Off Shape Takeout Doubles

The origin of this version of the Takeout Double is unknown. The concept behind this particular double is that the doubler is not promising a holding equivalent to and meets the requirement of a traditional Takeout Double. The doubler does not have at least 3 support cards in the unbid suits, but values to compete in the auction.

This variation on the concept of the Takeout Double is also known as Minimum Off Shape Takeout Double, which refers to the required strength of the holding. The required strength of the holding should be that of an opening bid. However, the regular and accepted designation is Off-Shape Takeout Double.

The following example shows the employment of such a double in competition. It occurred at the Third European Open Bridge Championships conducted in Antalya, Turkey, between June 15 and June 30, 2007, and reported in Bulletin 4.

The analysis of the commentator follows:

East has a difficult bid over both two Spades and three Spades. Pass might well be the popular choice. Two Spades actually went three off for 150 to France. In the Closed Room Helen Erichsen’s off-shape take-out double led to a thin Three No Trump for Espen Erichsen.

Philippe Soulet led the Spade King and when South threw a Diamond. Espen Erichsen, fearful of a Heart switch, won at once to tackle Clubs. When North played low he faced his first decision.

With only one entry back to hand he had to guess now. When he put in the Queen and it lost to the King, matters looked bad. However, Michel Bessis now switched to a low Heart.

Espen Erichsen put in the Ten and, needing this trick, let it win, even though this apparently blocked his route back to hand.

A winning line now is to play a Diamond, followed by the Ace of Hearts and two rounds of Clubs. North, on lead, has to concede an entry to the West hand. However, Espen Erichsen chose another successful route. He led a second Club to the Ace, then the Ace of Hearts and the third Club.

At this point Michel Bessis discarded a second Diamond. North won and switched to the King of Diamonds. Had South kept the extra Diamond declarer would have needed to duck the King to endplay North. He surely would have done this as he had a count on the hand, but with only three missing Diamonds Espen Erichsen could safely win the Ace, cash the Queen, and exit with a Diamond. Michel Bessis could cash two tricks in the suit, but had to concede the rest to West.

This was nail-biting 600 and 10 IMPs to Erichsen. The Norwegians lead 20-5.

Distribution – Pattern – Shape

If the opponent opens the auction with a Major suit and the next player holds a distribution of 3M-2M-4D-4C and opening point count, the question remains whether the player in rotation should double. It is not in question as to whether the player in rotation may make a call of double, since this action is not penalized by the official Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge.

The question is whether the player should make such an off-shape takeout double, and whether it is to the advantage of the player to risk such a gambling action.

The guidelines are few and the employment questionable, but sponsoring organizations do allow such off-shape doubles for takeout. The recommended amount of values equals that of a normal opening bid, especially if the opponent opens a Minor suit.

However, if the opponent opens a Major suit, then the values should increase by at least a Queen. Some partnerships require a King. The one requirement is that the pattern does not qualify the holding for a No Trump overcall, generally meaning that the player does hold a stopper in the suit of the opponent in order to make an overcall of No Trump.

In general, such off-shape doubles are seldom and are, to state the obvious, a gamble. However, they are employed often by players on the international level and at international events.