Friday, 14 June 2013

Support Doubles

Me and Anna were playing on Bridge Base the other night, in the Acol Club. During the hand below something occurred to me. I was going to point it out at the time, but Anna doesn't like to chat during the play. So I've saved it until now.

Have a look at the auction. I'm sitting West, and Anna is East.

NS vul
W deal
♠ 9 8 7 5 2
♥ A 5 2
♦ A J 2
♣ 8 2
♠ 3
♥ Q 9 3
♦ K T 9 6 4
♣ A Q 6 3
♠ K T
♥ T 8 7 6 4
♦ Q 5 3
♣ K T 7
♠ A Q J 6 4
♥ K J
♦ 8 7
♣ J 9 5 4

I've got the 11 point West hand. It's an easy 1♦ opener, because I have a nice 2♣ rebid. Over my 1♦ Anna replies 1♥, and South comes in with 1♠. Now it's decision time. I've got good three card support in Hearts, and a singleton, so my hand should be an excellent dummy in a Heart contract. But the problem is, I've only got three Hearts. With four of them I'd bid, but what can I do with three? If I don't show support now, I'll likely not get another chance. Could I risk raising with three? Not really. Instead, I showed my 5-4 shape with a bid of 2♣ (pass was another option).

North advanced his partner to 3♠. As Anna said afterwards, for us that hand is a clear raise to four. "Immediate 4♠". The 3♠ bid was passed round to me, and I had another decision. I reluctantly passed, but still felt a bit anxious about my three card Heart support, as we might have missed game.

What convention will let me show my three card support, and put my mind at ease? Support Doubles! On my second turn I could have doubled (instead of 2♣), to show exactly three card support.

Here's how I think Support Doubles work:

  • Suppose we open and respond, and the opponents overcall (or double) at the 1 or 2 level.
  • Then opener can double (or redouble) to show exactly three card support.

For example, out auction could have gone:

1: Exactly three Hearts.

An extra advantage of playing Support Doubles (and redoubles) are that if opener fails to make the bid, the responder knows he doesn't have three card support. And also, what else are you going to use the double for?

A final note - on this particular hand, I'm not sure the support double would have helped much, as if we get to 4♥ then the opponents bid 4♠ and make it.


  1. I'm not sure whether you are playing a strong or weak notrump, but support doubles are not recommended when playing weak because too often you need the double to show the strong balanced hand.

    If you are not playing support doubles then I think you have a clear raise to two hearts. In fact, even with no competition I think raising hearts is right - support with support!

  2. Very interesting! We do play a weak notrump, and now you mention it we have discussed the strong NT hand doubling on the second round, but I didn't connect it with this. We're not playing support doubles at the moment anyway, so I won't worry about that for now.

    Me and Anna have so far resisted ever raising with three card support, but I can see that's going to have to come soon...

  3. In France you are sent to the guillotine if you raise with three-card support and it is not popular in Poland either. But most other nations will certainly raise with fair three-card support and a singleton. One key point is that any ruffs will be with the hand with shorter trumps, which is ideal.

    Some of us think that raising with three-card support and a weak doubleton is also the best action, but I accept that this is a far more debatable action.