Learn how to respond to an overcall. Raises, cue bids, bidding no trump, and making an overcall yourself.

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Responses to an Overcall



Responding to an overcall is similar to responding to an opening bid. You count your points, and prioritize your bidding choices the same way as you do when responding to an opening bid.

In order of priority:

  • Pass with a bad hand.
  • Raise partner's major suit, with support.
  • Show your own major suit.
  • Bid NT, with a stopper.
  • Raise Partner's minor suit, with support.
  • Show our own minor suit.

Before we get into the details of exactly how to follow those priorities, I'd like to clear up a vocabulary issue.

The partner of the Opener is called Responder.
The partner of the Overcaller is called Advancer. When Advancer bids, he "advances the overcall," even if he bids a new suit.


  Responder
 2  
  Overcaller
 1
  Advancer
 2  
  Opener
 1

  Responder
 1♥  
  Advancer
  P
  Overcaller
 2
  Opener
 1

Raising partners suit

Partner overcalls 1, and you hold...

example 1

Q 8 5
A J 8
5 3
T 6 4 3 2  

Good news! You've found a major suit fit.

You can raise partner's overcall on the same hands that would raise if he had opened the bidding.

Raise to the two level on 6-9 points with support. The example hand is a comfortable raise to 2.

example 2

K 8 5
A J 8
5 3
Q 6 4 3 2  

What do you do when your hand is too strong for a single raise? Cue bid opener's suit. Cue bid = 10+ with support.

Partner will then tell you (with his bidding) how good his overcall is. He will repeat his suit with 8-11, and bid something else with a full opening hand of 12+ points.

Note: a cue bid is also used for stronger hands without support, similar to a Power Double.

Let's consider how example hand 2 should be bid facing various rebids by overcaller.

Opener Partner Responder You
1 1 P 2
P 2 P ?

Overcaller puts his hand into the 8-11 box by repeating his suit. You have only 11 in support of spades, so game is out of reach. PASS.

We've just seen why we don't jump to 3 with a "limit raise." Overcaller can have as little as 8 points, and 3 on his 8 facing your 10-11 is just plain too high.


Reminder:

We bid only a partial when we have up to 23-24 points, but we go to game with 24-25.

Why do we bid game on as few as 24 points? Because Overcaller always has a good suit and working honors when he's minimum. (We don't overcall on cruddy 8 point hands.)



Opener Partner Responder You
1 1 P 2
P 2 P ?

This time Overcaller says he has a full opening bid. Now what?

Example hand 2 is in the bottom of the cue bid box – only 10-11 points. So just bid 2 to confirm your spade support and tell partner that you have nothing extra. Partner will then place the spade contract at the correct level, based on how many points he has.


Opener Partner Responder You
1 1 P 2
P 2N P ?

We're still looking at bidding sequences to follow example 2.

After your cue bid, partner's 2N says he has a full opening hand, with NT distribution and diamonds controlled. He also says he has a minimum, only 12-13 points. If he had more, he'd bid 3N instead of only 2N. You don't have enough strength to go on to game, but you show your spade fit with a 3 bid. Partner will pass because he's already said he doesn't have enough points for game.


example 3

Q T 5 2
K 4
A 9 7 6
K J 8  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P 2
P 2 P ?

What is your hand worth in support of partner's spades?

  


14 points

13 hcp, plus one extra trump.

How many points does Overcaller have?   


8-11 points

After a cue bid, Overcaller repeats his suit with 8-11 points and bids something else with 12+.

What will your next bid be?         


No, don't pass.

If Overcaller is in the top half of his 8-11 box, you belong in game.

So invite game with a bid of 3.


Yes, perfect.

If Overcaller is in the top half of his 8-11 box, you belong in game.

So invite game with a bid of 3.


Ouch. No.

Partner could have as little as 8 points. Your 14 isn't enough to insist on game.

You should invite game with a bid of 3. Game will be a good bet only if partner is at the top end of his 8-11 box.



example 4

A K J 7 3
Q T 4
9 7 6
9 8  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

What is your hand worth in support of partner's hearts?

  


10 points

Should you bid spades?   


No, don't bid spades.

You have already found a major suit fit. One fit is enough. Don't look for another one.

What will your next bid be?         


Correct.

You have enough points to cue bid (10+ with support). Cue bid asks partner to tell you the strength of his overcall.


Yuck, no.

A 2 raise would show 6-9, and your hand is too good for that.


Yikes! No, no, no...

Partner could have as little as 8 points. After his overcall, we make a "limit raise" by cue bidding. That gives us the chance to stop at the two level when partner has only 8-11.



example 5

K Q 4
A J 8 6
5
K T 8 7 3 
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P 2
P 2 P ?

You have a heart fit. What is your hand worth?

  


16 points

13 hcp +
2 for the singleton +
1 for the extra trump

How many points does Overcaller have?   


Partner has 8-11.

That's the message he sends when he repeats his suit.

What will your next bid be?         


Sorry, you missed this one.

Add your 16 to partner's 8-11 and you know the combined strength is 24-27 – way too much to pass.


Nope...

Combine your points with partner's and you'll find that the partnership total is 24-27.

That's too much to give partner a chance to pass short of game, so just bid the 4 game yourself.


Yes. Well done.

The partnership total is 24-27. That's enough to bid the game. You don't have to ask partner if he's at the top of his box. Even the bottom of his box is enough.



Bidding a new suit after partner's overcall

When partner overcalls, our first priority is to find a major suit fit. If partner has overcalled a major, raise to the appropriate level when you have support. Our second priority is to bid a major suit of our own. We could take the view that the combination of the two is really only one priority -- to look for a major suit fit.


What are the strength and suit requirements for showing your own suit? Simple, the same as making an overcall of your own, starting with 8hcp and a 5+ suit. You can stretch one level higher than you would for an overcall of your own because partner has already promised a hand worth bidding.

example 6

J 6
K Q 7 5 3
T 7 6
K J 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

You cannot raise partner's spades, but you do have a good five card heart suit with 10hcp. Bid 2.

What do I mean by stretching one level higher? In this case, you are bidding at the two level, so you need the hcp requirements for a one level overcall. You do not, however, need the usual number of plus factors because partner already has them for her overcall.



example 7

A J T 8 6
T 7 5 3
Q 6
K 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

What is your hand worth in support of partner's hearts?

  


11 points

10 hcp plus 1 for the extra trump.

Should you bid spades?   


No, don't bid spades.

You have already found a major suit fit. One fit is enough. Don't look for another one.

What will your next bid be?         


Correct.

You have enough points to cue bid (10+ with support). Cue bid asks partner to tell you the strength of his overcall.


Yuck, no.

A 2 raise would show 6-9, and your hand is too good for that.


Yikes! No, no, no...

Partner could have as little as 8 points. After his overcall, we make a "limit raise" by cue bidding. That gives us the chance to stop at the two level when partner has only 8-11.


Overcaller repeats his suit after your cue bid. Now what?   


Pass.

Overcaller can have as little as 8hcp, so 2 is high enough.


Bidding NT after partner's overcall

Bidding NT is our next priority, after searching for a major suit fit. When Overcaller promises 8+ points, Advancer can bid a NT game with 16, and invite game with 14-15.

example 8

J 6
A J 8
A Q 9
K J 4 3 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

Partner overcalls 1. As soon as you saw the hand diagram you did count your points didn't you?

You don't have spade support, and you don't have hearts either, so the search for a major suit fit is over. If partner has extra length in spades, HE might not think the search for a major suit fit is over, but leave that up to him.

You have 16 points and diamonds double stopped, so you can jump to 3N. Partner's 8+ and your 16 is enough for game.

example 9

7 6
A J 8
A Q 9
K 8 4 3 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

This time you have 14 points, not enough to bid game on your own. Invite game with a bid of 2N. Partner will carry on to game when he has enough extra points.



example 10

7 6
Q J 8
A J T
T 8 4 3 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

Funny how these hands keep getting weaker. 8 points this time.

Bid 1N to let partner know that you have something, including a diamond stop, though not enough to take a stronger action. You have promised about 8-11 hcp.


example 11

K Q 7 6
J 2
A Q 2
T 8 6  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 1 P ?

What is your hand worth?

  


12 points

You don't have heart support so you can't raise. You have a diamond stop, so you'd like to bid NT, but 12 hcp doesn't fit any of the NT bids we've talked about. You don't have a suit of your own to bid. But if you pass, your partnership might miss a game.

Any ideas?   


When you have a full opening bid, 12+ points, you can cue bid to find out what kind of overcall partner holds.

Bid 2.

If partner rebids 2, showing 8-11 points, what will you rebid?

        


Yes, well done.

Partner shows 8-11 hcp, and you don't have enough to invite game facing a minimum overcall. The 5-2 heart fit isn't wonderful, but it's time to get stopped.


No! Ouch!

2N invites partner to carry on to game when he's at the top of his 8-11 box. If partner has only 8, you'll be overbid at 2N. And if partner is at the top of his 8-11 box, he'll carry on to 3N and you'll be overbid again.


The Bridge Bears are disappointed.

Partner could have as little as 8 points. If you raise without support on only 12 points, you will go set. And partner will start looking for a new partner who doesn't overbid.


Be careful about these hcp ranges, don't just memorize them, because they change. That's bad news, isn't it. But you see, they have to change because partner promises different hcp minimums when she makes different bids. For example, if her overcall is at the two level, she will have a 10 hcp minimum instead of only 8 for a one level overcall. Then you can jump to 3N with only 14 hcp instead of the the 16 you need when she promises an 8 point minimum.

The way to remember what you need for your bids is to think of partnership totals, not just what you have in your own hand. You can jump to 3N if the partnership total is 24+. You can invite with 2N when the partnership total is 22-23, and when the partnership minimum is less than 22, you'll have to content yourself with 1N, a cue bid (prepared to pass if partner shows a minimum), or simply passing when partner overcalls.




Bidding minor suits after partner's overcall

Bidding minor suits is our lowest priority, after Majors and NT. If partner overcalls in a minor suit, you will bid a major if you have one. If not, you will bid NT when you can stop their suit. Failing both, raise partner's minor in preference to showing your own minor.


example 12

8 3
T 7 2
K T 2
K Q T 9 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 2 P ?




What's your call?   


You should bid 3, showing 6-9 points.

Raise partner's minor in preference to showing your own minor.


example 13

8 3
T 7 2
A Q 2
K Q T 9 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 2 P ?




What's your call this time?   


You should cue bid 2 (10+ with support, or 12+ without)

If partner holds 8-11 points, she will repeat her diamonds, and you will pass.

If partner has 12-13 points and a spade stop, she will bid 2N, and you will retreat to 3 showing a minimum cue bid with diamond support.

If partner holds 14+ with a spade stop, she will bid 3N, and you will pass.


example 14

8 3
K 7 2
Q 2
A Q T 9 5 2  
Opener Overcaller Responder You
1 2 P ?




Let's see, you can't bid NT; you can't raise diamonds; and your hand is not strong enough for a cue bid, so...

  


This is exactly the kind of hand where you will show your own minor suit.

Bid 3.

Partner will choose a bid (or pass) as if you were the overcaller and she is responding to your 3 overcall.



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Responses to an Overcall -- Summary


Raising partner's suit

If partner's suit is a Major, this is your first priority.
6-9 points = single raise
10+ points = cue bid. Then add the points partner shows to your own when deciding how high to raise.


Bidding NT requires a stopper in your opponents' suit

24+ total partnership points = 3N
22-23 total partnership points = invite game with 2N
20-21 total partnership points = cue bid
16-19 total partnership points = bid 1N (if available)


Bidding a new suit

Bid as if you were making an overcall yourself. A new suit is non-forcing.


When do you cue bid?

10+ points with support for partner's suit
12+ points even without support (and you can't bid NT)







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