If you play penalty doubles over 1NT openings, you may find that switching to Maestro Doubles can deliver you better results. It can be briefly summarized by this:
Double shows values and either a minor, both majors, or any very strong hand.
In reply to double, partner will pass with 10 or more HCP, or bid a major naturally, or bid 2D to ask for a four card major, or bid 2C with none of these.
Key advantages of employing the Maestro Double are:
The double is called Maestro as it is Major oriented, and was intended to be played with the Astro family of defenses, though can also be played with other notrump defenses like Cappelletti (also called Hamilton). For more details on Astro etc. see
The Maestro double has a strong affinity with the double of the Woolsey defense to 1NT. For more details on this defense see:
Details of Maestro
The Maestro double shows:
a) 10+ HCP, five card or longer minor, good suit if just five, no singleton/void in a major unless good six card or longer suit willing to rebid on three level.
b) 12+ HCP, at least 4-4 in the majors, not balanced.
c) 17/18+ HCP, a strong hand that needs to take some action.
For hand type A it is not a 5-4-3-1 with a singleton/void in a major, as we don’t want to steer the opponents to their major fit if they have one. Instead, when holding this, pass first and if they find their major fit and stop at the two level, then double for takeout. With a long minor and less than 10 HCP, either pass or jump the bidding to the three level.
For hand type B, this allows whatever two level bid over 1NT shows the majors to show either less than 12 HCP, or if good values then a distributional 5-5+ hand type.
For hand type C, doubling will often force the partner of the notrump bidder to start a run-out sequence (since will usually have a very weak hand and cannot afford the double to be passed), which will help us to determine the level and strain to play at, or allow us to double them.
Detailed responses to a Maestro Double are:
Pass: 10 or more HCP. This pass happens less frequently than one might hope for, but when it does you have the notrump hand surrounded by two good hands. The primary benefit of having this call is that it limits all the other bids, so the doubler has a good idea of what to do next.
2C: Artificial, 5-9 & no four card or longer major, or 0-4 & no six card or longer suit. Over the 2C response:
Pass: 5 or longer Cs, likely as good as spot as any, up to 18.
2D: 5 or longer Ds, up to 18.
2H: Both majors, 12-18.
2S: 17/18+, 4+Ss, non-forcing.
2NT: 17/18+, not 4+Ss, non-forcing.
3C+: 19+, natural, non-forcing.
2D: Artificial, 5-9 with a four card major. Over 2D:
Pass: 5 or longer Ds, no four card major, game unlikely.
2H/S: Four card or longer major, not forcing, up to mild game invitational values. If the doubler bids 2H, then 2S must be bid next if no H fit. If the doubler bids 2S, 2NT next asks for five card or longer minor.
2NT: Asking – bid your worse minor if 5-6 HCP, bid your four card major if 7-9 HCP. Over these replies, a suit bid below game is now natural & game forcing.
3C: 5 or longer Cs, no four card major, game unlikely.
3D: Both majors, game invitational values.
3H/S: Four card or longer major, good game invitational values.
4D: Both majors, game forcing.
2H/S: 0-9 with a six card or longer major, or 4-9 with a five card major. 3C/D now to play, 3 of the major is a mild game try, and 2NT is a good game try or better, forcing to 3 of the major.
2NT: Game force distributional hand. Asks partner to bid a five card minor, or best major with both majors, or 3NT if 17/18-20 and none of these. Bidding continues naturally.
3C/D: Six or longer suit, 5-9, no four card or longer major.
If the opponents redouble the Maestro double, then responses are the same. If the opponents bid directly over Maestro, then new suits are non-forcing, double shows values asking partner to describe hand but is passable if partner has length in suit doubled, and 2NT shows a hand with values that does not want to double since is short in the suit the opponents are bidding. If the Maestro doubler later doubles a second time, it is takeout if doubling a minor suit and it is penalty if doubling a major suit bid or notrump.
The Maestro Double works well with the Asptro (non-Kastro variation) convention:
2C: Hs & another, if second suit is Ss it will be a shorter or a weaker suit than Hs.
2D: Ss & another, if second suit is Hs it will be a shorter or weaker suit than Ss.
2NT: Both minors.
When Asptro is played with the Maestro Double the 2C and 2D bids will often have a five card or longer major (or a six card or longer minor that can be rebid), so partner is free to bid the major with just 3 in the suit.