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When your partner opens 1NT and the opponents overcall, it can be awkward for responder.  On the auction below, what does North's 3♣ bid show?

  1. A competitive hand with long club like ♠72 Q96 93 ♣QJT762
  2. A forcing hand like ♠73 965 A9 ♣KQJT72
South West North East
1NT 2♠ 3♣  

Both the competitive 3♣ bid and the forcing 3♣ bid have legitimate bridge purposes.  Sadly, there isn't enough room for natural bidding to allow responder to compete in clubs and to force in clubs.  Natural bidding will not suffice.  Advanced partnerships should read our Lebensohl article to learn how show a game forcing hand with clubs and how to show a competitive hand with clubs.  Lebensohl is a great convention, but is a bit of a memory burden because it gives up a natural 2NT response in order to clarify the meaning of other bids.

Here are our recommendations for partnerships who don't want to add a convention to help when the opponents interfere in your 1NT auction.  

  1. A new suit at the 3-level, jump or not, is game forcing and shows a 5+ card suit.  Do not bid a new suit at the 3-level with a competitive hand.
  2. A new suit at the 2-level is competitive, showing a 5+ card suit and advertising less than invitational values.  
  3. Hands with invitational values and 5+ cards in a higher ranking suit must guess whether to advertise a competitive hand by bidding at the 2-level or advertise a game forcing hand by bidding at the 3-level. 

Note:  Adding Lebensohl to your repertoire when you are ready will allow you to show competitive hands in a lower ranking suit, and allow you to show invitational hands in a higher ranking suit.  On other auctions, it allows responder to show or deny a stopper. 

Here is how we recommend using a double by responder:

  1. If the overcall is 2♣, use a double as Stayman.  This "stolen bid" double requires a bit or memorization, but is worthwhile because it helps you find major suit fits. 
  2. If the overcall is 2 or higher, stolen bids aren’t a good idea because you need a takeout oriented bid. For example, if the auction began 1NT - 2 and you held ♠K984 Q762 84 ♣Q86, you would want to double for takeout to find a potential major suit fit. If you played Stolen Bids, you wouldn't have a reasonable bid with that hand. Playing a double as takeout oriented doesn’t prevent you from penalizing the opponents. Opener would convert the takeout oriented double for penalty with a hand like ♠A72 KJ8 AJ73 ♣KT7. Because opener may convert the double for penalty, responder should have exactly a doubleton for their takeout oriented double.

    A takeout oriented double by responder is called a "Negative Double."  Calling it a takeout oriented double would make it easier to learn and remember.  The "1NT" and "2NT" sections of the Convention Card have a checkbox to indicate you play Negative Doubles.  This is in addition to the Negative Doubles portion of the Doubles section.  

See Mel Colchamiro's article on Stolen Bid doubles (aka Mirror doubles) to learn why playing Stolen Bid doubles above 2♣ is a bad idea. It is a bit over the top, but it does reflect why takeout oriented doubles are so much better.