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Quick summary

Find out if your partner's overcall was weak or strong when

That way, you might get a game.

Your bid of the enemy suit forces partner to tell you more. And it mucks up the enemy if your partner was weak.

Responses if strong:

If weak:

It's called "unassuming" because it says nothing about where your strength lies.


Print cribsheet

Bridge Venue

Example Deal
spade Q 6 3 2
heart 8 7 6 5 4
diamond 5 3
club 10 9
Example Deal
You: West
Dealer: North
Vuln: none

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- 1H X p

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«  0173  »

Overcall. Unassuming cue bid

Partner, is your overcall weak or strong ?

First, a note about cue bids in general

In general, bidding the opponents' suit is a useful bid. It's an indication that you are strong and you'd like your partner to continue describing his hand. Such bids are known as "cue bids".

Bidding the opponent's suit can also be used after the enemy have overcalled your bid, and you'd like to know if your partner has a stopper in the enemy suit.

The unassuming cue bid

Your partner has overcalled. He might have as few as 8 points or as many as 18 - you have no idea.

But let's say you are reasonably strong.

Partner's overcall often implies a weakish hand (8-11), with only one biddable 5-card suit. If you support that suit, you are not really telling your partner how strong you are - all you are doing is telling your partner how many cards you have in his suit (see Overcalls). If your partner turns out to have a stronger hand (12-15), you could easily miss a game. That would be a pity.

So, to make sure you don't miss the chance of game, bid the suit that was bid by your LHO enemy in order to tell partner that you have support for partner's suit (3+ cards), good points (10+), and to force him to tell you if his hand is weak or strong. In other words to keep describing his hand.

e.g. (1heart) – 1spade – (Pass) – 2heart

(It's called "unassuming" because your cue bid says nothing about which suits you are strong in. However, you do need 3-card support for your partner's suit: an 8-card fit is thus assured).

Must have 3-card support ?

There is an exception. If you have very good all round strength with stops in the enemy's suit and are thinking of No Trumps, you might have a chance of game if partner's at the upper end, so it's useful to have a way of asking him how strong he is. You can also use the UCB in such a situation.

Responses to an unassuming cue bid from your partner

Remember that your original overcall shows a 5+ card, suit with anything from 8-15 HCP, or even 18.

After your partner follows your overcall with an "unassuming cue bid", asking you to describe your hand further, your rebids should be quite natural, in the knowledge of an 8-card fit and 10 HCP support (around 7.5 losing tricks). You can bid a second suit to describe a 54xx distribution hand, or bid a NT to show a stopper in the enemy suit, or make a simple rebid of the overcall suit.

But you must respond to this forcing bid (or you'll end up playing in your enemy's suit, and almost certain disaster!) and you do need to show our strength somehow:

weak (8-11)

  • bid at the lowest level in your overcall suit (unless you have a second 4-card suit that can be bid below the overcall suit).

strong (12-15)

  • with a second 4-card suit, jump bid the new 4-card suit;
  • with no second 4-card suit, and with stop(s) in the openers suit, bid NTs at the lowest level;
  • with no second 4-card suit but no stops in the openers suit, jump bid in the overcall suit.

With a strong hand, but no second suit and no stoppers in the opening suit from enemy, there is another option if you have a 5332 hand. Cue-bid the enemy suit again, asking for a stopper in the opening suit. This is sometimes know as a "Directional Asking Bid", I believe. The positive response to this enquiry would be to show a stopper with a bid in NT.


The dealer on your left opens with 1club.

Partner overcalls 1heart. Any of the following 3 hands could have resulted in such an overcall:

  1. ♠ J83 heart AQ865 diamond J10954 ♣ 2 (8 HCP)
  2. ♠ AJ2 heart KQJ93 diamond K3 ♣ 853 (14 HCP)
  3. ♠ 8 heart KQJ52 diamond K964 ♣ A52 (13 HCP)

The first hand is a typical overcall. Partner has good suit quality for a 1-level overcall in Hearts. The 2nd and 3rd are nice hands where you have to overcall because they are the wrong shape for a takeout double. With Hand 2, what do you bid over a 2diamond response on hand 2? Hand 3 is not so bad for a double (and some players might double for takeout after Hand 3, and bid No Trumps after a 1♠ response).

Suppose we hold the following hand:

  • ♠ A1075 heart Q74 diamond AJ973 ♣ 74

We do have 3-card support for partner's suit, and 10 HCP. So rather than simply raising to 2heart, which although promising 3 cards in heart does not show any strength, we can show our 10+ HCP to partner by bidding the enemy suit, 2♣, and obliging our sweet partner to further describe their hand. Partner replies in the 3 cases as follows:

  1. 2diamond (5,4 pattern, weak). We can then either pass or "sign off" in 2heart.
  2. 2heart (5 cards, no second suit, weak). We can pass: partner might only have 8HCP
  3. 3heart (5 cards, no second suit, strong). We can risk 4heart.
  4. jump to 3diamond (5,4 and strong). We can sign-off in 4heart.

Other kinds of cue bid

1. Using a cue bid to create a forcing change of suit. When bidding a new suit after partner's opening bid, it is a forcing bid which partner must respond to in order to avoid raised eyebrows or slapped wrists in the bar. However, if partner's first bid was an overcall, then a change of suit by you is not forcing. If you want to make it forcing, then you can do so by bidding the enemy suit, and then bidding your new suit on the rebid. Partner will realise it's forcing, since otherwise you could have bid it first time round.

2. Two-suited overcall. An immediate cue bid (a bid of the suit just opened by your opponent to your right, your RHO) has changed its meaning in recent times. It used to be used to indicate a very strong hand, now more ususally described by a "double for takeout" and subsequent rebids. Not any more: this immediate type of cue bid is now generally a Michael's cue bid to show two 5-card suits, at least one being a Major.

3. Have you got a stopper in their suit? Bidding the opponent's suit can also be used after the enemy have overcalled your bid, and you, being strong, would like to know if your partner has a stopper in the enemy suit, since you know that game might be possible in NT. By bidding your opponents' suit, possibly at the 3 level, you are telling your partner that you are strong AND asking your partner "Have you got a stopper in the enemy suit?". You are trying of course to get into No Trumps, which partner will bid if he does have the magic missing stopper. If he doesn't, he'll describe his hand further - not wanting to leave your contract in the enemy's suit! 

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