Notrump Overcalls

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 09/01/2012
Level: All Levels







A 1NT overcall is roughly equal to a 1NT opening in HCP. The vulnerability is the guiding factor. If vulnerable, the range is closer to 16-18. If not vulnerable, 15-17 is more likely. Of course, a stopper in the opponent's suit (especially if a major) is presumed. After our 1NT overcall, we pretend that their opening bid never happened. So, "Systems On" -- 100% "Front of Card."  


 1?  1NT Pass  2?=Transfer to Hearts


If their responder acts after the 1NT overcall, we use the system we use for when they overcall our 1NT opening. [Example:  (1?)  1NT  (2?) -- Pretend we opened 1NT and they overcalled 2?.]


In sandwich position, 1NT is natural/strong (many years ago, I played it as light takeout--but now, there are too many thieves out there and you need it as natural).  So:


 1?  Pass 1? 1NT=Strong/stoppers/balanced "15-18"


Our 2NT overcall (after their 2-level opening) shows a 1NT opening -- and is also influenced by the vulnerability. Of course, after a preempt, there are fewer options, so occasionally the 2NT-bidder could be off-shape.  After our 2NT overcall, "Systems On." A 3NT overcall is natural, but very wide-ranging. I try not to remove a 3NT overcall without good reason, but if doing so, use 4?=Stayman and 4?/4? as Transfers (not the best system, but easy to remember, for the once a year that you'll use it).


A balancing 1NT is about a king less than a direct 1NT overcall. It is still "natural" and systems are still on. Even by a Passed Hand, 1NT in balancing seat is natural (about 10-11). Examples:


1? Pass Pass 1NT = 12-15 (approx) - natural



 -- Pass 1? Pass
Pass 1NT= Nat (10/11)    

Our jump overcall of 2NT shows the two lowest unbid suits.  So, after they open 1-of-a-Major, the jump to 2NT shows both minors. After they open 1?, the jump to 2NT shows ?+?. After they open 1?, the jump to 2NT shows ?+?. The suit quality is vulnerability-dependent (sounder if vulnerable). Always, at least 5-5 is promised. The bid is assumed to be preemptive; try to avoid it with "medium hands."


A jump to 2NT in balancing seat (for example: 1?-P-P-2NT) is Standard. Just to make sure everyone knows what Standard is, that means 18-20, balanced and natural (no preempting in balancing seat). Of course, after such a rare animal, systems are still on.  Balancing as a passed-hand with 2NT is unusual (two-suited) [Example: P  (2?)  P  (P) 2NT].


For a full LC Standard card and a prettier version of this series, see Bridge Winners.

Further Reading:   


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