Simple Overcalls

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/12/2014
Level: Intermediate

Simple means not a jump. We will cover JUMP OVERCALLS in a different article. We discussed notrump overcalls previously, so this section deals with only this situation:

 Suit Opening  Suit Overcalls (non-jump)

The range for an overcall is approximately 8-17 HCP. With more than 17, you would start with a double and then bid your suit. With less than 8, you'd pass, but I suppose I would overcall on the 1-level with a suit such as AK1098, especially if not vulnerable (yes, on only 7 HCP!). The way my partners lead, I can't resist sticking in such lead-directing bids. Accordingly, it might be better to mark the card 7-17 HCP. As usual, vulnerability plays a big role. Furthermore, an overcall on the 2- (or 3-) level has a higher minimum than a 1-level overcall. Don't overcall on the two level with an 11-count and a so-so five-card suit.

Responding to the overcall is the big issue here. To make it easier to follow, let me introduce you to the term Advancer. This phrase refers to the Partner of the overcaller. It's much easier to say advancer than partner of the overcaller.

Advancer Has Support

A raise by advancer is normal - much like raising an opening bid - so 6-10. With a stronger raise, the advancer should cue-bid the opponents' suit:

 Opener OvercallerResponderAdvancer
1 Grape 1 Orange Pass 2 Grapes

It doesn't matter if the overcall was on the 1- 2- or even a higher level. No matter what our overcall, if the advancer bids the opponent's suit he is promising a limit raise or better (10 points in support and 3 or more trump). Because a cue-bid shows a limit raise, an actual jump raise should be weak.


1? 1? Pass 2? = 6-10
(3 trumps)





Preemptive Raise:

1? 1? Pass 3?=0-6
(4 trumps)





Cue-bid Raise:

 1? 1? Pass 2?=11
(3 trumps)

Note: Not everyone plays the cue-bid this way (as guaranteeing support), but I highly recommend it. This method makes things simple. The overcaller can jump to game without worrying that advancer might not have support. Note: In all of the examples above, their Responder is shown as Passing. Even if their responder acts (a bid or a negative double), the meanings of the calls for the Advancer are still the same.

Advancer does not have Support

What if the advancer does not have support? With a notrump hand (stopper in the opponents') suit, he can bid 1NT, 2NT or 3NT - depending on how many points he has. A 1NT advance is approximately 8-11 points, 2NT is approximately 12-14. 3NT is more. The exact range depends on overcall style and vulnerability.

What if the advancer bids a new suit? Typically this shows 5-cards or longer. The big issue: Is a new suit forcing? It is best to adopt a simple rule for new suits. Here are two possible ways to play it - choose one:

1) New suits by advancer are never forcing. In this case, I suggest that a jump by advancer is natural and forcing (he needs some way to show a good hand).


2) New suits by advancer are forcing (unless advancer is already a Passed Hand).

There are other (more complex) possible schemes, but I advise, as usual to KISS.

Note: Support Doubles are not used after overcalls (only when our side has opened the bidding).

For Experienced Players

One popular method is to employ a jump-cue by responder as a Mixed Raise. A Mixed Raise means 4-card support, but a little too strong to make a preemptive raise. Here is an example auction and hand for a Mixed Raise: 

1? 1? Double 3?




Advancer holds:

?A 4
?Q J 6 5
?6 5
?8 7 6 3 2

This hand is too good to make a preemptive jump to 3?, but not strong enough for a 2? cue-bid.

The Mixed Raise is on no matter what their responder does. As long as Advancer can make a jump-cue to the 3-level, it shows a Mixed Raise. (A jump-cue on the 4-level would be a Splinter Bid).

Next article we discuss methods against the opponent's 1NT opening bid.


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Updated: April, 2020