Lebensohl, Stolen Bid Doubles, and Interference Over 1NT

Author: Michael Berkowitz
Date of publish: 04/10/2020
Level: General Interest

As a younger sibling, sometimes, you feel it is your job to get in the way. That can mean trying to get your mother’s attention when she’s on a call, or, more frequently, bothering your older sibling when they are with friends.

My sister and her friends, sick of my constant barging in and general obnoxiousness, developed a strategy. As soon as I entered the room, they would freeze like statues. I could scream and make faces, but they just stayed put until I got bored and left. I could always hear them laughing as I moped back to my room.

In modern bridge, many opponents take the “little sibling” approach to notrump auctions. They can’t just sit there without interfering. That means that you better have a good strategy for handling interference so that you can have the last laugh.

First, let’s clarify what actually “interferes” with your bidding. When you open 1NT and the opponent either doubles or bids 2♠, this shows something, but it doesn’t prevent you from using any of your tools. Over a double (regardless of meaning), you can still play 2♠ is Stayman, and all of your transfers. Over 2♠ you can use double as Stayman and have room for all of your transfers. If the opponent’s 2♠ bid shows the majors, then double is still Stayman, but here it implies that you are willing to double at least one of the opponent’s suits.

Ok. Double and 2♠ are taken care of with our own version of "ignore the little brother". Now let’s get into the nitty gritty. There’s a convention that has spread like wildfire in spite of the fact that no expert recommends it, and no advanced partnership plays it. I’m talking about the “Stolen Bid” double. I’m not sure where this convention came from, or why, but I’ll demonstrate the problems with it. If you’ve never heard of this convention, please send a thank you note to your teachers and skip the next paragraph.

The stolen bid convention uses double to show the bid the opponents made. For instance in the auction below, the double shows a hand that would have bid 2♠ to transfer to spades. The problem with “Stolen Bid” excepting the 2♠ bid, is that it shows too little. On the auction:

   1NT 2♠ DBL

Double shows 5+ spades. That's way too specific a thing to show. Hands with heart shortness are much more common, but you don't have a way of showing that. Double is too valuable a call to waste here.

So let’s get rid of that system.

You could learn something sophisticated like lebensohl (or transfer lebensohl), but systems can cause accidents and require memory. Instead, let’s make life simple. After interference higher than 2♠, bids on the 2-level are natural and to play. Bids on the 3-level are game forcing. Double is takeout with at least competitive values. A cuebid of the opponent’s suit is game forcing Stayman. You should still play Texas Transfers if that’s a jump. There. Simple and covers most situations. Let’s try it out.


Partner opens 1NT and your RHO bids 2♠ (showing hearts or hearts and a minor). What do you do?

A) ♠KJ103 ♠87 ♠KJ93 ♠1053

B) ♠AQ1098 ♠87 ♠KQ3 ♠762

C) ♠KQ1098 ♠432 ♠987 ♠82

D) ♠987 ♠62 ♠AQJ8 ♠9832

E) ♠53 ♠1087 ♠AQJ7 ♠Q982


A) Dbl - you don't have a game forcing hand, but want to compete and are happy if partner bids any suit.  If partner bids 2♠, you can raise to 3♠.

B) 3♠ - Forcing to game and showing 5+ spades

C) 2♠ - You'd like to play 2♠ rather than defend.

D) Dbl - You don't have an invitational hand, but you have some values and would like to compete in a suit.

E) 2NT - You have invitational values and the wrong shape for a double so you use 2NT like they hadn't gotten involved. Hopefully partner has a heart stopper.

If you'd like to learn lebensohl, Larry has a recorded webinar on it found HERE.