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Dumb doubles --an opinion piece.

Reese was notoriously conservative in most senses of the word from politics to actions at the bridge table. He referred to FSF as the pitiful crutch and negative doubles as muddle doubles.  He was not all that keen on Stayman either.  I can remember the following argument taking place--they use very weak pre-empts we should use penalty doubles--response OK we will firm up our openings--then we use take out doubles--and on and on.  J D R Collins used what he called LM extra--double of a weak two or three bid showed strong balanced with lower minor for takeout because he was fed up withe trend of very light openings disrupting his game.  Worth a go against some miscreants in my view.  However I would like to discuss doubles and redoubles in competition in this article.

Firstly double of 1NT--it is essential to have a penalty double available against the weak no trump, mini no-trump , or any range up to 15.  Against the 15-17 notrump it is less obvious but I still like to retain it.  My preference depends upon position over the opening I like double to say  know what to lead- and under to show balanced values where partner can confidently lead her longest suit.  If they run by far the easiest method is to play pass f a minor as forcing and penalty doubles, but takeout doubles work too.  You can and should discuss continuations.  If 1NT is overcalled and it gets back to opener penalty works well ans says lead my suit.  

Secondly after a takeout double what should redouble show.?    For most of my bridge playing life the standard approach has been any hand with 10 or more points and as may be pointed out it rarely results in a low level penalty.  So many now use it to show support.  This is in my view not best because firstly it may have let them off the hook and secondly they can sort themselves out at a conveniently low level. My considered approach would be to use an initial redouble to show say nine plus and shortage in partner's suit.  Pass and double to show 10 plus balanced.  Reserving 2NT as a raise with invitational values or better.  Using five card majors this can present a problem over a minor opening buy can be solved by letting 1 take the strain reserving 1 to show four.  Then you can use 2nt to show minors weak or strong with or without intervening double.  

One other double I really dislike is the lead showing double.  Doubling Stayman or a transfer  for the lead--prefer it to show a strong hand that would have doubled 1nt for penalties.  When you double a splinter better to say do not lead this suit rather than lead it.  

Then we come to doubles in competition and from recent polls it seems there is a wide division of opinion about the nature of a double, one example is where opps bid three suits and partner doubles--as a simple soul this for me in penalties and can usually take care of a retreat too.  It actually matters that clear cut penalty situations are well defined.  This the area where points are won and lost and real expert pairs devote a lot of time to this.  Support doubles are often double edged but care needs to be taken in competitive auctions.  Recently there was poll whereby a 1 response was made on AJ10x and partner made a support double and quite a lot of contributors suggested that 2 showed five but there was nowhere else to go. I also got to take evasive action after partner bid 1NT in the sandwich position whereby 1NT was doubled to show three card support--not universal but awkward in a scratch partnership, as it happened nothing bad happened but it was awkward.  The main thing is ito build a portfolio where agreements are needed, in any event when you take action in a new situation try and avoid an ambiguous bid. 

I am sure there are plenty of other situations where doubles need definition, please feel free to offer opinions.  

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