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Anyone else play 'hunting' doubles?

#1 User is offline   Jinksy 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 06:17

Suppose you have an all natural auction like



Let's assume you've agreed your pass is forcing. Most people seem to play takeout doubles here, but my partner and I have 'invented' a system, though I'm sure we can't be the first to play it, where rather than the 2-way partition between takeout and penalties, we play a three-way partition. Thus pass either shows a hand that's hoping to penalty pass a takeout double from P, or a pure hand that has no intention of sitting for one. Meanwhile, double shows a middling sort of hand, canonically with three trumps to two honours, such that if the opps are in a 5-2 fit with trumps splitting 3-3, you may still want to penalise them.

Some examples:



You pass 2D, and pull his double (possibly to 3D, to ensure you find your right fit, since P will often have to double on off-shape hands to give you the chance to pass)




You pass and hope to pass his double.




You double, and hope that partner can pass on a layout such as:



People often refer to these as something like 'optional doubles', 'action doubles', or similar, but whenever I look up the meaning of such things it's always much vaguer - all of which seem to be vague variations on 'competitive' or 'values'. These - which, for want of better terminology and because it sounds cooler we call hunting doubles - are quite specific:

  • You have to be in a forcing pass situation below a preagreed level
  • You must have a realistic chance of catching them in a 7-card fit (eg opps can't have competitively bid and raised the suit - unless it could still be on a 7-card fit)
  • You have to be acting directly after RHO has bid a suit as an offer of a place to play, in a situation where he rates to have most of his side's values in the suit
  • Double wouldn't be pure penalties (eg you haven't bid and raised your own suit)


Broadly it changes 'pass-then-pull' from a statement about strength to a statement about shape/ODR.

You obviously need to have a clear agreement about when pass is forcing, and how high you play this (we play below 3N, but it rarely comes up above 2N). You also need to have a specific agreement about an auction like this:



Here responder has the suit but opener is disproportionately likely to have the honours, even if he only has a doubleton.

I suspect one of the reasons we've never encountered anyone else explicitly playing this this is it comes up most often when we double their weak NT, which doesn't happen much outside the UK. But there are various other situations where it can be nice:

  • We double their strong NT for penalties
  • They double our NT for penalties and we redouble naturally
  • After 1a X XX (points and no fit), where the opps start scrambling
  • When the opps directly overcall responder's 2/1 bid


Is anyone else familiar with it in this more specific form? Does it have a real name? Is there a good reason no-one else plays it?

For what it's worth, we've had good results. Beyond just finding penalties more often, it allows you to play more low-level passes as forcing, since you're less likely to accidentally double them into game or bid to a no-play part score.
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#2 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 06:29

As you suggested, it seems fairly specific to weak NT land. Doubling strong NT for penalties is rarely wise in my experience and many of us use that double to show a certain distribution instead.
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#3 User is offline   Jinksy 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 06:52

View Postpescetom, on 2021-October-08, 06:29, said:

As you suggested, it seems fairly specific to weak NT land. Doubling strong NT for penalties is rarely wise in my experience and many of us use that double to show a certain distribution instead.


The majority of people play it this way, but there's a sizeable minority including some very strong players who like to play it for penalties in some or all circumstances even over a strong NT. Meanwhile, there are usually some pairs playing a weak NT in most parts of the world, in a strong club or other nonstandard system, and the latter two other circumstances I listed are very common. So it doesn't make much sense that people wouldn't play something like this for lack of relevance.
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#4 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 07:42


Jinksy 'Suppose you have an all natural auction like this
Let's assume you've agreed your pass is forcing. Most people seem to play takeout doubles here, but my partner and I have 'invented' a system, though I'm sure we can't be the first to play it, where rather than the 2-way partition between takeout and penalties, we play a three-way partition. Thus pass either shows a hand that's hoping to penalty pass a takeout double from P, or a pure hand that has no intention of sitting for one. Meanwhile, double shows a middling sort of hand, canonically with three trumps to two honours, such that if the opps are in a 5-2 fit with trumps splitting 3-3, you may still want to penalise them.'

Jinksy 'Some examples: You pass 2D, and pull his double (possibly to 3D, to ensure you find your right fit, since P will often have to double on off-shape hands to give you the chance to pass)'

Jinksy 'You pass and hope to pass his double.'

Jinksy 'You double, and hope that partner can pass on a layout such as:'

View Post' timestamp=, on 2021-October-08, 06:17, said:

People often refer to these as something like 'optional doubles', 'action doubles', or similar, but whenever I look up the meaning of such things it's always much vaguer - all of which seem to be vague variations on 'competitive' or 'values'. These - which, for want of better terminology and because it sounds cooler we call hunting doubles - are quite specific: You have to be in a forcing pass situation below a pre-agreed level, You must have a realistic chance of catching them in a 7-card fit (eg opps can't have competitively bid and raised the suit - unless it could still be on a 7-card fit)You have to be acting directly after RHO has bid a suit as an offer of a place to play, in a situation where he rates to have most of his side's values in the suit. Double wouldn't be pure penalties (eg you haven't bid and raised your own suit)Broadly it changes 'pass-then-pull' from a statement about strength to a statement about shape/ODR. You obviously need to have a clear agreement about when pass is forcing, and how high you play this (we play below 3N, but it rarely comes up above 2N). You also need to have a specific agreement about an auction like this:

Here responder has the suit but opener is disproportionately likely to have the honours, even if he only has a doubleton.

View Post' timestamp=, on 2021-October-08, 06:17, said:

I suspect one of the reasons we've never encountered anyone else explicitly playing this this is it comes up most often when we double their weak NT, which doesn't happen much outside the UK. But there are various other situations where it can be nice: We double their strong NT for penalties. They double our NT for penalties and we redouble naturally. After 1a X XX (points and no fit), where the opps start scrambling. When the opps directly overcall responder's 2/1 bid. Is anyone else familiar with it in this more specific form? Does it have a real name? Is there a good reason no-one else plays it? For what it's worth, we've had good results. Beyond just finding penalties more often, it allows you to play more low-level passes as forcing, since you're less likely to accidentally double them into game or bid to a no-play part score.

I like Jinksy's convention name: "Hunting Doubles". :)
It seems like a good idea: Meckstroth and Rodwell play something vaguely similar in high-level competitive auctions: Double = T/O. Pass suggests that partner doubles.
David Burn proposes 2-way doubles in some auctions. e.g. over opponent's Multi
(2=weak 6-card M) X(=13+ HCP) (2=P/C) ??
He suggests that double shows either
1. Penalties (a heart stack) or
2. Takeout.
Poor partner has to guess which :) I don't much like that idea :(
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#5 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 10:21

Your method is similar to 'pass/double inversion'. Passing shows a penalty double until evidence to the contrary arises, and partner will assume so and double unless they have a hand that would run from a penalty double. By contrast, double shows a hand with no clear direction - some defence but also values that work in other suits. And hands with no defence at all pass, then pull the almost-mandatory double.

I know of two downsides to this method, but there might be more. The first, obvious, downside is the confusion on when it applies. If you mix up your 'hunting' doubles with more standard doubles (whether takeout or penalty) it is almost impossible to recover. The second downside is slightly more subtle, and might just average out. Consider:

If the KQ-tight of diamonds is too extreme swap the queen for a small one and add some points in a major suit. Add a few points to the South hand if that makes the pass more palatable. Most pairs playing standard will get to 2X or 2, but using hunting doubles North has to take the final guess. Or would someone deviate earlier?
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#6 User is offline   nullve 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 10:38

View PostDavidKok, on 2021-October-08, 10:21, said:

The second downside is slightly more subtle, and might just average out. Consider:

If the KQ-tight of diamonds is too extreme swap the queen for a small one and add some points in a major suit. Add a few points to the South hand if that makes the pass more palatable. Most pairs playing standard will get to 2X or 2, but using hunting doubles North has to take the final guess. Or would someone deviate earlier?

View PostJinksy, on 2021-October-08, 06:17, said:

Thus pass either shows a hand that's hoping to penalty pass a takeout double from P, or a pure hand that has no intention of sitting for one.

South's double doesn't look like it's for takeout.
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#7 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 11:28

That is because it is not.
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#8 User is offline   nullve 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 12:39

You're right.

View PostJinksy, on 2021-October-08, 06:17, said:

Thus pass either shows a hand that's hoping to penalty pass a takeout double from P, or a pure hand that has no intention of sitting for one.

I guess I took for granted that the hope was for something possible to happen. :(
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#9 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 12:59

View PostJinksy, on 2021-October-08, 06:52, said:

The majority of people play it this way, but there's a sizeable minority including some very strong players who like to play it for penalties in some or all circumstances even over a strong NT. Meanwhile, there are usually some pairs playing a weak NT in most parts of the world, in a strong club or other nonstandard system, and the latter two other circumstances I listed are very common. So it doesn't make much sense that people wouldn't play something like this for lack of relevance.

I remember that discussion thanks, but 27+8% is still a clear minority, especially if you consider that penalty is the traditional solution rather than the other way round.
Not saying there is anything wrong with your proposal, it looks sound to me: I just don't run up against weak NT often enough in this small neck of the woods, nor are people bidding strong NT on nothing as others seem to encounter.
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#10 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 13:04

View PostJinksy, on 2021-October-08, 06:17, said:

([...] P will often have to double on off-shape hands to give you the chance to pass)
You may have missed this, nullve.

Or do these methods not allow you to penalise if both you and your partner have length in their bid suit? If you disclose that it would be simple enough for the opponents to bid their shortest suit and lean back, no?
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#11 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 14:12

Start at the beginning. In WNT land, a rather large portion of good pairs play that Responder's Pass is forcing. How does this change things? For a start, the given auction will never actually occur since Opener will XX here rather than bidding 2. So in an auction such as (1NT) - X - (P*) - P; XX, where * is a hand that wants to play 1NTXX or some 2-suited hand (say +, + or + for one popular method), what is the system? P/D Inversion on from the opposite side? or not? And if you do play system on, what is to stop Responder with the strong hand from pretending to be weak knowing the auction cannot be dropped. You are after all exchanging CCs, alerting and telling the opps your method, right?

Moving on, after Doubler's Pass, what are the criteria for partner's X? If it is purely on shape grounds, you will usually, but not always, arrive at a sensible strain but often have little idea of where you stand in terms of level. If Responder will not X with, say, a weak balanced hand, you are likely to end up in a silly spot.

Anyway, I have seen methods like this suggested often enough. Not so precise as HHx in their suit - typically it just shows a decent 3 card holding - but perhaps you will find you relax your standards for X over time with a little practical experience. There used to be an online site where they were highly recommended by one of England's top female players. I assume that site is long gone though. Anyway, the TL:DR is that the method is playable, has some advantages but also some issues. As long as you and your partner are sure of what you are doing, and making sure the opps are also in on the joke, it's all good.
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#12 User is offline   Gilithin 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 14:15

View PostDavidKok, on 2021-October-08, 13:04, said:

You may have missed this, nullve.

Or do these methods not allow you to penalise if both you and your partner have length in their bid suit? If you disclose that it would be simple enough for the opponents to bid their shortest suit and lean back, no?

Many do. One of the more popular defences in the BBO Acol Club is Wriggle, which basically involves going through each suit in turn as a transfer (starting with XX) until you either reach your own suit or the opps stop doubling.
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#13 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2021-October-08, 14:29

I think I'm not understanding - how does Wriggle impact the opponents' ability to double? Both doubling on shortness and doubling on length cater to this by clarifying trump length.

I play pass by responder as forcing, but not unequivocally forcing to XX. Opener may bid a 5-card suit instead. Plenty of options available.
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