Overcalls

Overcalling

Why do we overcall?

  • There might be a chance of making a game contract
  • You might find a good sacrifice
  • Even if you don’t end up playing the hand it will give partner information for the opening lead and defence

Simple Overcalls

If the opposition open and you have a good suit then you can just call that suit. In order to do this you must have –

  • a 5 card suit with 2 honours in that suit. You can include 10’s for this purpose, but only in a protective position. Remember that if partner ends up on lead they will lead this suit and will be very disappointed is your quality is poor
  • 8 HCP to overcall at the 1 level and 10 HCP to overcall at the 2 level 

If you lack either the suit quality or points then you cannot make a simple overcall.

♠ AQ863

K42

97

♣ 753

Opposition have opened 1 ♣. This is the kind of hand which should overcall 1 ♠. You have a 5 card spade suit with 2 honours and more than 8 points. 

Opposition have opened 1 ♣. This hand has 9 HCP and a 5 card spade suit. However with only the Q in spades the suit is not good enough to call and this hand should just pass.

♠ Q8632

 K42

 97

♣ A75

Responding to a simple overcall

If you have no support for partner (or insufficient support to bid high enough), and you have fewer than 12 points you should just pass. 

Bidding with support, but few points

If you have a fit for partner’s suit and around 5-11 points then you can raise partner’s suit to the appropriate level. Remember that a raise of partners suit DOES NOT promise many points, it only shows the level of the fit and is designed as a preemtive bid.

Bidding to the level of the fit

If partner has overcalled (this also applies if they have pre-empted) and you do not have enough points to be interested in game then you should bid based entirely on the total number of trumps between you and partner. Remember that a simple overcall promises a 5 card suit. So if you can count-

  • 8 total trumps – bid to the 2 level
  • 9 total trumps – bid to the 3 level
  • 10 – total trumps – bid to the 4 level

If you have more you are safe to go even higher, but keep an eye on the auction. If opps have stopped bidding you may not need to go to the 5 level. 

Remember that these are pre-emptive bids, you are not expecting to make them! But if you bid based on the fit then you should never go too many tricks down. Because these are sacrificial contracts, if you are concerned remember to check the vulnerabilities. If everyone is vulnerable, or noone is, then ignore them. If you are vulnerable and opps are not then be more cautious, you should expect to be doubled in a sacrificial contract.

Bidding with points and support

If you have 3 card support and points for game, just bid it. Partner will not know if this is meant as a making contract or a preemtive one, but that doesn’t matter – you are where you wanted to be!

Remember that the points needed for game opposite an overcall will depend on what level partner has overcalled. 

If partner has overcalled at the 1 level they are showing 8+ points and you need 17 or more to go straight to game.

If partner has overcalled at the 2 level then they are showing 10+ points and you need 15 or more to go straight to game. 

Remember to take fit points into these considerations!

If you have a hand that is stronger than this (including fit points) then think about investigating a slam. Note that if you bid game partner will pass and you will never get any higher. If you think a slam is on, it is your responsibility to do something about it! 

If you have 3+ card support for partner and enough points to be interested in game then you can use an Unassuming Cue Bid in order to find out how good partner’s overcall was. See the section below for more detail.

Bidding with points and no support for partner

If partner overcalls you should not bid your own suit unless you have 12+ points. Even then you may not be able to if the bidding has gotten too high by the time it gets to you. You will have to use some judgement on this front based on your hand, what suit you want to bid and what opps are doing.

Unassuming Cue Bids

So if a raise of partners suit does not show points then how can we know if there is a chance of game? The answer is to use a UCB.

If you have 3+ card support for partner and game invitational points then you should cue bid the oppositions suit. This will ask partner how good their overcall was.

In this position invitational points should be somewhere around 12-16, including fit points!

♠ 86

 K942

 AK97

♣ QJ3

Opposition have opened 1 ♣ and partner has overcalled 1 . You have 13 HCP and good support for partner. If partner also has an opening hand you should be making game. This is a perfect chance to cue bid opps suit. Bidding 2 clubs will ask partner if their hand is good enough for game.

With fewer than 12 points partner will rebid their suit at the lowest possible level. If partner has more than 12 points then they will bid game.

Weak Jump Overcalls

Another common variety of overcall is the weak jump overcall. This shows the sort of hand that would have opened pre-emptively, and the responses are the same.

A WJO at the 2 level promises 5-9 points and a six card suit, with 2 top honours. At the 3 level you are showing a seven card suit, at the 4 level an eight card suit.

Responding to a Weak Jump Overcall

  • With less than 16 points and no support just pass
  • With support for partner and less than 16 points bid to the level of the fit
  • With 16+ points and a good 6 card suit of your own, bid that suit
  • With 16-18 points and support for partner bid 2NT to ask how good the WJO was
  • With 19+ points and support bid game

For more information on pre-emptive bidding click here.

Overcalling with 16+ points

If you have 16+ HCP and are overcalling then you should always DOUBLE FIRST.

Partner will think that this is a take out double and respond accordingly. When the bidding comes back to you you can then bid your longest suit. This will alert partner to the strength of your hand.

If you double with a strong hand and partner bids your suit then you should be in a good position to pick a final contract. 

Remember that partner is responding to a take out double. They will bid their longest suit, at the same level as if you had opened 1 of that suit. This will give you a point count on partners hand. If you think game is on bid it!

Overcalling 1NT

Overcalling 1NT shows 15-17 points and a balanced hand. It also shows a stop in the suit bid by opps. 

It is a good idea to have some systems such as transfers and stayman in effect over a 1NT overcall as well as a 1NT opener, but these will need to be agreed by your partnership.

Overcalling NT with 18+ HCP

If you have a balanced hand with 18 or more points then you should once again double first. If you double and then rebid NT you show the following;

  • 1NT – 18-20 HCP
  • 2NT 21-23 HCP
  • 3NT 24-25 HCP

Hopefully partners answer to your double will inform your bid slightly (remember they will answer as if it was a take out double).