Overcalling with a new suit at the lowest level

Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



New suit at the lowest level

At the earliest stages there is something to be said for playing a lowest level suit overcall much the same as an opening bid, with the added requirement that it should be at least a five-card suit, but I cannot overemphasise that this approach is recommended for the earliest stages only.

Q 9 6

T 8

A K J T 5

6 5 2

Opponents open 1♠.

Bid 2.

Borderline in high-card points, but your suit is excellent.  You would certainly make this bid when not vulnerable, and I would also consider it when vulnerable.

A 9 6

J 8

K T 8 7 5

A 5 2

Opponents open 1♠.


You have two more points than in the previous hand, but your suit is just not worth mentioning at the two-level.

Advancer’s next bid

Beginner only

As soon as we are ready to move beyond the beginner method above we need to remember that our priorities have changed.

Certainly we will still wish to enter the fray when holding a strong hand on which there might be the possibility of a contract our way, but we must also bear in mind that we have other priorities.  Our aims in this position now extend to disruption, the search for a sacrifice, and the indication of a defensive lead to partner.

Bearing these points in mind the first prerequisite for a simple overcall is a quality suit.

Some will maintain the requirement of near-opening values as they move the emphasis towards suit quality.

More common is to stretch the strength requirements considerably as the other aims are brought into the equation.

A typical minimum requirement might be six points and a SQUOT count (see below) of seven for an overcall at the one-level, and eight points and a SQUOT count of eight for an overcall at the two-level.

Note that guidelines such as this are not hard and fast.

Certainly vulnerability is a consideration.  Be a little more reluctant to overcall when vulnerable unless holding extra length or extra values.  In particular an overcall at the two-level when vulnerable will usually be six-card.

And when not vulnerable you might be prepared to stretch the suit quality a little when holding something with greater overall strength,

but the guideline above is a good starting point until such time as you choose to come to your own partnership understanding on the matter.

SQUOT (SQOT) count

SQUOT stands for Suit QUality Overcall Test.

The quality of a suit is determined by adding the number of cards in the suit to the number of honours in that suit, only counting the J and/or 10 if a higher honour is held.

Thus AKJ75 has a Squot count of 8,

as does QT8742.

Either of these suits might justify a lowest level overcall at the two-level, although I would think twice before introducing either of them when vulnerable unless holding extra values.

Post-beginner and above

Too strong for a suit overcall

The guideline that hands of opening strength should double, and any other suit overcall will suggest a hand of less than opening strength is a thing of the past.  The basic requirement for a double is now related to the shape of the hand as much as to the strength, but there are still hands based on a good suit which are just too good for a simple suit overcall.

With the appropriate strength, and usually a six-card suit, you will double first and then bid your suit second to show this additional strength.

The exact strength requirement for this route is a matter for partnership agreement.

Many partnerships play that the suit overcall might show anything up to sixteen points, and with seventeen or more points (or a seven-playing trick hand) they start with a double.  More recently an overcall ceiling of about eighteen points has become more the norm, in which case you will follow the double then change suit route with nineteen or more points, or thereabouts.

Agree whichever cut-off guideline you like with your partner, but please don’t bring the ceiling down to twelve points (or similar), it is far more important to show your suit than your overall strength on such hands.

This page last revised 25th Nov 2017