Quick summary

Your opponents are weak, and have tried to mess things up for you, 'cos they fear you will make a good contract. So overcall them if you can.
There are three options

  1. Double for Take-out (opening points, short in enemy's suit)
  2. Suit Overcall: 12 points at the 3 level (or 6 at the 2 level), & a 6-card suit (or v. good 5-card suit)
  3. 2NT Overcall: 16-19 points balanced-ish with a stop in enemy's suit.

Don't double for penalties if you are good in their suit! You'll confuse your partner & end up in trouble. Penalties can come later.

Stayman and Transfers: recommend you use after 2NT.

"Borrow a king" in the 4th passout seat (balancing).

Not so different from defending a weak 3 opening.

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Bridge Venue

Example Deal
West
S J 7 6 2
H A Q 9 2
D K Q 4
C 9 7
+North
East
S K 10 5 3
H 4
D A 7 3 2
C A 6 5 4
+South
Example Deal
Dealer: South
Vuln: All


Defence to a Weak Two opening
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Advanced Convention. Weak 2 defence

The thieving enemy is weak, so be aggressive !

Your opponents have preempted to disrupt you, making your life very difficult. But what do they have? And can we overcome it? Well, a Weak Two shows 6-10 points and a six-card suit. So, they are weak.

Your opponent is saying that he will not make many tricks if you play the hand. He is preempting you because he thinks that you are likely to be able to make a contract, and he wants to stop you, or make it hard for your to communicate with your partner. So you should be aggressive and try to bid if possible.

Three Defence options

  1. Double for Take-out (opening points, short in enemy's suit - as few as 10 with a singleton)
  2. Suit Overcalls: 6+/12+ points, & a 6-card suit (or good 5-card suit)
  3. 2NT Overcall: 16-19 points balanced-ish with a stop in enemy's suit.

1. Take-out Doubles

A take-out double is a call which asks your partner to bid his best suit, so that he 'takes you out' of the opponent's suit. There are three basic requirements for a take-out double:

  1. Opening hand
  2. Shortage in the enemy's suit
  3. Support for each of the unbid suits

The ideal hand for a take-out double is a 4-4-4-1, with the singleton in the opponent's suit. Your partner must reply in his best suit, and so you are sure to find the best fit. So, given the fit, with 11 points and a 4-4-4-1 shape you can add 3 points for the singleton giving you 14 total points, enough to double for take-out.

With less than ideal shape, such as 5-4-3-1, you need to be more cautious, maybe adding just 2.

After an opening bid of 2heart with hand like this:

Hand 1
S A J 8 3  

Double for take-out, you've just got enough strength.

H 3
D J 6 5 2
C K Q 6 3

After an opening bid of 2spade with hand like this:

Hand 2
S 7  

Double for take-out. Your 12 HCP (more than 11 in hand 1) compensates for the less than perfect distribution.

H Q 10 5 4 2
D A K 5 3
C Q J 9

Note: Don't use Penalty Doubles immediately after a weak two opening
"Take-out doubles" are more useful, and your partner will assume that's what you mean ! Since your opponents are very long in one suit, it's most likely that you are short in that same suit. You'll be able to use this bid more often, every time you've got an opening hand with cover in the three other suits. On the other hand, it's rare that you are going to be long/strong in the same suit that the enemy is very long in, and if you are, you can save up your double for later. You can actually still get to a penalty double if you are patient. . ..

Also, it's difficult to know at the two level if you are going to be strong enough to double, and you might simply be doubling them into game.

If you have agreed to play take-out doubles, you must not double 2heart with a hand like this:

Hand 3
S 4  

Instead you must pass. If you double your partner will think you asking him to choose his best suit from anything other than hearts. and to ‘take you out'. Worst of all, he will most likely jump to 4spade.

H K Q 10 5 2
D Q 8 4
C A Q 5 4

What if you are very strong (19+ HCP)? Use your rebid to tell your partner

Again, bid a take-out double, which is forcing, and then rebid in no-trumps or in your best suit.

Responding to the take-out double after weak two opening

Similar to response to normal take-out double. . .click here


2. Suit Overcalls

Assuming you need to go to the 3 level, you need either a 6 card suit, or a solid five-card suit, and an opening bid.

Overcalling at the two level, (bidding 2spade over 2heart), you do not need so much strength because your overcall is still at the two level. You need a 6-card suit and 6-10 points (just like your opponent who opened at the two level), though some would say you need 9+ points. The considerations are similar to a jump overcall after a 1-level opening, i.e. 6 cards and not very strong.

After an opening bid of 2spade:

Hand 4
S 7  

Overcall 3heart, showing an opening hand with a good six-card suit.

H A K 10 6 5 4
D K 7 2
C Q 5 4

After an opening bid of 2heart:

Hand 5
S A Q 9 8 7 5  

Overcall 2spade. You are not very strong, but enough to go for a bid at the two level

H 7
D K 6 4
C 8 6 2

 

3. 2NT Overcall (16-19 points)

Balanced-ish and strong ? Obvious! 2NT Overcall

Over weak 2 opening bids(1) , a 2NT overcall is a natural bid, showing balanced or 'semi-balanced' hands, a stop in the enemy's suit and 16-19 HCPs. The 2NT overcall over a Weak Two shows a wider range of HCPs, because your bidding space has gone. 'Semi-balanced' ? You might have a 5-4-2-2 distribution, or even a 6-3-2-2, especially with length indiamondclub

Responding to a 2NT overcall after a weak 2 opening.
Easy. Just use any convention that you normally use after a 1NT overcall such as Transfers and (especially) Stayman. Of course, you are promising a few more points than you would with a 1NT opening or overcall.

Obviously, as with a 1NT overcall, you'll need to adjust the HCP requirements because your partner is stronger than you would plan for a standard Stayman or Transfer situation. With 8+ points or a good 7-point hand, go for game. With 6 points pass: although your partner might have 19, you would find 3NT a struggle with a 19-6 split, and he's more than 4 times more likely to have 16, 17 or 18.

Examples

After a 2heart opening bid from the enemy, what would you bid here, with such a nice diamond suit ?

Hand 6
S K Q 4  

Although you have only one stop in opponents suit, bid 2NT. It's best because it's more descriptive than 3diamond

H A 6 2
D K Q J 8 6
C Q 6

What about this one ? You're West. North has opened 2heart, and partner East overcalls 2NT What should you do ?

Pair 7
S A 9 6 2  W     E  S K Q 5 3  

With 8 points you should go for game, because 24-27 total isassured. But, rather than raising to 3NT, West could first look for a fit in spades.

H 8 6 3 H A Q 2
D K J 8 5 2 D Q 9 4
C 8 C A 7 4

If you can find a 4-4 fit it'll be better to play in a Major suit. West should bid 3club, Stayman, followed a 3spade response from partner to identify an 8-card Major fit. West should then raise to game, 4spade.

Note how much better it is to be in Spades: 3NT will be defeated by a club lead, whereas 4spade will make 11-12 tricks.

4. Other options when enemy open a weak 2

Overcalling after a Weak 2 has been raised to 3

The opposition are weak, so be aggressive and try hard to make a bid as if your were defending a weak preemptive three opening bid.

In the Fourth Seat ? Be aggressive

Bid aggressively. When you are in the ‘fourth' seat, then try your hardest to bid if a 'pass' from you would otherwise bring the auction to an end. (The same considerations apply when making a protective bid in the 'fourth seat' after a standard opening).

The auction is ending because the opponents are not strong. They are giving up at less than 'game', so they have a maximum of 23 points, most probably many fewer. So your partner must have some strength. As a result, you can bid on slightly weaker hands (about 3 points fewer than necessary, sometimes known as ‘borrowing a king'). Your poor partner will have had a reason for not bidding first time, e.g.:

  • strong, but too balanced to overcall or double;
  • strong enough for a penalty double which he couldn't bid (it would be taken as a double for take-out).

Examples

What should you (South) bid ? You're the 4th person to bid, after West opened 2heart.

Deal 8S A Q J 2 Deal: West
Vuln: none

You're South, with only nine points and probably don't feel able to bid after the enemy opening of 2heart. However, because you're in the 4th seat, the last caller, you should be aggressive. 'Put a king' in your hand and think again. With '12' points and a singleton you have the right shape and strength for a double for take out.

S J 7 6
H K Q 3
D 10 4 3
S 8 3           N S 9 7 6
H K Q 10 9 4 2  W               E H A 5 3
D 9 6 D 10 8 7 2
C Q 9 5           S C A K 8
    S K 10 5 4  
S 8
H A J 5 4
D J 7 6 2

North, who couldn't bid first round despite his 13HCP, responds in spade to South's double, being careful not to overbid, knowing that his partner may have stretched in order to bid (‘borrowed a king'). Hence the jump invitation response of 3spade, no more.

Look how difficult it is to bid with balanced hands. Although North has 13 points, he has to pass after the opening bid from West because there is no bid to describe his hand. That's why South should try hard to make a bid in the fourth seat.

(Note 1: With perfect 4441 shape you can also add points for your singleton. So, in all, you are worth 15 points (9 + 3 borrowed + 3 for the singleton = 15). Note 2: By the way, a jump response to a take-out double normally shows around 9-11 HCP, just short of enough for game after the implied doubler's opening hand).

What if North's hand were slightly different, and South's hand were identical ? Again, West opens 2heart, and South doubles. What should North do here ?

Deal 9S A Q J 6 Deal: West
Vuln: none

North has a hand that can defend against 2♥, because he holds very good trumps, so he passes his partner's double, converting it to a penalty double.

North must not double on the first round, as that would have been interpreted as a take-out double, with potentially disastrous consequences.

S K J 7 6 3
H Q 6
D 10 5
S 8 3           N S 9 7 2
H A Q 10 9 4 2  W               E H 5
D 9 3 D K 10 8 7 2
C Q 9 4           S C A K 8 3
    S K 10 5 4  
S 8
H A J 5 4
D J 7 6 2

 

5. Responding to your partner's Weak 2 Overcall

Responding to a takeout double

It's very similar to responding to a normal takeout double.

The similarities
Partner is not doubling because he is strong in the enemy's suit, in fact quite the opposite. He has an opening hand, 4441 distribution or similar, is short in the suit just bid by opponents, with his strength spread across the other 3 suits.

The differences
You have less bidding space, and the enemy is both weaker and find themselves at a higher level of exposure.

Partner's normal response (0-8 points)

Unless there is an intervening bid from your opponents, your partner MUST reply ("take you out" of the double), even with 0 points.  It's a forcing bid because you didn't really mean "double" in the conventional "doubled for penalties" sense.  Partner bids his best suit, because he is forced to. 

If you (the overcalling doubler) then go on to change suit with your rebid, partner should spot that something funny is clearly going on, which has a special meaning.

Different responses

Strong. The most common exception is when partner has 9-10 points (include distribution), in which case he would like to have said "hey, you are forcing me to bid, even with no points, but the fact is I would have bid anyway, because I've got plenty of points, 9-10 in fact, and game might be on".   He does this by jumping. Doubler can now evaluate game.

However, after a weak 2 opening, there is less bidding space, and it may not be possible to do this without jumping to the 4 level, which you should avoid. Over 2heart you have room for three bids in spades, 2spade, 3spade or 4spade. But over 2spade you have room for only two bids in hearts, 3heart or 4heart.

So the 9-10 range is only used over a 2heart opening. Over a 2spade opening, you only have two ranges: 0-9 weak response, 10+ go for game.

I've got that 4th suit that you don't have, let's play in NT. Partner can bid NT if he has cover for the enemy's suit.

Bid 2NT with 10-12 HCP, or bid 1NT with 8-10 (following the usual logic of responding to a suit with NT, with a higher minimum cut-off due to the likely singleton). With 13+ bid 3NT.

Party time. I've also got an opening hand ! The responder should cue bid opponent's suit. The doubler should then make a descriptive bid.

But actually, I want to double ! Pass. Convert the "take-out" double to a "penalty" double if very strong in the opponents' suit, simply by saying "no bid". You need 5-6 or more excellent trumps. The doubler is supposed to lead a trump, so that the enemy's trumps can be drawn. For this reason, it's not recommended that a takeout double be made with a void in the suit doubled.

Oh, and remember, do not pass is you're weak, or your partner might want to strangle you. Your partner is asking you to respond, so unless you're sure that 2heart doubled is better, you should bid another suit.

Hand evaluation

  1. Add points for shape; partner can support any of your suits, so you can assume that you have a fit.
  2. If your partner was bidding in the '4th seat' he may have one fewer king, so you may should adjust your ranges by about 2 or 3 points.
  3. Apart from the Ace, your points in enemy's suit are worth a lot less.


Examples

What should you bid after this sequence ?: 2♥ – Dbl – Pass

Hand 10
S A J 6 2  

You have 8HCP and a singleton, i.e. 11 points and 8 losers. Not enough for game, but enough to jump. Bid3spade Not enough for game on your own, but enough to jump to 3, to show your 8-loser hand.

H 8 4 3
D Q J 10 6 2
C 5

What should you bid after this sequence ?: 2♥ – Dbl – Pass

Hand 11
S A 6 4 2  

You have only 8 HCP, and 9 losers. So make a minimum response and bid 2spade

H 8 4 3
D Q J 10 6
C 6 5

What should you bid after this sequence ?: 2♥ – Pass – Pass – Dbl

Hand 12
S A J 6 2  

Your partner bid in the 4th seat, so might have ‘borrowed' 3 points, so pay it back' as you evaluate your hand. You should bid only 2spade. If your partner then bids 3spade, raise to game.

H 8 4 3
D Q J 10 6 2
C 5

What should you bid after this sequence ?: 2♠ – Dbl – Pass

Hand 13
S A J 6  

You have14 HCP a spade stop. Your partner has 12+ HCP and support in all other suits. Because you have the ace, you will be able to get the lead and keep it: the Weak-Two bidder will hold very few high cards outside his spade suit. Bid 3NT.

H K J 7
D K Q J 7 2
C 9 5

What should you bid after this sequence ?: 2♠ – Dbl – Pass:

Hand 14
S A 6 4 2  

You have 11 HCP and a singleton, which gives you enough for game, given partner must have 12+ HCP. However, dont pass, your spades are not good enough for a penalty double. Your hands should fit, with singletons in both hands likely, and opportunities for cross-ruffing. Bid 4heart

H A 8 4 3
D Q J 4 2
C 5

 

(1) Footnote: Over normal strong opening bids at the one level, many players use the Unusual 2NT overcall, which is not at all natural, to show two 5-card suits. In the past, this bid was used to show that overcaller had 20-22HCP, balanced, but that arises so rarely and can be handled in another way.

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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