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-
The guidelines have changed over time.
At one time the simple guidance went along the lines of -
As soon as we are ready to improve on the beginner method above we need to remember that our priorities have changed.
We are now as concerned with disruption of the opposing auction, locating a profitable sacrifice, or indicating an attacking lead in defence, as we are with locating a making contract our way.
Suit quality will be an important consideration and a useful guideline in assessing suit quality is the…
SQUOT (SQOT) count
SQUOT stands for Suit QUality Overcall Test.
The SQUOT count 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.
The idea is that the SQUOT count indicates that the suit is of sufficient quality to justify contracting to make that number of tricks.
Thus, a SQUOT count of seven suggests that the suit is of sufficient quality to justify competing at the one-
thus AKJ75 has a SQUOT count of 8,
as does QT8742.
either of these suits might justify a lowest level overcall at the two-
Of course, this is far from the same as saying that your contract will make, but with the near certainty that partner will lead your suit in defence, and also that he might rely in top honours in your suit in the ensuing auction it is important that your suit should have something good at the top of it.
There are, of course, other factors.
The overall strength of your hand is of course important.
If your hand is just too good to pass -
The vulnerability can be all important.
If there is a likelihood of going down at 100 a time, or more if doubled, then a certain amount of circumspection will be the order of the day.
Preemptive effect is important.
An overcall of 1♦ over 1♣ will usually be sound -
An overcall of 1♠ over 1♣ on the other hand has considerable preemptive effect and might be made on a far more dubious holding.
Overcalling at the one-
My choice for the strength of a typical suit overcall at the one-
With less than six points my suit will not usually be good enough and with nineteen or more points I will start with a double.
Vulnerability is not usually such a consideration at the one-
With a weaker hand it is sufficient that your suit should be at least five-
Note that, with a higher SQUOT count you might choose to compete immediately at a higher level, but this will depend on your partnership agreement regarding jump overcalls.
With a hand around opening strength, and particularly if the bid is space-
Overcalling at the two-
When not vulnerable the requirements are more or less as above.
In general your suit will be six-
The minimum SQUOT count in a weak hand will be eight, and it will be rare that the overall strength is less than 8 points.
When vulnerable considerably more circumspection is required.
The hand will usually be recognisably close to an opening bid, the SQUOT count will almost certainly be a sound eight, and I would recommend that you should stick fairly strictly to a minimum six-
An overcall at the one-
It should be assumed to promise at least a five-
A vulnerable overcall at the two-
This page last revised 18th Dec 2019
Q 9 6
A K J T 5
6 5 2
Opponents open 1♠.
Borderline in high-
Some would make this same bid when vulnerable but the lack of a six-
A 9 6
K T 8 7 5
A 5 2
Opponents open 1♠.
Pass, whether vulnerable or not.
You have two more points than in the previous hand, but your suit is just not worth mentioning at the two-
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-
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-
Agree whichever cut-
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