RESPONDING TO PARTNERŐS OVERCALL
By Tony Russ
When partner overcalls he may have anything from 7 to 17 points. The only sure thing is that he has at least a five card suit. By the way I would always prefer to overcall rather than to double with single suited top end hands. What am I to do if I have 16 points and 6 spades and the bidding goes:
West North (me) East South
1H Double 4H Pass
South can hardly be expected to bid with say 8 pts and 3 spades but is much more likely to compete knowing about my long spades. Also the most likely place to have a fit is in my longest suit so I think itŐs best to bid it so as to compete for the part score effectively. Doubling suggests shortage in their suit and reasonable support for all the others and not a single suited hand.
So how does one respond to an overcall when the points range is so wide?
One approach is to base direct suit raises purely on the number of trumps held. For example if partner overcalls 1S, I will raise to 2S holding three trumps, to 3S holding four trumps and to 4S holding five or more trumps regardless of the number of points held (but taking adverse vulnerability into account) This method is based on the Law of Total Tricks from which comes the Law of Total Trumps which suggests that you are safe to bid to the level of the number of trumps held between the two hands. More of this in a future edition.
Without such trump support and with game interest we need to discover whether partner has a good overcall or a Ôbag of nailsŐ. We can use the ridiculously named Unassuming Cue Bid for this purpose. Say left hand opponent (LHO) opens 1C, partner overcalls 1S and RHO passes. What would 2C from you mean? Well if you play UCBs it suggests some support for partner and asks him to reveal the strength of his hand. A simple rebid of his overcall at the lowest level would indicate the bag of nails. Anything else suggests a decent overcall.
What do you do with a decent hand but little support for partnerŐs suit? It depends on how you treat a change of suit after the overcall. If this is not forcing then you must either pass or use the UCB without the required support of partnerŐs suit. This is OK if you are strong enough to bid on in any case. I prefer to treat a change of suit after an overcall as a one round force. After all it is not illegal for partner to have support for my suit as well as one of his own.
And what about a 1NT response to partnerŐs overcall? Realising that he may (usually will) be short of an opening bid by as much as 5 points I suggest that you add at least four points onto your normal requirements of a 1NT response to an opening bid. So if your 1NT response to partnerŐs opening1H shows 6-9 points I suggest that after an overcall of 1H it should show 10-13 points.
This is a very brief summary of a big topic and I hope to enlarge on it in future editions but I would be interested to hear and to publish your views too.