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About Me

H. Anthony Medley is an Attorney, an MPAA-accredited film critic, and author of Learn to Play Bridge Like A Boss,Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, and UCLA Basketball: The Real Story. He is a Silver Life Master and an ACBL-accredited Director and the author of a bridge column for a Los Angeles newspaper.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Negative Doubles Part II

In the last column we covered a negative double when partner opens a minor and RHO bids a major. Those are the easy ones. It gets a little more complicated.

Negative Doubles and Five card majors at the one level

If you have a five card major and sufficient points you must bid the suit.  If you have a four card major and a five card major, don't use a negative double to describe this hand, bid the five card major.  Your partner will be relying on you to bid a five card major at the one level if you have it.  If you're using negative doubles, bidding the suit at the one level over an intervening bid promises five cards unless both majors are unbid.  A double promises four cards.

Only one four card major

If your partner and your RHO have both bid minor suits, and you only have one four card major, you cannot use a negative double to describe your hand, because a negative double promises four cards in each unbid major suit.  Look at the following hand

ª KQ75
© Q73
¨ 872
§ 983

Partner opens 1 Club, RHO bids 1 Diamond.  You can't make a negative double.  Your only bid is 1 Spade.  If you made a negative double you would be promising four Spades and four Hearts.  Since you don't have four Hearts, you can't make a negative double.

To repeat, if the bidding goes 1 Club by your partner, 1 Diamond overcall by your RHO, you must have 2 four card majors to make a negative double. As a result, an auction of

Partner   RHO  You
1§         1¨      1©

does not promise a five card heart suit. You bid as if there had been no overcall and your heart bid only promises 4 cards in the suit. Partner must be aware that the bidding of a major suit over 1C-1D does not promise at least five cards in the suit, and may only show a 4 card suit.

Two Level Negative Doubles With A Five Card Major

If you have five cards in an unbid major in this situation, but not enough points to make a suit bid at the two level, you can utilize the negative double.  Look at the following hand:

ª J97
© KJ852
¨ 73
§ QT6


Partner   RHO  You
1¨          1ª       ?

You can't bid 2 Hearts because you only have seven points.  But you do have five Hearts.  What to do?

 In this situation, I will make a negative double.  You don't have eight points, but you do have five Hearts.  So you can amend the rule a little to say that you can make a negative double which forces partner to bid your suit at the two level in the following circumstances:

1) Four cards in the unbid major and at least eight points, or
2) Five cards in the unbid major and at least seven points.

Upper bidding limit for Making Negative Doubles

 Negative doubles are generally played through bids of 2 Spades, but this is purely partnership agreement. I like to play them through 3 Hearts. But if you play them only through 2 spades, any double of an overcall over 2 Spades is for penalty.  So, look at the following hand you hold:

ª 86
¨ A763
§ 874

The auction goes:

Partner   RHO  You
1ª          3§      ?

You cannot double the 3 Club bid here to show that you have four Hearts if you only play negative doubles through 2 spades (which is why I like to play them through 3 hearts).  If you double 3 Clubs, partner will leave it in, probably, as a penalty double.

However, the upper limit for negative doubles is by partnership agreement. Many advanced players play them through 3 spades. I had a partner who liked to play them through 4 diamonds. Whatever you choose, just be sure you and your partner agree.

Partner opens 1D, RHO overcalls 2C:

Here’s your hand now:

ª Q86
© KQJ6
¨ 76
§ 8742

The auction goes: 

Partner   RHO  You
1¨          2§      ?

Since a negative double over 1C-1D promises two four card majors, you might think that you cannot make a negative double with this hand. You would be wrong. Why can you make a negative double here without 2 four card majors but not over 1C-1D?

The answer is because you have a bid if you are 4-3 in the majors at the one level. You may bid your four card suit. At the two level, however, if you cannot make a negative double you cannot show your four card major. So over this auction, with enough HCP (8) and 4-3 in the majors, you may make a negative double. If partner bids your three card suit, you pass and she’s playing it in a 4-3 fit. Worse things than that have happened in bridge. In fact, Alphonse Moyse Jr. liked playing in 4-3 fits so much that it is named after him, “a Moysian Fit.”

That’s not all, folks. This negative double primer concludes with my next column.

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