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Responsive Doubles

Responsive Doubles have their own name and spot on the convention card, but they are exactly like every other low level takeout double.  By definition responsive doubles apply as a way of 'responding' to partner's overcall or takeout double.  Let's examine some of the various situations where they apply as well as the requirements to use them...

When Partner has Overcalled

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Double here shows enough strength to enter the auction (roughly 8+ points) and is essentially takeout.  Like all of our takeout doubles, the emphasis is on the unbid major(s).  In the above example double promises 4 and the ability to play in another possible strain.

The strength required for the bid depends on the probability of landing in a reasonable contract if partner does not fit your shown major.  So, with tolerance (2-card support) for partner's major, you can double with the minimum of 8 points, as partner's major should be playable if partner does not like your suit.  Without tolerance, you need more values to double.

The requirements for this double are comparable to the following negative double:

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When Partner has made a Takeout Double

Since partner has already shown support for the other suits, doubling in response to partner's takeout double is more about letting partner know you also have points and a desire to battle for the part-score.

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With a 4-card spade suit you would freely bid the appropriate number of spades.  2 would show roughly 6-10 points while 3 would show more spades and a highly invitational hand.  We use double in this auction to say, "I have the strength to enter the auction but I don't have a good bid available."

Since partner will make their takeout double with shapes like 4-2-4-3, there is risk involved with bidding a 4-card minor suit at the 3-level.  It is better to show your strength with double as it will give you the maximum chance of stopping in the best part score.  This auction will often see partner bidding 2 and you ending in a 4-3 spade fit. Playing a 7-card fit at the 2-level with half of the total high cards is a lot safer than doing it at the 3-level.

When there are two unbid majors:

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When holding only one 4-card major and strength for game, you cannot be sure partner has a 4-card fit for your specific major.  If your hand also contains decent stoppers in the opponents' suit, it is better to start with a responsive double to see if partner has your major, and then you can still back into 3NT without a fit.

The requirements for this auction resemble the following negative double:

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When the opponents bid two separate suits:

In all the above auctions the opponents have bid and raised the same suit.  This is the original scenario that responsive doubles were invented for.   However, identical concepts apply when they take two separate bids...

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This double shows values to bid, hearts, and since hearts is the only unbid suit it also promises tolerance for spades (doubleton)

How high do they apply?

Like negative doubles, doubling in a responsive situation at higher levels must be used to show your strength.  When the opponents preempt the auction to the 4 or 5 level, you must forgo the normal distributional requirements for your double in order to express 'ownership' of the hand to your partner.  Typically responsive doubles remain pure until 3.  Higher than that they blend into card showing doubles, and are sometimes responder's only pratical option to show a flexible hand with values.  With experience and repetition you will develop a better feel and understanding of both low and high level responsive doubles.

I highly reccommend learning the modern takeout double concepts explored here and incorporating them into your general principles for take-out doubles in competitive auctions.  In fact you or your partner may have already made a responsive double without realizing it, as they are a logical corollary to negative doubles.

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