penalty, doubles of a suit are take-out, and do not need to be alerted. South asked me to look at the board (not wth any view to obtaining unfair advantage), saying had he realised it was for take-out he would not have passed (probably raised Hearts).
I agreed with E/W that the double was take-out, and that if there was any doubt South should have asked, and let the result stand.

According to Deep Finesse only 8 tricks were available to N/S in Hearts.

Is there an official EBU line of what 1NT- natural overcall - double means?


  • 1NT - natural overcall - double (not alerted) is take-out, often acts as a substitute for stayman

    1NT - 2H - double showing "I would have bid 2H" (a "stolen bid" double?) is alertable because it unexpectedly has 5 spades.

  • "Is there an official EBU line of what 1NT- natural overcall - double means?"

    If you are asking if the EBU has any view on what the double should mean, then the answer is no. The double means whatever the partnership want it to mean. The EBU does regulate permitted agreements, but any agreement for this particular double is permitted.

    If you are asking about disclosure, then, as Robin says, the unalerted double is for take-out. If the double is not for take-out, it is alertable.

    South is wrong to the extent that he assumed that the double was for penalties because it was not alerted. The lack of alert told South it was for take-out so he should/could have bid if he had wanted to.

    You say that you established that the double was in fact for take-out, but there is the issue that East thought that he was showing five spades. You may well have found some evidence that East had made a mistake in thinking he was showing spades and if so, then you made the correct ruling in my view.

    It gets more interesting if it turned out that East still believes he was showing five spades and West still believes the double was merely for take-out, so we have "no agreement but either take-out or showing five spades". That is alertable and would have been the information that South theoretically should have received if he asked. South, who didn't bid again when he had the information "take-out" while thinking he had the information "penalty", might now be a bit better off!

    Incidentally, you say that East bid 2S. I think you meant that West bid 2S? Otherwise N or S would have had to redouble or there would have been three passes. Another thought: If West bid 2S, would that be his normal take-out action with his hand?

    Barrie Partridge - Senior Kibitzer in Bridge Club Live - Pig Trader in IBLF

  • Thank you both. I did of course mean that West, not East, bid 2S.
    E/W were not playing "stolen bid" doubles, just a straight take-out, I understand.
    As spades were West's only 4-card suit, yes, I think 2S would be their normal response to a take-out.
    Clarification much appreciated.

  • It is interesting that a "nationally recognised expert and former Director" did not know that untalented doubles of natural suit bids are for takeout.

  • Interesting/freudian "untalented" for "unalerted" :)

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