The term “overcall” refers to any bid by your side after an opponent has opened the bidding. Overcalls occur frequently, making them an important topic to discuss with your partner. Guidelines on overcalls follow.
Why Overcall?
    Bidding your suit interferes with the opponents’ exchange of information and provides partner a lead suggestion should the opponents’ gain the contract. Often the overcall finds a fit with partner and allows partner to continue the interference or permit your partnership to win the auction.
Factors to ponder if considering an overcall
    Some factors to consider before making an overcall are your (1) suit length, (2) suit strength, (3) hand strength, (4) vulnerability, and (5) level. An overcall at the one level is usually based on a five-card or longer suit but doesn’t promise or deny an opening hand. After a 1C, 1D, or 1H opening bid by an opponent, most players would overcall 1S holding S AQT74    H 863    D K73    C 53. You only have nine HCP and eight loser count, but the spade suit is strong enough to enter the bidding and offers a good lead suggestion to partner.
With this hand, most players would pass: S J7654    H 86    D AK3    C 653–the suit is weak and not the suit you would want led, plus you have nine loser count and only eight HCP. Consider this hand: S J75    H KJ954    D KJ43    C 7. Most players would overcall 1H but would pass if the opponents’ opening bid were 1S. If partner supports hearts or bids spades or diamonds, you are well placed to compete.
A myth
Many players have the mistaken idea that an overcall always shows less than an opening bid. These same players thus double with an opening hand, even if they do not have support for the three unbid suits. Most good players do not subscribe to this thinking, however, and overcall with appropriate hands with a range of about 8-16 HCP. Suppose you hold:    S AKJ63    H K2    KT3    C 53 and hear your RHO open 1C. You should overcall 1S. The 1S bid fits into the 8-16 HCP range and names your good suit. If you double with this hand and partner responds 1H, you would then bid 1S. However, that sequence–double and bid a new suit, shows 17+ HCP.
    Suppose your RHO opens 1C and you hold these hands. Would you overcall?
#1:    S Q73    H KQ653    D 763    C K2
Answer: Bid 1H. You have a fairly good suit and some values. Your K of clubs appears to be well-placed. If partner cannot raise you, at least he will have a better idea of what to do on defense. Besides guiding the opening lead, you have provided some clues as to your distribution and strength–a good five-card or longer suit, a suggestion for an opening lead, shortness in the opponent’s suit, and too few HCP to start with a double.
#2:    S KQ3    H T7653    D A63    C 52
Answer: Pass. Your suit is too poor to compensate for only nine HCP. If you pass and partner can act, you will have a good idea of how to proceed.
#3:    S KQ3    H J7643    D A63    C K2
Answer: Bid 1H. Your heart suit is weak but you hold an opening hand of 13 HCP, good support for any new suit partner might bid, and a well-place club K. Purists would pass, however, due to poor suit quality and good defensive values. You and your partner should decide what you want to do with this hand and this situation. You might decide to overcall with favorable vulnerability and pass otherwise.
#4:    S KQ3    H AK765    D A63    C 53
Answer: Bid 1H. You have a good hand with support for any unbid suit, but if partner responds with 1S to your double, you will want to bid 2H, and that call requires a stronger hand.
#5:    S K43    H A4    D KQJ63    C 742
Answer: Bid 1D. You have an opening hand and a good suit, but you do not have shortness in the opposition suit or 3-card support for hearts. Bid your strength–1D.
Overcalling at the two-level
    Overcalling at the two-level logically requires more high card strength and/or more distribution values. A good starting point in to require 11+ HCP and a six-card suit. You and partner might choose to deviate from these requirements based on vulnerability, your perception of the ability of the opponents, and the quality of a five-card suit. A suit holding of AKQT9 holds more promise for success as declarer than does a suit like
J96543; it is also a better lead suggestion that is the weak six-card suit.
Weak jump overcalls
    There is preemptive value in making a weak jump overcall. If RHO opens 1D and you hold S QJT765
H A3    D 8    C QJT9, you might choose to jump to 2S (or even 3S if the spade suit is QJT9432) to make life difficult for the opponents; by limiting the opponents’ bidding space, you may keep them from finding their best game or a make-able slam. Either hand would qualify for a 1S overcall, but that bid would sacrifice the preemptive value of the jump overcall. Neither suit might hold 11 HCP, but the trick-taking capability of the hands make a simple overcall less than ideal.

2 Responses to “~Overcalls”

  1. elizabeth barron Says:

    Does one ever overcall a 1 no-trump bid?

    • bridgetips Says:

      When one holds one 6-card suit or two 5-card suits and meets the requirements of the Rule of Eight, one should overcall a strong 1NT by an opponent.

      Rule of 8:
      ~Add the number of cads in your two longest suits
      ~Subtract your loser count
      ~If the resuiltant istwo or more and you have 6+ HCP, you meet the Rule of Eight.

      Now you need a convention to show your holding. Some suggestions:

      Need more info?

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