The origin of the Optional Double is unknown. The Optional Double, which is basically a Cooperative Double, is used to show a balanced hand with sufficient high cards to defeat the final contract of the opponents in all probability, and promises support for the partner for any unbid suit.
The double of the optional doubler is an invitation for the advancer (partner) to pass for penalties or to continue the auction. Hence an optional decision. The requirements for the doubler is that the player hold a balanced to semi-balanced holding with sufficient values to sustain either decision of the advancer.
In general the Optional Double is employed, per partnership agreement, following a preemptive suit bid of any rank by the opponent on the three level as recommended by the American Bridge Contract League. The preemptive bid is not limited only to the three level. Source: The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, Sixth Edition, page 330.
However, most international partnerships employ the Optional Double only over an unsupported preemptive suit bid in a Major suit at the four level. The second requirement for this approach is also based on the fact that the advancer has not already bid or previously passed.
Level of Preemptive Bid and Initiation of an Optional Double
The Optional Double is generally limited to preemptive bids only on the three level and the four level. Optional Doubles on higher or even lower preemptive levels are not recommended, but are not disallowed by sponsoring organizations.
Length and Strength
Basically the Optional Double should be based on a balanced to semi-balanced pattern, generally a minimum of a good 16 points to a bad 17 points plus, and at least a pattern of 3-4 in both Major suits if the opening preemptive bid is in a Minor suit, and a good 4-4-3 pattern if the opening preemptive bid is in a Major suit. If the opening preempt is a Major suit, then the optional doubler should have the second Major suit protected. Many partnerships base the evaluation on the Losing Trick Count.
Three Level Optional Double: The Optional Double employed against preemptive openings on the three level and above.
West North East South Meaning 3 Double Pass North has triggered the Optional Double and is allowing South to decide whether to pass or bid.
AK7 AQ5 865 AQ83 Pass The holding of South allows South the opportunity to calculate that the final score will result in a higher score than if South competes. Bid The holding of South allows South the opportunity to calculate that the final score will result in a higher score if South competes. South can either guarantee game in all other three suits, or that the final score will be higher if declared, or that a slam try is actually possible.
In the above example, North triggers the Optional Double with a holding as shown above. East, the partner of the preemptive bidder, will most likely pass unless East holds some values and a moderate Heart holding. However, sacrificing at 4 Hearts may, under certain conditions, be the better choice if East holds very poor values. East would base any such decision normally on the state of vulnerability.
South, on the other hand, is not required to have a substantial holding in the Heart suit in order to pass the double of his partner. After an Optional Double, South has the option of passing for penalty or continuing the auction based normally upon the result of the final score.
Four Level Optional Double: The Optional Double employed against preemptive openings on the four level and above.
West North East South Meaning 4 Double Pass North has triggered the Optional Double and is allowing South to decide whether to pass or bid.
K5 AQ8 KQ98 AJ76 Pass
The holding of South allows South the opportunity to calculate that the final score will result in a higher score than if South competes.
Bid The holding of South allows South the opportunity to calculate that the final score will result in a higher score if South competes. For example, a continuance bid may be agreed to be a mild slam try or at least slam-interest.
The Optional Double is not confined to the above bidding auctions. The Optional Double can be triggered and employed in the following bidding sequences. The bridge student can exchange the preemptive opening to any suit and/or to any preempted level of three or higher.
West North East South Meaning Sequence 1: 4 Double Pass North has triggered the Optional Double and is allowing South the option to decide whether to pass or bid. Sequence 2: 4 Pass Pass Double South has triggered the Optional Double and is allowing North the option to decide whether to pass or bid. Sequence 3: 1 Pass 4 Double South has triggered the Optional Double and is allowing North the option to decide whether to pass or bid. The following bidding sequence is not possible since North is already a passed hand. Not possible: 1 Pass 4 Pass Pass Double This is not an Optional Double bidding sequence since North has previously passed.
Note: One general and generally accepted feature of the holding of the player, who has the option of passing for penalty or continuing to compete, is the holding of a good 6-card semi-solid suit, especially in a Major suit. If the advancer holds such a pattern and distributional strength, then the consensus is that the player should remove the double and continue to compete.
If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.