Lesson Notes: The Negative Double. With Joan Butts

If you missed our 3rd free open lesson in our new video series, Learn with BBO, here's the recording of the lesson. The topic was The Negative Double, with special guest Joan Butts, from Australia. This was a video commentary lesson, with the audience asking questions after each board.

Lesson Notes: The Negative Double


When partner opens one of a suit, and right hand opponent overcalls, e.g.1 (overcall 1♠), a double by the next hand (opener's partner, the responder)is a negative double. It's meant for take-out, not penalty. It shows somepoints, but often not enough to bid naturally at the next level. A negativedouble asks partner, the opener, to bid something, so the higher the level ofthe double, the stronger you need to be. Remember "pass" is an option too…
A negative double denies three things, so make a mental check that thesethree conditions are present, and if so, the answer will be "double".

You won't have:

  • a fit for partner. (in competitive auctions, showing a fit is first priority)
  • a stopper in the overcall to be able to bid no trumps
  • the ability to show your suit/s at the appropriate level, either because youdon't have enough points, or you have two suits, and would like to showthem both

NB: With a five+ card suit and 10+ pts, responder bids their suit rather thandoubling e.g. 1 (overcall 2♣) 2♠ by responder shows 10+ points and isforcing. If responder doesn’t have enough strength to do that, start with anegative double, planning to bid the suit at the next opportunity. NB: 1♣(overcall 1) X would show four spades, and that leaves a 1♠ bid to showfive + spades.

Opener’s Rebid After a Negative Double
(Opener must show their own strength when rebidding)

  • With a minimum hand (13-15), opener will rebid at the cheapest levelavailable. Opener may pass if the next opponent competes after thenegative double. 1 (overcall 1♠) X 2♠ Now opener passes. This shows aminimum hand where opener couldn’t bid over the opponents’ 2♠.(Responder’s negative X showed the minors)
  • With a medium hand (16-18), opener jumps a level, or bids even if the nextopponent competes after the negative double: 1 (overcall 1♠) X 2♠.Opener now bids 3♣/ = medium hand, could have passed, but didn’t.
  • With a maximum hand (19-20), opener takes the partnership to game, cue-bidding the opponent’s suit if in doubt about the best contract: 1 (overcall 1♠) X 2♠. Opener now goes to game if they know which minor toplay in, ie 5♣/ OR
  • 1 (overcall 1♠) X 2♠ 3♠. Opener’s cue bid here, of the opponents’ suit,shows a good hand, but not sure where to play.

Quick Tips:

  • A negative double, responder’s double, is made after an opponentovercalls opener’s bid
  • The higher the overcall, the stronger the doubler needs to be; each levelhigher requires the equivalent of a king more (ie 3 points)
  • A negative double denies a fit for partner because showing a fit is firstpriority in competitive auctions
  • A negative double denies a stopper for no trumps
  • A negative double shows a hand that’s hard to describe (not enoughpoints to show the suit, or two suits)
  • If responder passes, opener should try to reopen with double, becauseresponder may hold the opponents’ trumps
  • 1♣ (1 overcall) X (double) = precisely four hearts and four spades
  • 1♣ (1 overcall) 1/♠ = four + hearts /spades
  • 1♣ (1 overcall) X (double) = four spades
  • 1♣ (1 overcall) 1♠ = five + spades
  • 1♣ (1♠overcall) X (double) four + hearts (denies enough hearts, or points,to bid a forcing 2)

Click here for Lesson 2 notes and replay.

Click here for Lesson 1 notes and replay.

About Joan

Joan Butts is a well-known bridge personality who's represented Australia and taught thousands of people to play. She owns a bridge club and has a passion for bridge education.

In 2011, Joan was appointed the Australian Bridge Federation’s National Teaching Coordinator. In this capacity she trains teachers, introducing them to the latest methods in bridge education, and creating and running professional development programmes.

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One comment on “Lesson Notes: The Negative Double. With Joan Butts”

  1. Is this standard? Would you bid NT or support partner's minor even though you have 4 cards in the other Major?

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