The negative double (aka "Sputnik") is a conventional double used by responder after opener starts the bidding with one-of-a-suit and the next player makes a suit overcall. The double always promises 6+ points and, depending on the auction, at least four cards in at least one of the unbid suits.

If one major suit is unbid, the negative double always shows that suit. If both majors are unbid, then the double shows both majors at the one-level. After an opposing 2-level overcall, the double only promises one major.

A negative double usually shows 4 cards in the unbid suit(s), although it may also be made with a 5-card or longer suit in a hand too weak to bid it directly (see below). Note also that a negative double usually denies support if partner has bid a major.

Examples of negative double sequences:

Opener Overcaller Responder
1 1 Dbl


Usually shows 4-4 in the majors. With 5-4 or longer distribution, responder should bid his longest major first. With 5-5 distribution, responder should bid 1, planning on rebidding his hearts.

Opener Overcaller Responder
1 2 Dbl


Shows at least one 4-card (or longer) major suit. Note that if responder has a 5-card (or longer) major, he must have fewer than 10 points. Otherwise, he should bid his 5-card major immediately.

Opener Overcaller Responder
1 2 Dbl


Shows 4 spades with 6+ points or 5+ spades with 6-9 points. Again, with 5+ spades and 10+ points, responder would bid 2S instead.

Opener Overcaller Responder
1 1 Dbl


Shows at least 4-4 in the minors.


Rebids by Opener

With 4+ cards in partner's shown suit, opener can bid it at the cheapest level with a minimum hand. Lacking 4 cards, opener can do one of the following:

  • Rebid a 5-card (preferably at least 6-card) suit.
  • Bid notrumps with a stopper in the enemy suit.
  • Bid a new suit naturally (a reverse still shows a strong hand).
  • Cue-bid the enemy suit with a strong balanced hand that lacks a stopper in that suit.
  • Bid partner's shown suit with only 3 cards (last resort).

Examples of opener's rebids:

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
1


Shows 3+ spades (usually 4) and 11-14 points.

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
2


Shows 4 spades and 15-17 points.

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1DblPass
3


Shows 4 spades and 18-19 points.

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
4


Shows 4 spades and 20-21 points.

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
1NT


Shows less than 4 hearts, a spade stopper, balanced or semi-balanced distribution, and 11-14 points (if playing a 15-17 1NT).

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
2NT


Shows less than 4 hearts, a spade stopper, balanced or semi-balanced distribution, and 18-19 points (if playing a 15-17 1NT).

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
2


Shows 6+ clubs and 11-16 points.

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
3


Shows 6+ clubs and 17-19 points.

Opener Overcaller Responder Opponent2
1 1 DblPass
2


Strong and artificial. All cue-bids are a one-round force.

How high to play negative doubles is a matter of partnership agreement. If an opponent makes a 3 jump overcall, for example, is a double negative or penalty? Some popular limits for negative doubles are 2, 3 and 4; in other words, the opponents' interference could be no higher than those limits in order for a double by responder to be negative.


Origins

Negative doubles were popularized by the late American expert Al Roth, who coined the convention "Sputnik" in reference to the first Soviet satellite to be launched into space in 1957. The implication was that the double was the start of a space age in bridge. The general bridge population, however, eventually settled on the term "negative double".

See also

  • Lightner Double
    A lead-directing double of an enemy slam contract.

  • Optional Double
    A conventional double made after an opponent has opened the bidding with a preempt.

  • Responsive Double
    A conventional double used when partner makes a takeout double and the next player raises his partner's suit.

  • napdragon Double
    A conventional double by fourth seat after the first three players bid three different suits.

  • SOS Redouble
    A conventional redouble that asks partner to bid a new suit.

  • Stripe-Tailed Ape Double
    A double of an enemy game contract, in hopes of stopping the opponents from continuing on to slam.

  • Support Double
    A conventional double used by opener after partner makes a suit response and the next player overcalls.

  • Takeout Double
    A conventional double that asks partner to bid one of the unbid suits.

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