It pays to play the hands rather than defend at a low level. Although a takeout double normally shows 12 or more points, if the auction is about to die out at the 1 level it’s sometimes worthwhile doubling on less. You might get to play the hand or you might push your opponents higher. Either way, it’s better than selling out too cheap!
It’s not a good idea to let your opponents play at the 2-level if they have a fit. If they have an 8-card fit then you probably do too and, if they have a 9-card fit, you definitely have an 8-card fit. That makes it safer for you to enter the auction.
EW have stopped at the 2-level, so the points are probably evenly divided between the two partnerships. If South doesn’t take some action, the auction will die, and your opponents will rest comfortably in their fit. South’s seat is called the ‘passout’ seat.
What should South do? South cannot make a bid as that would promise a 5-card suit. South should make a balancing double. Consult partner who will not expect an opening hand as South has passed already.
A double is nearly always takeout at a low level if there is more than one unbid suit.
The safe time to balance is when your opponents have a fit.
The dangerous time to balance is when they don’t have a fit.
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