"What did her double mean?" is one of those questions that gets tossed around the casual bridge table. (I'll get to "is that forcing?" another time.)
Here is a look at some popular doubles, where they are found, and what they mean.Takeout double
This is a double, early in the auction, that asks -- nay, forces -- the doubler's partner to bid a suit. The doubler has opening points and support for the unbid suits.
Takeout doubles apply after a preemptive opening just as they do after a 1-level opening. You may pass your partner's double of a preempt only if you are rather sure you can set the contract.
If a player's first bid is a double, chances are that double is for takeout. If the player has bid already in the auction and then doubles on a later round, chances are that double is not for takeout.Strength-showing double
This is still a takeout double but I'm giving it its own section to call attention to it. Whenever you overcall, you indicate your point count. A jump overcall is the weakest bid you can make that's not a pass. A non-jump overcall is stronger, promising 10+ points. If you have a whopping hand in overcalling position, regardless of your suit distribution, double. This is the strongest bid you can make. It forces your partner to bid.
In the next round, with 13 or so points, pass your partner's suit unless it's awful. If you bid a new suit after your double -- especially at a higher level -- that indicates you have more points.Responsive double
This is a double in response to partner's takeout double. Partner has support for the unbid suits and wants you to pick one -- you have points too, and want him to pick a suit.
It also works when partner has named a suit you don't like, to say you have points but no support for that; can he name his second suit please?Business double
This is the original double, the double they were doing in the 16th century, also known as the penalty double. It comes when the opponents' auction is drawing to a close and you don't think they can make it; e.g. if you have four trumps in your hand, or if they seemed to be struggling to find a fit.Matos double
This is a version of the business double. Its actual origin is lost in history, but it's named for Michaelangelo Matos, the dearly remembered founder of this site. A Matos double is a penalty double issued by a player who has a void in the trump suit, having deduced that his partner probably has a lot of trump. The declarer will assume the doubler is the one with the excess of trump, and misplay the hand.Negative double
This form of takeout double occurs after partner has bid and the opponent has overcalled. It says: "I have some points and a suit, but thee opponent got in the way of my naming it." In the diagram, the doubler has spades but fewer than 10 points, so can't bid 2S. Lead-directing double
This is an opportunistic double, usually in the middle of the opponents' auction. It's clear that the opponents have all the points and are going to play a game or a slam. You double a suit they happen to mention en route, as a way of indicating that this is the suit you'd like led to you if you have a chance of defeating the contract. In the diagram, South wants North to open with a diamond. 4NT is Blackwood, of course.Lightner double
This is a conventional double. It is a double of a slam bid that sounds like a penalty double (and functions as one, because it's the final bid) but has the conventional meaning of requesting that partner choose an unusual lead, not what he would have led otherwise. The doubler may have a void in a side suit, or honors in dummy's suit, such that a non-standard lead may be the only way to defeat the slam. Sitting North in the diagram, I would lead a heart.
There are plenty more doubles where those came from. What's your favorite?
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