Simple Overcalls at the One Level

This bid absolutely guarantees a five card suit. The quality of the suit must be good i.e. ideally two top honours. Possession of intermediates (8s, 9s & 10s) is very beneficial. Point count should generally be 9-12 but if the bid is disruptive (especially 1S), 7-8 is fine. Stronger hands, up to 15 point one suiters or even 17 point two suiters may best be described by a simple overcall. The overall range is therefore very wide i.e. 7-17. Do not overcall on 6- HCPs.

The overcaller’s motivation may be;
  • Constructive - a genuine bid to compete in order to declare; holding a good hand.
  • Lead Directing - Generally holding a good hand.
  • Pre-emptive - thus disruptive, typically with a weaker hand in HCPs but decent suit quality and ideally the spade suit.

The risks involved are;
  • The possibility of being doubled for penalties. This is relatively small at the one level.
  • The fact that you reveal a good deal of distributional information which may help your opponents if they declare. This is always an issue and should therefore always deter frivolous overcalls.

Advancer’s Responses

Overcaller’s partner is known as Advancer. Advancer first determines whether he has a
fit (3+ of partner’s suit).

If the answer is yes, the next question is “Could we be in game if partner is not minimal?” i.e. 10+

If the answer is no (as it usually is) advancer’s duty is to
immediately raise to the level of the fit (minus 1 if vulnerable, flat or holding poor trumps). This is purely pre-emptive and promises no points at all. It must be done in one fell swoop, otherwise the pre-emptive advantage is diluted;

e.g. 1D-1S-2H-?

Holding 5 spades non-vulnerable, the appropriate response is 4S, even with a Yarborough. The partnership is known to have 10 spades so the level of the fit is at the 4 level (6+4). You don’t expect to make but even doubled, it’s likely to be better than letting them make 4H. Note that if you vacillate and try 3S, you allow them to bid their 4H reasonably comfortably but by immediately biding 4S, you make their life very difficult.

If advancer has a fit and game is possible opposite a non-minimal (10+) overcaller, advancer cue-bids the oppositions opening suit. This is called an Unassuming Cue-Bid.

With support (3+) for overcaller’s suit and a high quality (two top honors) 5+ card side suit, advancer may jump bid his side suit. This bid is called a Fit-Jump. It doesn’t necessarily promise lots of points but does promise an excellent side suit.

e.g. 1D-1H-1S-?

Partner has overcalled 1S and you have;

S - 9,7,6
H - 9,2
D - 7,4,2
C - A, K, J, T, 8

You jump-bid clubs i.e. 3C.

Lacking a fit
, advancer generally passes and will probably take partner’s overcall as lead-directing.

If advancer had a strong (10-12) balanced hand, he may bid 1NT or 2NT if balanced and 13+.

If Advancer has a good suit of his own he may bid it but this is forcing, so he must be tolerant of either a rebid of partner’s suit or a raise of his own. In practice, this will rarely be the case.

Overcaller’s Continuation

In response to a simple or jump raise from advancer, overcaller knows there is no game on and will pass. The only exception is if he started out with a 6 card suit
and wishes to further up the pre-empt. In that case he may raise and Advancer must always pass.

In response to an Unassuming Cue-Bid, a minimal overcaller (7-9) simply rebids his suit as cheaply as possibly. Holding 10+, overcaller’s options are;
  • Jump re-bid his suit holding 6+
  • Bid his side suit holding 4+
  • Bid NT with the oppositions suit(s) well stopped
Opposite a Fit-Jump, overcalled has a vivid picture of Advancer’s hand and should be well placed to bid the appropriate contract. Note that if overcalled has discovered a double fit as a result of his partner’s Fit-jump, he may feel comfortable to bid at one higher level than usual in either a game try or a sacrifice.

In response to a NT or change of suit response, overcaller’s options are entirely natural.