By Barbara Seagram
In the world of old-fashioned Standard American, if you are not playing Negative Doubles, then the following Auction would have to be a penalty double. This in effect dares the opponents to make their contract of 1 Spade, suggesting that they cannot make it.
Since the opportunity to double the opponents for penalties at this low a level comes up so seldom, the word “double” is now used to have a different meaning, in the world of modern bridge. Thus, the Negative Double was invented.
Imagine that you pick up this hand:
Partner opens with 1♦. Your RHO overcalls 1♠. If you don’t play negative doubles, you would have to pass. Playing negative doubles, you will now say “double” and this will show partner that you have the 2 unbid suits AND enough points to respond to partner’s opening bid (6 or more points)
The normal Take-Out Double occurs after opponents have opened the bidding.
The Negative Double is made after partner has opened the bidding and there has been an overcall of a suit by the player on your right. The Negative Double does not exist in any other situation!
If your partnership has decided to use Negative Doubles, then your Double is Negative when your partner has opened with a suit and the player on your right has overcalled in a suit.
The convention is called the Negative Double because it is not designed to penalize the opponents. Without the Negative Double, many hands become difficult and even impossible to bid sensibly after the opposition interferes.
This is especially so because of the strict requirements for a 2 level response of a new suit. You need 10 or more points (as the responder) to bid a new suit at the two level when partner has opened the bidding.
When partner opened with 1♦, you were about to respond 1♥ and R.H.O. overcalled 2♣, now what? You are too weak to respond at the 2 level as this would show 10 or more points. Therefore you would have to pass using Standard methods. A good fit in either major could be lost.
Playing Negative Doubles you will say “Dbl” and now partner will bid again. She will know that you have the two unbid suits and if she has one of those, she will bid it. Therefore, you will see that when you make a Negative Double, you are bidding 2 suits instead of one… As a result, you will make the opening bidder’s life much easier.
The Negative Double is especially useful when the opponents make a pre-emptive jump overcall.
We cannot bid 3♥ as when we bid a major suit (as responder) at the 2 level or higher, we are always promising at least 5 cards in that suit. So, we would have to consider bidding 3♣. How much easier life would be if we could make 2 bids in one… “Dbl” showing both unbid suits?
Consider this hand and the beauty of showing partner two 4-card suits without even making a bid (except for Double) which does not take away any bidding space.
Double: Shows BOTH unbid majors… all in one breath and partner can pick one.
The Negative Double is an attempt to compete for the right of becoming declarer by discovering your side’s best “fit” in a suit or N.T.
Requirements for Making a Negative Double
- 6 or more pts. and both unbid suits. If however the opponents have bid at a high level e.g 1D – 2S… you now require 10+ pts. to make a negative double.
- You must always have the unbid major, but you do not have to have the unbid minor… If you do not have the unbid minor, then you must have a fit with partner in her first bid suit.
You may say “Dbl”… If partner now chooses to bid Hearts because she has 4 of these, you can now bid 3D and she will know that you had Spades and Diamonds, not Spades and Hearts.
If opponents have overcalled at the 2 level, pre-emptively… e.g. 1♦ – 2♠, you must now have 10 or more points in order to make a negative double since when partner bids as you are driving her to the 3 level.
Rebids by the Opening Bidder
The Opening Bidder will pick one of the suits that you have shown her that you have (you have shown her by inference)… She will bid this suit if she has 4 of them.
- If she does not, then she will bid N.T. (with stoppers in opp’s suit) or she will simply rebid her own suit with none of the above.
- If she has 13-15 pts, then she will bid the above as cheaply as possible
- If she has 16-18 pts, then she can jump in one of the unbid suits
- If she has 19+ pts, then she can bid game in the known 4-4 major fit or 3 N.T.
If partner has opened with 1♦ and R.H.O. overcalls with 1♠, now you are forced to pass as “Double” will be a Negative Double asking partner to bid again. You desperately wish the opponents to have to play this contract so you pass.
NOTE: Playing Negative Doubles, the Opening Bidder MUST (99% of the time) re-open the bidding, if his partner (responder) failed to respond over the opponents overcall.
In the last hand you are sitting West as the opening bidder after you have opened with 1♦ and the person on your left has overcalled 1♠.
The auction proceeded Pass — Pass back to you. With this hand, you will now make a re-opening takeout double and the responder (with ♠ AQ1087 ♥ x ♦ xxx ♣ AJxx) will now pass, converting the Takeout Double to a Penalty Double.
Additional Inference Gained by Negative Doubles
If the Auction proceeds:
The 1♠ Bidder must now have 5 cards in the Spade suit because if he had only 4 cards in this suit, he would have made a negative double.
The responder bidding Hearts or Spades at the 2 level shows 5 cards in those suits after an overcall.
Note: In this sequence (and this sequence only) that the bid of 1♥ or 1♠ could be done with only 4 cards in that suit.
Note: For more practice, see Barbara Seagram’s Negative Doubles Quiz.