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Sputnik Double
The Sputnik Double
The Sputnik Double (S.D.) was first devised in 1957, the year in which the USSR put a device into the Earth’s orbit called Sputnik. It was devised to solve the problems of responder after an overcall by the enemy.

The Sputnik Double is an immediate double of R.H.O’s suit overcall after partner has opened the bidding with one of a suit.
e.g.s. 1C  -  1H  -  X ;         1D  -  lS  -  X ;         lH  -  2C  -  X ;     lS  -  2D  -  X

Traditionally this would be a penalty double but, as penalty doubles are rare, it is more efficient to use the double as a take-out manoeuvre.

For instance consider the following hands given that partner’s lD opening has been overcalled 1S:

    (a) xxx                (b) xx        
         AQxx                  KQxx    
         Axx                     xxx        
         xxx                      Kxxx    
                    
With (a) you would like to tell partner that you have some values, a four card heart suit and diamond tolerance.

With (b) it would be good to be able to show both clubs and hearts without misleading partner as to suit lengths or hand strength. The S.D. would show hearts and imply either a club suit or diamond support. After doubling with hand (a), if partner bids hearts you have found your fit, if clubs you can correct to diamonds. On hand (b) the double allows you to find your heart or club fit or partner will rebid his five card diamond suit.

The Sputnik Double comes in two forms:

1.    The Low Power Sputnik Double

    Usually 6 to 11 points with certain distributional features. You will not bid again unasked
    other than to correct to opener’s first suit or to show invitational values (either by freely
    raising partner’s suit or bidding 2NT).

The distributional features are:
(a).    If the auction contains one unbid major you are showing four cards in that major. In addition
    you will either have four cards in the other unbid suit or tolerance for partner’s suit.
(b).    If the auction contains two unbid majors you either have four cards in each or four cards in
    one and support for opener’s suit (you may be prepared to bid 2NT if a major suit fit does
    not come to light).
(c).    If the auction contains two unbid minors you will have 4 cards in each or four cards in one
    and support for opener’s major.

2      The High Power Sputnik Double

    Usually 12+ points where you intend to drive to game.
    e.g.    KJxx       
             AQ                   
             QJxxx                   
              Jx

1C — 1H — X    Here 1S or 2D are not forcing (q.v. later).
So the S.D. will unearth the spade fit if it exists and, if not, we intend to rebid 3NT.


    e.g.    AQJxx       
              xx                   
              KQxx                   
              Qx                   


lC — lH — X        1S would not be forcing in our style, so we double first intending to follow with a bid in spades. Introducing a new suit after first doubling creates a game forcing situation.

Having agreed to play the S.D. in this way it affects the other bids that you can make.

1.    A bid of a suit at the one level — shows 6-11 points, a 5+ card suit and is not forcing.

2.    A simple bid of a new suit at the two level — shows 7-11 points, a 5+ card suit and is not forcing.

3.     Jump in a new suit —    either a good 6+ card suit or a 5+ card suit and good support for opener’s suit. It is forcing to game.

4.    Cue-bid in the opponent’s suit — game forcing and showing any hand that cannot be described using other methods.

5.    Simple bid in a new suit at the three level — natural and game forcing.
           
It would appear that by adopting the S.D. we are giving up on any lucrative penalties that might occur after an injudicious overcall. Not so!

e.g.   KJl09xx   
         x          
         Kxx       
         xxx

After 1H — 1S — ?  We should pass smoothly. Opener, with any hand with which he would have passed a penalty double from his partner, is required to re-open with a double.

   
        i.e.    1H  -  1S  -  P  -  P    Now we can pass........
                  X   -  P    -  ?
 
While the S.D. can be played up to any level of overcall, for our purposes it only operates up to 2S. A double of an overcall above that level is value showing and does not promise any particular distributional features.

Opener will always operate on the assumption that partner’s S.D. is the low power kind... until responder tells him otherwise.


Let us have a look at some examples:

What call do you make with the following hands after the auction starts: 1C – lS

1. xxx            2. xx              3. xx             4. x             5. Jxx
    KQ10x         xxx                QJxx             Qxxx           Ax
    Q9xx            AQJxx            xxxxx           AKxxx        KJxx
    Jx                 Qxx                Kx                KJx            KQxx

1. X  - classic showing 4 hearts and 4 diamonds, if partner rebids 2C we pass.
2. 2D  - not forcing and showing 5+ card suit.
3. X  -  almost classic, those diamonds are a 4 carder! If partner rebids 2C we pass.
4. X  - the high powered Sputnik double. If partner does not bid hearts we will introduce our diamonds to create a game force (we will end in 3NT, 5C or 5D)
5. 2S  - here we cannot double without 4 hearts, we can’t support clubs immediately being too strong, the  diamonds are not long enough or strong enough to jump in. Only the cue-bid left. Partner will bid notrumps with a stop in spades or otherwise do something sensible. 3NT or 5C are the likely game contracts.

And after the auction starts: ID - 1H - ?

6. l0xxx        7. AQJxx        8. KJxx        9. Kx            10. Kxxx
    xx                 xx                   x                  KJ9xxx           AQ
    Kxx              Jxx                 Q10xx          x                     Kxxx
    KQ10x         KQx              Axxx            Qxxx               Jxx

6. X  - to show the 4 spades. We will return to clubs if partner does not bid spades.
7. X  - intending to make a forcing rebid in spades. We will end in 3NT, 4S or 5C.
8. X  - if partner rebids in a suit we will make an invitational raise.
9. P  - here we have a penalty double so must pass smoothly. When partner reopens with a double we will convert it to penalties by passing.
10. X   - here we can explore for our 4-4 spade fit and if it doesn’t exist we mean to rebid 3NT.


What does the double promise in the following auctions? (Assuming low-power type double)

1.    1C - 1H - X        2. 1D - 1S - X        3.  1S - 2D - X           4. 1H - 2C - X

5.    lC - 1D - X         6. 1D - 2C - X        7. 1H - 1S - X            8. 1S  - 2H - X

1. 4 spades with 4 diamonds or club tolerance
2. 4 hearts with 4 clubs or diamond tolerance
3. 4 hearts with 4 clubs or spade tolerance
4. 4 spades with 4 diamonds or heart tolerance
5. both majors or one major and club tolerance
6. both majors or one major and diamond tolerance
7. both minors or one minor and heart tolerance
8. both minors or one minor and spade tolerance – since we can end at the 3 level will have 9-11pts

What does the last bid imply in the following auctions?

1. 1H - 1S - 2C    2. 1D - 1H - X - P        3. 1H - 2D - X - P        4. 1D - 1S - X - P
                                 2C -  P   - 2S                2S  -  P   - 3S               4H

5. 1D - 1H - X - P     6. 1D - 1S - X- P         7. 1C - 1S - X - 2D     8. 1C - 1D -  X - 2D
    2C  -  P  - 2D            2C -  P  - P                   2H  -  P -  P                2S  -  P  -  3C

1. responder has 5+ clubs with at most 11 pts.
2. responder has 5+ spades and game values
3. responder has invitational values for spades (i.e. would have raised a 1S opening to 3S)
4. opener has 4 hearts and a very strong hand (might be very distributional)
5. responder has 4 spades but does not have clubs, he will have some diamonds
6. responder has 4 clubs (along with 4 hearts) and is fairly weak
7. responder is minimum
8. responder has 4 hearts and club tolerance but not 4 spades

As you can see there are many sequences which, while unfamiliar now, are all logical and will soon become second nature after a little practise.