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The “Standard BBO Italia” System by Mario Martinelli (3) The Sputnik double

Posted on 14 February 2012

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Mario Martinelli is a Neapolitan excellent player and accredited bridge teacher. He is an expert about systems and he developed the system “Standard BBO Italia”. The last version of it (2012) can be browsed on Vincenzo delle Cave’s BBO Italia website. Mario is also the nephew of Eugenio Chiaradia, the creator of the Neapolitan Club, a system which our magazine is dedicated to. Neapolitan Club will publish a summary of the system developed by Martinelli both in Italian and in English. In todays’ article we publish the first part of chapter about “The Sputnik double”.

  

The Sputnik double

first part

 

The Sputnik double is a negative double available to responder after opponent’s overcall. This convention is due to the American partnership Roth-Stone in 1957, and it owes its name to the homonymous first Russian satellite. Since then a lot has changed in the bidding methods, so it should be obvious that what we nowadays call “Sputnik double” (“negative double” in English) is not exactly what it used to be. In this article we will talk about the double as it is used in modern five-card major bidding systems. (The translator has decided to substitute the word “Sputnik” with “negative” in the remaining part of the text).

 

How to recognise a negative double

Responder’s double is negative when both following conditions are met:

  • Partner opened one of a suit, not higher

  • Opponent overcalls with a suit bid, either jump or not. After NT overcalls, natural or artificial, negative double does not apply.

South West North

1♣ 1♠ Double

One-level opening and one-of-a-suit overcall: North’s double is negative.

South West North

1 2 Double

One-level opening and two-of-a-suit overcall: North’s double is negative.

South West North

1 3♣ Double

One-level opening and jump overcall: North’s double is still negative.

South West North

1♠ 1NT Double

North’s double is NOT negative (rather penalties), because West did not overcall with a suit bid but with a NT bid.

South West North

2♠ 3 Double

North’s double is NOT negative (rather penalties),because South did not open at the one-level.

South West North

1 2 Double

North’s double is NOT negative rather it shows some high card points),because West’s bid is not natural.

 

Strength of a negative double

The negative double does not have a point count upper limit. In older bridge books you may find suggestions such as 8-11 points, but this is not how the double is presently used. In modern systems the minimum is 6 “good” points after a one-level overcall, that is the same amount of points responder needs to compete at the one level with his own suit.

Generally, the minimum point count for the double depends both on the interference’s level and on the support responder has for opener’s possible rebids. Approximately we can set a minimum of 8 points for a two-level double and 10 for a three-level double or higher, although the overcalled suit’s rank plays an important role: more than the level of the bid, it is important to think about opener’s rebid to take the double out.

Another decisive element to decide whether to double or not with marginal hands is tolerance (two cards) in opener’s suit, since opener may rebid a 5 card suit with a minimum hand and nothing better to say.

To sum up, the best definition for the strength of a negative double is: “The maximum point range is unlimited, the minimum is… intelligent”.

 

What does a negative double mean?

The negative double is primarily used to show a four-card or longer major that cannot be explicitly bid because of the overcall. Let us carefully look at the following examples.

South West North

1♠ P 1

North: ♠A64 K965 87 ♣10782

After West’s pass, North normally bids his four-card major at the one-level.

South West North

1♣ 1♠ Double

North: ♠A64 K965 87 ♣10782

With the same hand, North uses the negative double after interference in order to show the other four-card major.

In the second example North has no option but double, because his hearts and his strength are enough to respond at the one-level if there is no overcall, but they are not enough to bid 2 after overcall. This is because the 2  response in a natural system shows at least 5 hearts and at least 10 points.

 

South West North

1♦ 1 2

North: ♠A6 KQ965 87  ♣K1082

2 is forcing for one round and shows at least 5 hearts and 10 points or more, unlimited.

 

South West North

1♣ 1♠ Double

North: ♠Q6KQ96587 ♣10932

Even though North has 5 hearts, he is too weak to bid 2 hearts. So he opts for a negative double.

 

South West North

1 1♠ Double

North: ♠K64 KQ96 87 ♣AQ82

Even though there are enough points to bid at the two-level, the hand contains only 4 hearts. So, double.

 

South West North

1♣ 2 Double

North: ♠Q1065 K68742 ♣A5

The negative double shows the other major, and denies the possibility to bid it explicitly. 2♠ would show 5+ cards and 10+ points.

 

South West North

1 Pass 1♠

North: ♠KJ53  J7  8764 ♣A102

This time responder has to show his 4 card spade suit, and on West’s pass he can do it at the one-level.

 

South West North

1 2♣ Double

North: ♠KJ53  J7  8764  ♣A102

With the same hand, North uses the negative double, because a 2♠ bid would show 5+ cards and 10+ points.

 

South West North

1 2♣ Double

North: ♠AJ53  J7  Q764  ♣A102

Here the number of spades is not sufficient to respond 2♠.

 

South West North

1 2♣ Double

North: ♠AJ1053 J7  Q764  ♣32

Five spades are enough to bid 2S, but the hand does not contain enough points. Double again.

 

South West North

1 2♣ 2♠

North: ♠AJ1053  ♥A7  ♦Q764 ♣32

We do not use the negative double when we can bid the major suit explicitly.

In the examples discussed so far, one of the two major suits was always bid either by opener or by the opponent. The negative double was then clearly showing a precise suit, i.e. the other major.

 

If the opening bid is one of a minor suit, and the overcall is in the other minor, the situation is more ambiguous, because opener does not know which major responder is showing.

South West North

1♣ 2 Double

South does not know whether North has hearts, spades, or both majors.

South West North

1 2♣ Double

Same as above.

South West North

1♣ 1 Double

Here the situation is completely different, because North could have bid a suit at the one-level. This case is described later on.

 

In cases like the previous ones, it would be ideal to double with four cards in both major suits. However, in a less-than-perfect world, responder may have to use the negative double having only one four-card major, in order not to lose a 4-4 fit. In this scenario it is important that responder’s hand tolerates anothe rcontract if opener bids the major responder does no thave.

 

South West North

1♣ 2 Double

North: ♠K653 Q963 K7  ♣1065

Here the shape is ideal and North doubles without problems even with minimum values for a two-level double.

 

South West North

1♦ 3♣ Double

North: ♠J653  AQ63  K7  ♣1065

Both majors and 10 points impose the double even at the three-level.

 

South West North

1 2♣ Double

North: ♠K83 AJ107 J5 ♣8742

North hopes to find a 4-4 heart fit. If not they can still play in the 4-3 spade fit, or 5-2 diamond fit.

 

South West North

1 2♣ Double

North: ♠KQ53 A4 J974 ♣876

North doubles hoping to find a 4-4 spade fit. Otherwise they can play in diamonds or NT.

 

South West North

1♣ 2 Pass

North: ♠J853 K4A974 ♣876

Pass. If North doubles and opener bids hearts, there is no acceptable way out.

 

South West North

1♣ 2 Double

North: ♠KJ53 K4  A974 ♣876

Double, hoping to find spades. If opener bids hearts, there are enough points to play in NT.

***

The “Standard BBO Italia” System by Mario Martinelli. English edition by Laura Cecilia Porro for Neapolitan Club.

Read “The Roth-Stone double (Sputnik)” by Paolo Enrico Garrisi >>

***

February 14, 2012

 
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