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The support double is a double by opener to show 3-card support for responder's suit. It's used when opener starts with one of a suit, responder makes a new suit reply, and the next player interferes. The purpose of the support double is to help you distinguish 3- and 4-card trump support, which can be invaluable. Here's the type of bidding problem that the support double can solve:

WestEast
KTS653
HAJ8KQ952
DK97A85
CQT963KJ

West    
1
1NT

North    
Pass
2

East    
1
3NT

South    
1
All Pass


East's 1 only promises a 4-card suit. So when South overcalls 1, West's options are limited. Pass feels conservative and 2 would promise 4-card support, so she settles for 1NT given her balanced hand and spade stopper.

Now East is stuck over 2. He wants to probe for 3-card support but can't. Wanting to reach game, he guesses to bid 3NT. Unfortunately this fails when the opponents lead a spade to knock out West's king, and then regain the lead with the A, to run spades.

This is where support doubles come into play. Imagine that West could have doubled 1S to show 3-card support:

West    
1
Dbl
North    
Pass
2
East    
1
4
South    
1
All Pass


What a difference in the auction. West's double shows exactly 3 hearts. East, now aware of the 8-card fit, simply bids 4, making.

What do East-West lose by using a support double? A natural penalty double of 1S, which is a paltry price to pay. As seen in the example above, the value of differentiating 3-card and 4-card support can be a game swing.


When to Play Support Doubles

Now, here's the fine print when playing support doubles:

  • Support doubles are only in effect when opener begins the auction with 1-of-a-suit, and responder bids a new suit. In other words, don't play support doubles when your side bids no-trumps.
  • Making a support double is opener's first priority. This is more important than rebidding no-trumps to show an enemy stopper, rebidding a 6-card suit, bidding a new suit, etc. Opener denies 3-card support if she makes any call other than double. (Excluding natural raises of responder's suit of course.)
  • Support doubles are on through all competition up to and including 2. It does not matter if opener's LHO bids or not. It only matters if RHO bids.
  • There is no point count minimum or maximum to make a support double.
  • If the opponents' interference is in the form of a double, a redouble by opener can be used to show 3-card support. This is called a support redouble.

This is a lot to digest! Some illustrations of these principles are below.


Examples

West    
1
Dbl
North    
1

East    
1

South    
2


Double shows exactly 3 spades. It does not matter 1) whether North bids or not, or 2) whether North-South bid the same suit.


West    
1
2
North    
1

East    
1

South    
2


2 guarantees 4 hearts. West would have doubled holding only 3-card support.


West    
1
2
North    
Pass

East    
1

South    
1NT


2 shows 6+ clubs and denies as many as 3 diamonds. Making a support double is opener's first priority.


West    
1
Redbl
North    
Pass

East    
1

South    
Dbl


Support doubles can also be used if the opponents double responder's bid. In this case, West makes a support redouble.


Additional Considerations

  • Responder's rebids are natural.
  • Support doubles can be extremely easy to forget, especially when the opponents bid and raise a suit. Don't forget them!

See also

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

  • Maximal Double
    A conventional double used as a major suit game try.

  • Negative Double
    A conventional double used by responder after opener starts the bidding with one-of-a-suit and the next player makes a suit overcall.

  • 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.

  • Snapdragon 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.

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

  • Thrump Double
    A double of a 3-level preempt asking partner to bid 3NT with a stopper.

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