This double is a type of competitive double. The official designation is Maximal Double as described in The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge authored by the American Bridge Contract League, Edition 6, page 289. The identical concept is also officially designated as Maximal Overcall Doubles by other authoritative and sponsoring bodies since this type of double only occurs in competition and generally occurs on the three level. The designation Maximal Double Overcall is also employed to describe this concept.

This type of double is used mainly in two specific competitive auctions by the opener
of the auction to differentiate between a competitive situation and a game try.

Note: The origin of this type of double is unknown. According to the bridge literature this type of double developed supposedly in the late 1940s and/or early 1950s, but this is only according to the formula of Sherlock Holmes or the process of elimination. The maximal double was not a feature in any card game preceding the game of bridge such as Whist or Auction Bridge.

The bridge player should also be made aware of the fact that there are several designations used for this type of action in a competitive auction, whereby all four players are competing. The original designation, more rumored than substantiated, is Maximal Overcall Double. This designation apparently also was inverted and the action become known by the designation of Maximal Double Overcall. The usage of the word maximal was also changed to maximum and two other designations became added to the list, that of the Maximum Overcall Double and the Maximum Double Overcall.

Note: The European Bridge League accepts without hesitation the designation of maximum overcall double and allows other designations for the identical action also. Other European countries have adopted this designation and have also created the abbreviation MOD as a reference to this action.

Note: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of maximum is: 1: the greatest quantity or value attainable or attained; b: the period of highest, greatest, or utmost development; 2: an upper limit allowed (as by a legal authority) or allowable (as by the circumstances of a particular case).

Note: According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of maximal is: 1: being an upper limit: highest; 2: most comprehensive.

To a larger degree this type of action has also been referred to as an action double, a term which is also used often among many bridge players. It simply means that the bridge player has no alternative defined method to act other than employing the use of the double card under certain circumstances of competition.

The end result is that the bridge community has adopted the designation of maximal double, not maximum double or any other term as the more official designation.

Note: The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, published by the American Contract Bridge League employs the designation of maximal double. Other publications, written and digital, also employ the above designations of action double, maximum overcall double, maximum double overcall, maximum double, all of which describe an identical action.

In the mainly online publication Bridge Today authored by Pamela and Matthew Granovetter, issue of December 2006, page 2, the reader is made aware of the fact that, quoted: "By now it's clear that the maximal overcall double applies only over 3 (when we have bid and raised Hearts) and over 3 (when we have bid and raised Spades). That's it. Better we should drop it altogether ....."

Important Note: The ACBL has defined the maximal double as a competitive double used by a player as a game try when the opponents' bids have left no bidding room to make any other form of game try.

Note: This more narrow definition of the maximal double is specific in determining the bidding sequences, in which the maximal double may or should be employed. Thus, if the bidding sequence of the competitive auction leaves bidding room to make another form of game try, then the maximal double is not employed.

Thus, and in conclusion, since the maximal double applies only to two specific bidding sequences, then the frequency of the call of double becomes more effective when furnished with another, alternative meaning, which is neither discussed nor described here.

Illustration of the Concept

South   West   North   East
1   2   2   3

South finds himself in a predicament and would prefer an approach to this bidding sequence to show either:

1. the desire to sign-off in 3 Hearts and hope for a partscore.
2. the desire to invite game in Hearts.

Solution to the Problem

1. By bidding 3, South shows the desire to sign-off in a partscore contract.
2. With the employment of the maximal double, South employs the conventional bid to invite game.

Auction Example

South   West   North   East   Meaning
1   2   2   3    
Double               The double by South is the maximal double.

Note: South does not wish or want to invite to game, but South would prefer to compete to 3 for the partscore. Without the maximal double the partnership would have only one bid available in Spades.

Important Note: The most apparent , obvious, and evident disadvantage of the maximal double is the fact that the partnership loses the ability to employ the call of double as a penalty double.

Distinctive Difference of Double

In competitive auctions, a distinction is made between certain auctions. In the above two illustrations the reader will notice that the competitive auctions show auctions, whereby the competition is bidding in a suit, which is one rank below the suit of North-South, or in other words, the competition of the opponents is not in the maximum suit, meaning that the suit of the opponents is one suit below the competitive suit of North-South.

If the suit of the opponents is not just one suit below the maximum suit, then other approaches can apply, and the maximum double is not necessary if the partnership agreement is that the available side suit can be bid and constitutes a general game try. For example:

South   West   North   East
1   2   2   3

In this auction, since Spades is not the maximum suit, then South has an alternative approach and this is entirely based upon the partnership agreement. North-South can agree to any or all of the following:

1. Pass is the decision to defend against 3 Diamonds by the opponents.
2. A bid of 3, since there is room for this bid, is reserved as game invitational. and is definitely forcing to 3 Spades. This bid is considered to be conventional.
3. A bid of 3 is generally agreed to mean a sign-off in the original suit.
4. A double can then be considered to be and/or converted to a penalty double. This is an optional partnership agreement.

Note: Other, perhaps more lax partnership agreements exist as to the significance not only of the maximal double, but also to the continuances.

Generally Accepted Version

The generally accepted version of the definition of the maximal double states that the double should only be employed in two defined competitive auctions. However, this view has not been accepted by all experienced bridge players and bridge authors. Mr. Harold Feldheim in his publication Negative, Responsive, and other Competitive Doubles published in the year 1993 presents the following example with corresponding explanations.

South   West   North   East   Meaning
1   2   2   3    
Double   Pass           The double by South can be employed by the partnership as the maximal double.

Some believe that maximal doubles should only apply when the auction prohibits any other exploratory bid; consequently, with a hand such as this, an artificial three heart bid is the only available game try. I believe this to be an unnecessary complication. It seems more advisable to utilize the double when the game try that you were about to make is no longer available. In the case above, 3 is the heart suit game try and double would be any other game try. Just consistently treat double as a maximal game try and all will be well.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.