Overcalls in bridge
An overcall is a bid made after the opposition have already opened the bidding. Just because the opposition have opened the bidding doesn't mean you can't bid. In fact, with the right hand, it's good to enter the auction. You might get to play the hand, you can take up some of the opposition's bidding space and you can suggest a lead to partner.
East opened the bidding, South overcalled.
A simple overcall means a non-jump. 1♥ - 1♠ would be a simple overcall. 1♥ - 2♠ would be a jump overcall. Unlike an opening bid, points don't matter so much for a simple overcall in bridge. A good 5-card suit is the key and good rule of thumb is two of the top four honours in the suit.
- Good 5-card suit at least
- 2 of the top 4 honours in the suit
- Points are not so important
This next hand is not strong but spades would make a good trump suit, you take up opponents' bidding space and, if you end up defending, partner will know to lead a spade.
A good 5 card suit is all you need for an overcall
Responding to an Overcall
After an opening bid you will normally respond with 6+ points but you're not obliged to respond to an overcall in the same way. Sure, sometimes you'll want to explore for game and occasionally even slam possibilities but normally you'll simply be looking to compete for the partscore.
Change of suit
An opening bid of 1♣, 1♦, 1♥ or 1♠ doesn't promise a good suit. If you're playing 5 card majors, an opening bid of 1♣ or 1♦ might even be a three card suit. You'll be responding to an opening bid with 6+ points or even less in some cases in order to search for the best contract.
Partner's diamonds might not be very good and you might have a game on. Bid 1♥.
Unlike an opening bid, partner's overcall does show a good suit. There's often no need to search for a better contract because you're likely to already be in the best spot!
Partner has 5 good diamonds. Pass!
Remember that an overcall won't be a strong hand so you're very unlikely to miss game by passing.
Raising partner's suit
If you do have a fit, it's good to support partner. 3-card support will be enough, because partner is showing a 5-card suit.
Points don't matter - show your trump fit!
Just how high you respond to partner's overcall when you have a trump fit should be based on how good your trump suit is rather than how many points you have. The Law of Total Tricks tells us that the more trumps we have the higher we bid. If you make your contract, great. If you don't make your contract you'll often lose fewer points going down than you would have lost by letting the opposition make their contract.
Overcall or Double
A takeout double is another common way of entering the auction after an opening bid by the opposition. A double normally shows support for the unbid suits. There's a nice rule of thumb to remember that will help you decide whether to double or overcall:
An overcall shows a good suit, a double shows a good hand.
How to show a strong hand as overcaller
If the strength of your overcalls varies too much it makes it difficult for partner to know how to respond. Consider the case of an opening bid of 1 of a suit which shows 12 to about 19 points. That's a 7 point range. The overcaller should try and keep to that 7 point range and, because an overcall can be made on 10 and sometimes even fewer points, the maximum strength for an overcall is about 16 or 17.
So what do you do with a hand that is too strong to overcall? The solution is to double first and then show your suit.
This hand is too strong for a simple overcall. You'll need to double then bid to show your strength.
Too strong for a simple overcall
Weak jump overcalls
Many players use weak 2 openings but you can also make weak jump overcalls.
A preempt is an opening bid at the 3 level. You can also preempt if you are the overcaller.
4 and 5 level overcalls
Would you? There are times when you should.
Michaels Cue Bids
A simple overcall is the most common way to enter the auction after the opposition have opened but there are other options. If you have a strong hand or support for the unbid suits you could double or overcall 1NT. Depending on the strength and shape of your hand you could also make a Michaels Cue bid.
This hand is too strong for a simple overcall. You'll need to double first and then bid What does this mean-Is it doubling the first bid because you think he can't make it or what--message to partner?