Overcalls and Takeout Doubles

General Rules for Overcalls

A one-level overcall (1C on your right - 1H by you) promises:
1 - A good 5-card or longer suit;  AND
2 - At  least 9-10+ points. You can overcall 1H with as little as   762   AQ1087  K96  43.
A non-jump two-level overcall (1S on your right - 2C, 2D or 2H by you) promises a stronger hand and a 6+-card (or very good 5-card) suit. The stronger your suit, the fewer points you need. If your right-hand-opponent opens 1S, a 2H overcall would show a hand like   A6  AJ10973  K96  43.

A jump overcall (1H on your right - 2S, 3C or 3D by you) is a weak bid. It shows a long, strong suit with few, if any, tricks outside (usually around 5-9 pts.) -- a  hand like  KQ10943  643  Q75  4.  (Alternatively, some pairs choose to play a jump overcall as intermediate, showing a 6-card suit and around 12-14 pts.)

A 1NT overcall shows the same strength as an opening 1NT (a balanced 16-18 pts.), but with the additional requirement that you have good stoppers (KQx, Q10xx, AQx, etc.) in the suit your opponent opened.

If you're vulnerable (a game on in the rubber), all overcalls tend to promise more strength because the penalties are greater.

Responding to Partner's Major-Suit Overcall

Raise partner's major suit if you have fair strength and 3+ card support:
Raise one level with 7-10 pts
Jump-raise with 10-12 pts.
Bid game with 12+ pts.

Bid notrump if you have no fit for partner's major, but good stoppers in the opponent's suit:
1NT with 8-11 pts.
2NT with 11-13 pts.
3NT with 13+ pts.
Bid a new suit if you have no fit for partner's suit, 9+ pts. and a good 5-card suit of your own.

Pass if you have none of the above. 

Responding to Partner's Minor-Suit Overcall

If partner overcalls clubs or diamonds, you can follow the same general rules as above. However, if you have good stoppers in the opponent's suit and invitational or better strength (10+ pts.), you should consider suggesting notrump rather than raising partner's suit. Notrump will often be the easiest game to make, especially if you have at least a partial fit with partner's suit (a doubleton honor, for example).

Responding to a Weak Jump Overcall

Partner's jump overcall is a preempt, so you need a fit and quick tricks (aces and kings) to consider a game. If you're weak or if you lack support for partner's suit, you should usually just pass -- don't try to "rescue" him by suggesting other suits. If you do have a fit (3-card support) and a few tricks, you can make a simple raise below game (raising partner's 2S overcall to 3S, or his 3C overcall to 4C). This raise is meant only to further the preempt, and is not invitational to game. Partner should always pass a simple raise.

General Rules for Takeout Doubles

If your opponent opens with a suit bid, a double by you promises:
The exception: There is one type of hand where you can double without support for all unbid suits. You can start with a double if you have a hand that has one long suit and great strength (17+ pts.) -- the type of hand where you don't want to risk having partner pass a simple overcall of your suit.  Your hand and your suit should be strong enough that you could make game if partner has as little as 4-6 pts. and a fit -- a hand like
KJ   AQJ1084   AK65   7.  To describe this hand, start with a double that forces partner to respond. Then "overrule" partner's choice by freely bidding your heart suit at your next turn. 

If the opponent opens 1NT, all the suits are unbid, so a double is not for takeout. A double of 1NT is always for penalty, showing 18+ pts. Use this double cautiously. Even if you have a lot of high-card points, you should avoid making a penalty double unless you have have a strong suit to lead.

Responding to Partner's Takeout Double

If partner doubles an opponent's suit bid, you must bid unless:
If partner doubles and the next hand passes, respond your longest unbid suit at the level that shows your point-count:

Another way to force when you have a strong response (12+ pts.) is to cuebid the opponent's suit (1D-DBL-Pass-2D). This tells partner that you have game-forcing values, but need more information, usually because you aren't certain of which game to bid. You may need to find stoppers for notrump, or you may be uncertain because you have only 4-card length in unbid suits and fear that partner has only 3 cards for his takeout double. After your cuebid, partner should bid his cheapest 4-card suit, which should help you confirm whether or not you have a 4-4 fit. 

The above guidelines can also be followed if your right-hand-opponent bids over your partner's double. The main difference is that you are not forced to bid if you have 0-8 pts. If you do bid (1D-DBL-1H-1S, for example), your bid is called a freebid. It shows length in your suit and some values (usually around 6 to 9 playing points), but it does not force partner to bid. 


What is your response to partner's takeout double after the auction: 1C by LHO -- DBL by partner -- Pass by RHO ?
Q9  J983  Q754  632
Bid 1H. You must respond, and with two suits of equal length, you should choose the major.
J42  1092  642  Q1073
Bid 1H. You have club stoppers, but your hand is too weak to bid notrump. Your only alternative is a 3-card suit, so try your cheapest major (and pray). Do not panic and pass!
K2  QJ93  A986  632
Bid 2H. The jump tells partner that you have fair values (8+ to 11 pts.). If partner has extra strength, this may encourage him to bid a game.
982  KJ  K1072  Q1082
Bid 1NT. You could also bid 1D, but a 1NT bid is more descriptive (it shows your club stopper) and more encouraging, since it promises at least 7-10 pts.
104  943  KJ1065  AQ5
Bid 2NT. You have the strength to invite game, but 5D will be a difficult contract to make. With your balanced pattern and good club stoppers, suggest a notrump game instead. If partner has more than a bare minimum, he'll raise to 3NT.
KQ1084  AJ106  743
Bid 4S. With your strong suits and a singleton, this hand is worth much more than its 10 high-card pts. Jump to game to show your great playing strength.
AJ84  AQ94  Q5  J103
Bid 2C. You have enough strength to jump to 4H or 4S, but you aren't sure you have a 4-4 fit (partner's takeout double promised at least 3 cards in all unbid suits, not necessarily 4 cards). The cuebid of the opponent's suit forces partner to tell you more. He will usually bid his cheapest 4-card suit, so if he bids 2H, you'll bid 4H. If he bids 2S (showing 4 spades but only 3 hearts), you'll bid 4S. If he rebids 2NT (showing no 4-card major, but promising a club stopper), raise to 3NT.
A4   73   Q85   QJ10975

Pass. This is one of the rare hands where it's right to pass and defend 1C doubled. Your pass "converts" partner's takeout double to a penalty double.

Copyright © 2002 -- Karen Walker