The S.O.S. Redouble

We don’t know why, but our most popular columns have concerned the rarest of bridge bids — the redouble.   Let’s continue our discussion of the topic, picking up where Julie left off last week when she “Stuck it to the Man.”

You are West.  You pick up the following pretty collection of cards:


With the other side vulnerable, the starts with a pass on your left, then pass by partner and a 3♣ opening preempt on your right.

What is your best bid?

A.  Pass          B.  3♦        C.   3♠
D.  3NT          E.  Dbl

With 16 high-quality high card points, you have to bid something.  But what?  3♦ is out given its only a 4-card suit.  3NT looks tempting — you have a stopper, after all — but you are light on high-card points and there is a serious problem:  on a club lead, holding the singleton Ace, you won’t be able to hold up playing the Ace.  Particularly with partner passing on the first round, it is likely that you will have to give up the lead at least once to establish your long suit (whatever that may be), in which event the opponents will rattle off their long clubs.

So it’s between 3♠ and a double.   Each could work out.  Personally, I have discovered through hard experience that holding 5-3 in the majors, it is better to bid your 5 card major here.  Partner is more likely to have 3 spades than 4.  Responding to a take-out double, he won’t bid your long suit holding only 3.  More likely, he will bid his 4-card heart suit and you will end up in a 4-3 fit instead of a 5-3 fit.  Bidding this particularly weak 5 card suit could be wrong if partner has short spades and long hearts, but it appears to be the least of evils.  So you bid 3♠.

Oops! Wrong choice — your left-hand opponent slams his double card on the table.  Then two passes to you.  What do you do?

Since a preemptive opening shows a weak hand, doubles of overcalls of a preemptive opening are ALWAYS for penalties.    With your terrible 5-card spade suit, you have dug yourself into a hole.   Here is the bidding so far:


Is there any way you can dig yourself out of this mess ?  Click the link below to continue.

Like a double (which in its literal form, means an intention to set the contract; in its non-literal form,  a request for partner to bid a suit), redoubles can have both a literal and non-literal meaning.   The “business redouble” which we saw both in our column of last week and this past winter (click here for to read), expresses the redouble’s literal meaning:  “I think we can make the contract which the other side has doubled.”   The non-literal meaning is exactly the opposite:  it is a statement by one member of the declaring side that s/he does NOT believe that the contract can be made, and is asking her partner to “rescue” her side from disaster.  Hence, the name, “S.O.S. Redouble.”

Julie suggested last week that redoubles made in pass-out seat  (i.e., after 2 passes) are S.O.S. Redoubles, and redoubles made directly after a double are business redoubles.  That is a very good rule of thumb.  It works perfectly in this situation.

Leery of having bid 3♠ in the first place with such a poor-quality suit of only 5-card length, you know that you are about to lose your head, and so you signal this concern by redoubling in the pass-out seat.  Now your partner can figure out what to do:  with relatively long spades (3 or more — even 2 may have to suffice on a bad day), partner can simply pass; with short spades and a long suit, partner can bid that suit, expecting you to have at least some support for his suit since you made an S.O.S. redouble.

So you redouble and the bidding goes as follows:


Tabling your dummy, you watch as your partner plays 4♥ beautifully to make 5, for a cold top, after the lead by South of the ♠Q.  Here are all four hands.


A note on North’s penalty double:  this double was ill-advised.  When making a penalty double of particularly a below-game contract, you need need to be quite sure that the opponents have nowhere to which to escape.  Here North, the doubler, had no such assurance:  Partner preempted and thus is promising no strength in the unbid suits (hearts or diamonds) so it is quite likely that East/West will have a place to which to run.  Had North simply kept his mouth shut, East would  have passed, having  no indication that West was in trouble.  West would have no reason to bid again.  Playing 3♠ would have been a misery.

Try your hand at this problem.  You are East, holding the following hand:


Your partner opens.  The bidding goes:


Your bid?

That’s right.  Make an SOS Redouble.  Your RHO passed his partner’s takeout double, you are void in your partner’s suit, and you are happy no matter what suit partner bids next.  Here are all four hands.


Yet to be presented in our redouble series are the following:  “penalty” redoubles; support redoubles; control-showing redoubles; snapdragon redoubles and stripe-tailed ape redoubles.  (I’m sure I’ve missed one or two).  We look forward to discussing these types of redoubles when an appropriate hand to each type presents itself.  In the meantime, happy redoubling!

— Tom Hunt



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