The Simple Overcall at the One Level

The simple overcall (SO) occurs the most frequently, and the inferences drawn from a SO or a pass are many. Because the overcaller has several available bids, making a SO denies possession of the other possible hands, and remember that partner will always take inference. Let's see what this means.

We make a SO for several reasons. We have a suit that we want led; we have too many values to pass, e.g. a good 10-14 hcp; we want to find out which of our suits to lead; we want to preempt at a low level; we have a hand that seems conducive to competition. So what are we overcalling on? Many times one level overcalls only have four card suits, and tend to show length in opener's suit. It denies holding a side five card suit or probably even a four card suit unless you're 4-4, 5-4 or 6-4, and no other available systemic bid describes your hand. As these overcalls are so aggressive, we cautiously raise partner. We thus employ support doubles and redoubles after an overcall and interference. Occasionally, we must conceal three card support on hands people might commonly raise with in standard. Be more conservative especially when holding three small, Jxx or Qxx of LHO's suit which is known as the "Death Holding " or a 4333 hand with a bad six or seven count.

What about suit quality? There exists no specific requirements here except that you hold four cards in that suit. For example, if holding S KQx H T9xx D xx C AKxx, and RHO opens 1 club, we would not pass but rather overcall 1 heart. The average suit quality with which someone would overcall on approximates to KJ9x. Again, these bids are all relative to vulnerability or the ability to get to another spot if necessary.

How to Respond to a SO -- Uncontested Auction

The aggressive nature of our overcalls require a delicate response structure to handle various possibilities:

  1. a 1 over 1 response is not constructive merely suggesting an alternative spot. This strongly suggests 2 or fewer cards in overcaller's suit (check LHO's pulse to find out how few partner has!).

  2. 1 No Trump is not natural! It is Lebensohl with three distinct purposes:

  3. non-jumps at the 2 level are flower bids; fit showing with 3+ card trump support, 4+ cards in the bid suit, limit raise values, but non-forcing.

  4. cue-bid of opener's suit is a strong no-fit game try; advancer looks for game either in no trump or in his own suit.

  5. single jumps in suits, even jump cue-bids, are mini-splinters; generally 4+ trumps and around limit raise values (more if subsequent action is taken).

  6. 2 No Trump is jacoby style; an opening hand with 4+ trumps ; not forcing to game if overcaller responds with a minimum.

Responses to SO -- Contested Auction

The responses are similar but modified. A 1 over 1 tends to be more constructive. A new suit at the two level is a flower bid in that suit or length with that suit and enough values to force a level higher . Cue-bids are a limit raise or better for partner's suit while single jumps are still mini-splinters. Remember that support doubles and redoubles apply and come up quite frequently.

The inferences from partner passing in an auction like this: 1C - P - 1S, are very revealing. It's known that partner could not even compete at the one level. Partner almost surely denies possession of all the hands mentioned in the second paragraph on the SO, and denies also the three-suited takeouts, two-suited hands, etc., as will be described ahead. The hands most likely to be passed are 4x3 hands with length in opener's suit or any hand with opener's suit, very weak hands, and hands with a bad suit and only average values, i.e. Jxxx or worse and 6-9 HCP, depending on the hand.

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