M J Bridge
It should be remembered that in overcalling, perhaps more than in any other aspect of bidding, personal and partnership style and agreement will come into play. There is an underlying decision to be made about where you are on the spectrum which, roughly speaking, stretches from ‘I will overcall whenever I have thirteen cards in my hand so as to cause the maximum possible disruption to any constructive sequence which my opponents might have planned’ to ‘I will only overcall when I can count at least thirteen solid tricks in my own hand, and even then only at favourable vulnerability.’
I shall assume that your position is not at either of these extreme positions, but it is still true that the styles of a cross-
In the next few pages (see menu on left) I shall look at some of the factors which might affect your decision to overcall, but first there are a few basic principles which should be firmly grasped:-
on any given hand first convince yourself that the hand fits at least one of the aims of overcalling;
secondly check that your action is consistent with general principles listed below;
and then, if there is any doubt, consider your likely bid(s) in the light of the considerations which follow on the next few pages.
Weak over strong and strong over weak
This is an important principle.
Bid weak hands over strong openings and strong hands over weak openings.
If for example your opponents open with an artificial strong two-
Conversely, if they open with a weak bid -
How strong should I be to overcall a weak opening bid?
At least a good opener.
How strong should I be to overcall a strong opening bid?
Less than opening values.
In the case of an opening bid which may be weak or strong, such as the multi two diamond, start by assuming that it is weak and bid accordingly, unless you have specifically made some other agreement.
Sometimes it is not obvious if an opponent’s opening bid should be classified as weak, standard, or strong.
I will propose the following ‘working rules’:-
Treat the bid as strong if it guarantees at least fifteen HCP.
Treat the bid as weak if it guarantees no more than ten HCP.
Treat the bid as weak if it mixes weak and strong meanings.
If the hand doesn’t fall into any of these categories then just treat it as a standard opening bid, either natural or artificial as the case may be.
Artificial or Natural
A second important principle relates to whether your opponents’ bid is natural or artificial.
If their bid is artificial and strong (as in the Precision club) then you should adopt some specific defence.
If the bid does not promise additional strength then you must agree on your method.
Simplest is to treat the bid as natural (double for take-
If an opponent’s bid is natural then a double will be for take-
if their bid is artificial then a bid of their suit will be natural,
and a double will show length and strength in that suit or will have a specific conventional meaning.
As with the previous principle, these are default assumptions which can be overridden by agreement in specific situations.
It is not always quite clear as to what constitutes ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ in the above.
This applies particularly to opening bids of 1♣ (and sometimes 1♦ as in Precision).
Such opening bids should be announced as, for example, ‘could be two’. If they are not announced then the bid should guarantee at least three cards in the bid suit.
However, it is not uncommon for such bids to be alerted, or announced as (say) ‘phoney’, ‘nebulous’, ‘fishing’, ‘prepared’, or some such description. In all such cases you should ask what is the minimum possible holding in the suit, and if that number is less than three then you should treat the bid as artificial. If at least a three-
Note that there are partnerships out there (but not at a particularly high level) who have never actually agreed exactly what such a bid promises. Such partnerships tend to hold at least three cards in the suit, and the bid is most easily treated as natural.
Beginner and above
This page last revised 17th June 2017
When is a loosely defined one-
When it does not promise at least three cards in the suit.
What happens if they cannot define their bid clearly?
Treat it as natural.
Once you are happy with the aims and principles you should return to the page ‘overcalling’ and follow the links from there for the considerations relating to the opponents’ specific opening bid.
|Overcaller's rebid and beyond|
|Responder's rebid and beyond|
|The continuing auction|