Unlike the opponent’s double of a suit for take-out, their double of a 1NT opening bid is usually for penalties. This puts more of an onus on responder to ‘get things right’. In many instances this involves a rescue attempt to minimise losses. Also it can be more difficult for the defence to double if they think you have found a fit. It’s akin to rescuing a drowning man from heavy seas. You may be able to bring him to calmer waters, but not necessarily to dry land.

Initially players are probably taught that with a weak hand and a five-card suit, bid the suit (possibly via a transfer); with other weak hands re-double and hope that you might find a fit. However after playing in a number of 3-3 spade fits (doubled for -800), you eventually realise that there must be something better.

At the other end of the scale, you can use ‘wriggle re-doubles’, but these require a lot of partnership understanding, and I’ve still seen many an expert pair land in silly contracts.

There are practical alternatives, and a commonly used one is Halmic (sometimes Modified). In describing this method, you should remember that basically responder needs to be able to describe six types of hand:

a) - a single-suited weak hand (i.e. 5 or more cards).

b) - a two-suited weak hand (4-4, or 5-5).

c) - a perfectly balanced weak hand (4-3-3-3).

d) - a non-weak hand prepared to play in 1NT doubled.

e) - a non-weak hand distributional (5-5 majors).

f) - a non-weak hand distributional (5-5 major/minor)

(Opposite a 12-14 no-trump, I would class a ‘weak’ hand as 6 or less points; a ‘non-weak’ hand as 8+ points; with 7 points – take a view).

Responses After 1NT Doubled

Remember that in all these situations it is assumed that opener cannot have more than one doubleton.

a)  with a weak hand and any 5-card (or more) suit, re-double. Opener must bid 2♣, and responder then leaves or converts to the relevant 5-card suit.

b)  with a two suited weak hand (equal length), responder bids the lower of the suits. Opener should pass with a three-card suit support, or bid the next suit up with a doubleton of responder’s suit or any 4-3-3-3 shape. This ensures a 4-3 fit.

c)  with a weak 4-3-3-3 hand, pass. Opener must re-double, and responder bids 2♣. Opener should bid his four-card suits in an attempt to escape un-doubled.

d)  with a hand prepared to play in 1NT doubled, responder should pass, forcing opener to re-double (as in case c)). The re-double is then left in.

e)  with a 5-5 major prepared to play in game (8-10 points)bid 2 (rarely occurs). Partner bids his better major at the three-level. With a maximum 10 points and a suitable suit, you can convert to four. The opposition are possibly doubling on a long minor.

((f)  a further refinement that I like is a 2NT bid shows 8-10 points with 5-card minor and 5-card major (similar conditions to (e). Being non-standard, you would need to agree this with partner)). Partner with only one, three or more card major bids 3♣. With at least 3-3 in the majors he bids 3. Responder bids accordingly (3-level minor; 3 or 4 level major), and opener will pass.

Looking at the situation from opener’s viewpoint:

If partner (the responder to the 1NT), passes – you must re-double

If partner redoubles – you must bid 2

If partner bids a suit – pass unless you have a doubleton or exactly a 4-3-3-3 distribution without the four cards in partner’s suit. In these cases bid the next suit up.

Examples: (assume partner is opening a 12-14 1NT, and next opponent doubles. The point ranges need to be amended for alternative NT openings).

a)♠ 85b)♠ K963c)♠ K963d)♠ K83e)♠ K94

A9532 832 Q832 963 K93

J75 74 74 J852 QJ5

♣ 952♣ Q952♣ 952♣ 1097♣ 10952

f)♠ A9863g)♠ A9863

AQ932 53

72 AJ932

♣ 9♣ 9

a)   re-double, after which opener must bid 2♣. Responder then converts to 2 showing the five-card suit.

b)   2♣ - with two four-card suits bid the lower. Opener will pass unless he has two clubs or a 4-4-4-3 hand (without four clubs), in which case he will bid 2. Responder will bid 2♠ if opener doesn't pass.

c)   2 - as above. Opener now knows that his partner has four hearts and four spades (he’s bid the lower of two four-card suits), so will bid accordingly.

d)   PASS. Opener must re-double, over which you now bid 2♣. Knowing your shape (but not the four-card suit), opener will probably continue to bid 4-card suits at the two-level hoping not to get doubled - you might find a 4-4 fit, but you'll be no worse than a 4-3 fit.

e)   PASS. After opener's re-double, pass hoping to make, even opposite a minimum.

f)   2♠. The opponents are possibly doubling on a long minor suit. Partner will bid 3 or 3♠ and in this case you will bid four.

g)   2NT. If partner bids 3♣, just bid 3. If he bids 3, you can choose to play in either 3♠ or 4♠ (since you’ve foregone the option of playing in 1NT**, it’s probably best to bid 4♠ on this hand). I’ll emphasise that this bid is non-standard, so agree with partner.

Note: - Halmic as stated only applies after an immediate double of 1NT. The overall structure breaks-down if used after a fourth-seat double – you’ve basically lost the forcing pass.