I was honored to give a talk during the Bridge Club of Martha’s Vineyard tournament that concluded Sunday at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. BCMV is a local affiliate of the historically African-American American Bridge Association, which was founded in the 1930s when major bridge associations were segregated. It is known for its hospitality. Special credit for the event goes to BCMV president Clara Hargrave and a team of volunteers under Dotti Arnold, Rhonda Cohen and Eric Stricoff. The event was open to all, and too many Vineyard card players missed a great time.

The subject of my talk was takeout doubles, an area that is both familiar to many bridge players and frequently misunderstood. A takeout double occurs after your opponents have opened the bidding and neither you nor your partner has bid. Those of us who grew up on Charles Goren believed players could make takeout doubles with virtually any opening hand.

Let’s see how that works in practice. You are dealt the following cards:

♠ A 2
♥ Q J 7
♦ 9 8 7 5
♣ A K 4 3

Your right-hand opponent has opened 1 ♦. What do you bid?

According to Goren, you should double to show an opening hand.

Really? Suppose your partner bids 1♠. Will you be satisfied with a possible six-card trump suit? And if you’re worried, what else can you bid? Your four-card club suit? Simply put, your double may lead to disaster. As our sainted past president would say, “C’mon, man.”

So what are the modern qualifications for a takeout double in the direct seat? Remember them as SOS:

S: Shortness in opponent’s suit.

O: Opening points as potential dummy. You can double with 10 high-card points and a void, 11 HCP and a singleton or 12 HCP and a doubleton.

S: Support for unbid suits with at least three cards in each. So let’s re-arrange the above hand for consideration as a takeout double:

♠ A 9 8 2
♥ Q J 7 5
♦ 9
♣ A K 4 3

Now you have 14 HCP with shortness in diamonds. Perfect!

What is a proper response to a takeout double?

As responder you must bid something, unless your right-hand opponent bids first. With 0-8 HCP, bid at the cheapest level possible. When there’s a choice, view a suit bid as most desirable, 1NT second and a minor suit last.

With 9-11 HCP or 8 HCP with a five-card suit, jump or cuebid.

With 12+ HCP, bid game or cue bid. Here’s how a partnership reaches game after East bids 1♣ :

NORTH
♠ 10 7 6 2
♥ Q 7
♦ K 6
♣ A K Q 9 8

SOUTH
♠ Q J 5 4
♥ K 10 8 6
♦ A J 8 2
♣ 5

East              South              West              North
1♣                DBL                Pass              2 ♣
Pass              2 ♥                  Pass              3NT
Pass              4♠                   All Pass

Cuebidding typically seeks a 4-4 fit in a major suit. When South bids 2 ♥, North cuebids 3NT, the fallback contract is there’s no major-suit fit. Realizing that North must have spades, South bids game in that suit.

Now how about rebids by the doubler? With 12-16 support points, pass unless you’re forced to bid. With 17-19 (ok to double without 3+ support for the unbid suits), raise partner’s suit or bid a suit of your own, nonforcing. With 20+ points, jump-raise partner or look for a game contract elsewhere.

The doubler had a tough choice in Friday night’s BCMV event, with West dealing and both sides vulnerable:

NORTH
♠K 8 6 3
♥A J 4 3
♦A K 6
♣J 3

WEST              EAST
♠ J                    ♠ Q 9 7 5
♥ K 7 6 5         ♥ Q 10 9 2
♦ Q J 8             ♦ 10 9 4 3
♣ A K 7 5 2     ♣9

SOUTH
♠A 10 4 2
♥8
♦7 5 2
♣ Q 10 8 6 4

The bidding proceeded as follows:

West              North              East              South
1♣                 DBL               Pass              1 ♠
Pass               3 ♠                 Pass              4 ♠
All Pass