Quick summary

It's an interfering bid, aim is to obstruct stronger enemy, and get foot in the door.

Must have 5-card suit, BUT pass SQuaT, if weaker hand

Response level:

Responder with no fit

Overcaller's rebid



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Bridge Venue

Example Deal

«  0101  »

Interfering bids. Overcalls, in a suit, over a suit

Wrecking your opponent's bid, even bring triumph to yourselves

Take a look at the bit about The general idea of Overcalls first. There's lots of important stuff there about the different types of overcall.

Here we are focusing on the situation where you have a minimum of a 5-card suit, and opponents have bid one of a suit.

5-card suit is a must (plus some colour)

The great things is, you don't need many points to overcall. The main thing is that your suit is strong, rather than our hand needing to be strong. You'll need to apply the SQuaT test, see below.

How many points? If the bidding status allows you to bid at the one level, a mere 8+ HCP points will do. Or even fewer, say 6, for advanced players with favourable vulnerability. If the bidding requires you to overcall at the two level you'll need just 10+ points, so not many.

Note that you DO also promise your nice partner certain other things, and he'll base all his calculations on your promises Alex:

  • a 5-card suit, with
  • some good colour (2 honours at the one level, 3 honours at the two level, see SQuaT below)
  • if you have to bid at the 2 level: 10-15 points
  • if you can bid at the one level: 8-15 points

SQuaT = Suit Quality Test. You can have one fewer honour if you have one more card. Add the number of honours to the number of cards. That's the number of tricks you can bid for. So with 5 cards and 3 honours, it's safe to bid for 8 tricks and bid at the 2-level. This is especially important if vulnerable.

But LTC might be a better way of looking at it. . ..

Responding to an overcall

When you can support partner's suit it's often a good idea to be aggressive in your bidding to make things difficult for the opponents, particularly if they are vulnerable and you are not. If you are weak, bid to the "limit of the fit", see below. It's agressive, but appropriate. You are trying to knock out the opponents' bidding space in a competitive auction.

If you have some strength (10+) and 3-card support (an 8-card fit), then game might be on. More advanced players would then use the Unassuming cue bid.

If you use an Unassuming cue bid (UCB) whenever you have real game-going support, you can use raises of partner's suit as pre-emptive. With a weak hand and several cards in his suit, raise to the 'limit of the fit'.

In calculating how high to bid you can also use the Losing Trick Count, see below.

If you cannot support partner's suit it's usually best to pass his overcall. You should only suggest a suit of your own if it's likely to be superior to his – e.g. if he overcalls in a minor and you have AKQxx of a major. You may have a singleton in his suit . . .but he may well have a void in yours.

1. Responding: bidding to the limit of the fit

This is the way you get to your maximum bid as fast as it's possible, in order to you knock out your strong opposition's chances for a conversation. You may expect to go down, but not by much, and you might even make the contract. Furthermore, you expect to give away fewer penalty points than you would concede if the enemy were allowed to bid and make their contract.

How? Just bid to the "limit of the fit":

Simply take the number of cards you've got in the overcalled suit, say spade, and add it to the number you know your partner has (5, or 6 if it was a jump overcall), and consider that total to be the number of tricks you are going to make in total. Then bid accordingly. E.g. if partner overcalled 1spade, and you have 3 spades, then you have 8 spades between you. So bid to make 8 tricks, i.e. 2spade. With 4 cards, total 9, bid 3spade, and so on. Your partner will then adjust his bid upwards, to the limit, if in fact he has more cards than he promised initially.

With six spades (11-card fit) it's probably wiser to raise to 4spade rather than 5spade though. Partner won't get excited and start looking for slams as he'll know you're weak because you didn't use a UCB.

If you're not vulnerable, you can do this with a very weak hand. Caution here if you are vulnerable! If you're vulnerable, and the enemy are not, you might want to ensure you have some HCP. . . .

A related and very interesting topic is the so-called Law of Total Tricks, which gives guidance on high you should bid in a competitive auction. Maximal Doubles are also a useful tool.

2. Responding: Losing Trick Count

If you and partner actually have a fit and some strength, and the opponents have given up, then try to be intelligent. . ..use the Losing Trick Count.

Advancer should assume that Overcaller has 7 losers if he overcalled at the 2-level. This is the same as the LTC for an opening hand. Also, please note Alex, a 5-card suit.. You should assume 8 losers if he overcalled at the one level.

A better way to play is to assume your partner has a LTC of 7 losers, or 8 losers if you are not vulnerable.

With a jump overcall, assume 6 cards and 6 losers from the Overcaller ("two sixes"). You should first make sure that partner is not playing "weak jump overcalls", which are a form of preemptive overcall, with almost identical requirements to a "weak two" opening.

3. 3-card fit and an opening hand

You partner could be quite weak, since he overcalled. The trouble is you just don't know. So put him in the driving seat with an unassuming Cue bid, so that at least he knows the situation.

4. Responding in NT

To respond in NT, you need remember that your partner could have fewer points than a conventional opener. Thus you need to have 3 extra points, compared to a normal NT reply to a suit.

42. Reply to a Suit overcall, probably balanced
bid 1 NT not NT 2NT 3NT new suit 6NT
normal reply 6-9 10 11-12 13+ 16+ 21+
reply to overcall 9-12   13-15 16+    
Add to your customised cribsheet

5. Responding without support

Let's say you have around 10 HCP, but no suit fit.

spade 9
heart A Q 6
diamond A 10 8 2
club Q 7 5 4 3
  - 1heart 1spade Pass

What should you reply as West?


<---- Click the "+" for the Answer

When not to bid a simple overcall

  • Weak: with 6 cards you should jump-overcall if you have a "weak two" kind of hand in any suit (some players still use "non-weak" jump overcalls, typically when having 6 losers, but this is decreasing in popularity)
  • Strong: with a 6-card suit and 16+ HCP, double for takeout and then rebid your suit (with 5-cards you'll need 18+HCP)
  • ...so, with 16-17 and only a 5-card suit, can bid the suit and double on the rebid.
  • Very Long: with 7 cards double-jump-overcall if you satisfy all the preempting conditions

If you don't satisfy the conditions, then a simple overcall is the right thing to do in each case.

Here's another way of looking at it. . .

overcalling how high to bid

Sometimes you can't bid

After an opening bid of 1heart from RHO, you would have to pass with a hand such as this:

spade7 heartAQ1084 diamondKJ185 ♣A8

However, you would expect to double for penalties on any subsequent bid from opponents in heart or No Trumps.

Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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