By Larry Matheny



There are many textbooks with instructions for opening bids and responding to opening bids.There is also a lot of information covering interventions (takeout doubles, overcalls, etc), but one area that is unclear to many players is how to respond to partnerís overcall.


Letís first take a look at the section on the convention card ďSimple OvercallĒ.The typical high card point range (hcp) entered is 8-16.This is fine but donít be rigid about this. For example if your right hand opponent opens 1C and you hold: S6HAKJ1043DAK6CK76, you should overcall 1H instead of making a takeout double.If not, either the opponents or your partner might bid a lot of spades before you are able to show your good heart suit.Always think how the auction may continue before you make a takeout double.

Next, letís ďnameĒ the people at the table so we can better define their roles.Of course we have opener and responder but we also have intervener (one who makes the overcall or t/o double) and his partner, the advancer.Take note that the intervener can be in second seat or fourth seat.


Today we are focusing on the proper response to partnerís overcall.Since partner made an overcall instead of an opening bid, he might have a fairly light hand and our responses must accommodate that possibility.Our actions include a simple raise, a preemptive jump raise, forward-going NT bids, or a cue bid of openerís suit to ask partner about his strength.The cue bid will usually promise support, but before we can agree on that, we must decide if a new suit bid by advancer (overcallerís partner) is forcing.Most play that it is not forcing but simply an attempt to improve the contract.If this is your agreement, the cue bid is merely forcing and may or may not show support.After advancer cue bids, the auction is forcing until a previously bid suit has been rebid or raised, or game has been reached.


What about a jump shift by advancer?Since most play a new suit as non-forcing, many play that a jump in a new suit is forcing or at least highly invitational.Holding SQ2 H108DAQ9CAQ10987 with this auction:


OPP††† PARD†††† OPP††† YOU

1H†††††† 1S†††††††††† P†††††††† ??


The reasoning is since 2C is not forcing, then 3C should show a good hand.If you first cue bid 2H, the bidding may get too high before you are able to show your club suit.If partner has a weak overcall and no real fit for clubs, he is allowed to pass your jump to 3C.Remember, either a simple new suit or a jump by advancer almost always denies support for your overcall suit.




As always, there are other accepted methods, so you need to discuss these with your partner.Here is a chart I recommend:



1C†††† 1S†††††††P††††† 1NT = 7-10 hcp, club stopper, not forcing

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 2C= forcing, asking about the overcall

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 2D= not forcing

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 2H= not forcing

†††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††† 2S= simple raise

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††2NT= 11-13 hcp, clubs stopped, not forcing

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 3C= constructive raise 8-10 hcp w/four card support

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 3D= good suit, good hand, highly invitational

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 3H= good suit, good hand, highly invitational

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 3S= preemptive

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 3NT= to play; 14+ hcp with clubs stopped


Letís look at some examples.After the same auction:



1C††††† 1S††††† pass††††† ?


S5†† HJ1098†† DQ32†† CQJ854†††† = Pass(donít even THINK about 1NT)


SQ3†† HK74†† D10942CKJ42††††† = 1NTconstructive, not weak


SKQ4HA9DKQ943C874†††††††† = 2Cask about the overcall, donít bid 2D


S8HK98DKQJ1087C652††††††† = 2Djust trying to improve the contract


S9HQJ10765 DA43C832†††††††† = 2Hjust trying to improve the contract


SA104 HK9873DQ43C87††††††† = 2Ssimple raise


SJ4HAQ8DQ964CKJ109†††††† = 2NT invitational


SJ1084HA832DK32CJ10†††††† = 3Cconstructive raise


SQHAJ10†† DKQJ9862CJ8†††††† = 3Dhighly invitational


S3HAQJ984DKQ42†† CQ2††††††† = 3Hhighly invitational


SQJ102HJ10943DJ98C2†††††† = 3Spreemptive


SK5HA109DKJ42CAJ103††††† = 3NT



Additional Thoughts:


An important factor to always consider is the vulnerability.Your partner might make a fairly light overcall non-vulnerable but when heís looking at that red color, he should be much more conservative.A two-level vulnerable overcall should promise a near opening hand and a good six+ card suit.A good rule is ďThe weaker the hand, the better the suitĒ.Your response to his bid should take that into consideration.An overcall at the one-level is often just lead directing and there may be danger in getting too high.


You must also pay close attention to the bidding.For example, if there is an opening bid on your right and your left hand opponent makes a two over one bid, an overcall by your partner is probably just lead directing.In this auction:



1S†††††††† P†††††† 2H†††††† 3C


If you have values, donít expect partner to have much more than a good club suit because there just arenít that many high cards in the deck.Of course, with favorable vulnerability, a sacrifice over the opponentsí game might be possible.