The origin of the optional double is unknown. The optional double, which is basically a cooperative double. As defined by the OEofB, Newly Revised, Sixth Edition, 2001, page 330 this double is employed to show a balanced holding with sufficient high cards to defeat the contract in all probability, and with support for any unbid suit, usually used against high-level contracts (at least the three-level).

Note: In the OEofB, New, Revised and Expanded Edition, 1971, page 313, the definition of an optional double is that it is a double used over opponent's opening preemptive bid and a type of cooperative double. The doubler's partner may pass and thereby convert to a penalty double, or bid and convert to a takeout double. Contingent upon the level of the preemptive bid and the respective vulnerability, an optional double in the direct seat should be about 16 points, or 13 points in the pass-out seat.

Note: As a consequence of these two not dissimilar definitions of an optional double, it must be concluded that the double has experienced an evolution with different, but only slight significances.

In the case that the responder of the opener passes, then 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 requirement for the doubler is that the player holds 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.

Note: However, it must be noted that 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 neither already bid nor 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. The employment of optional doubles on higher or following preemptive bid on the two level are not recommended, but are not normally 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 method.

Example of Optional Double on Three Level

West   North   East   South   Meaning
3   Double           North has triggered the optional double and is allowing South to decide whether to pass or bid. The holding of North adheres to the recommended requirements for the number of values and also for shape.
        Pass       East, the responder, passes.
   
AQ73
106
AJ5
AQ85
           
            Pass   The holding of South allows South the option of converting the optional double of partner to a penalty double. South foresees a better score with the double than with competing.
            Bid   The holding of South allows South the option 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 of 16 plus points and a distributional shape of 4-3-3 in the unbid suits.. 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.

Note: Whether to pass or to bid also depends quite strongly on the state of vulnerability.

Three Level Optional Double Conversion

Dealer: South
Vulnerable: Both or Equal Vulnerability

 
North
654
Q108
AQ43
QJ4
 
West
AKQ7
4
KJ9
K10975
 
East
1098
32
108765
A864
 
South (D)
J32
AKJ9765
2
32
 
     
South (D)   West   North   East   Meaning
3               Preemptive bid on the three level.
    Double           Optional double as per partnership agreement. (Either bid or pass for penalty).
        Pass       The responder passes.
            Pass   The advancer leaves the double standing. East converts to a penalty double.

Four Level Optional Double

West   North   East   South   Meaning
4   Double           North has triggered the optional double and is allowing South to decide whether to pass or bid.
        Pass       The responder passes.
   
K5
AQ8
KQ98
AJ76
           
            Pass   The holding of South allows South the option of converting the optional double of partner to a penalty double. South foresees a better score with the double than with competing.
            Bid   The holding of South allows South the option 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.

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 compete.
Sequence 2:   4   Pass   Pass   Double   South has triggered the optional double and is allowing North the option to decide whether to pass or compete.
Sequence 3:   1   Pass   4   Double   South has triggered the optional double and is allowing North the option to decide whether to pass or compete.
                     
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 both on the three level and four level.

 

 

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.

 


     
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