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ACOL (Standard English) BIDDING SYSTEM
Suitable for average "Club Players"
SECTION SECTION TITLE
1 Balanced hands
1.1 Opening 1NT
1.2 Stayman Convention and Responses over an Opening 1NT Bid
1.3 Balanced hands with 15-19 high card points
1.4 Opening 2NT
1.5 Stayman Convention and Responses over an Opening 2NT Bid
1.6 Opening 2 C
2 Unbalanced Hands
2.1 Opening bids of one of a suit
2.2 Raising the opening bid
2.3 Responding in a new suit
2.4 Responding in no trumps
2.5 Opener’s second bid
2.6 Responder’s second bid
2.7 Slam bidding
2.8 Strong 2 opening bids
2.9 Pre-emptive opening bids
3.1 Takeout doubles of overcalls after partner has opened
3.2 Action over opponents’ takeout double of the opening bid
3.3 Action over intervention of our 1NT opening bid
4.1 Suit overcalls
4.2 Overcalling in no trumps after a suit opening
4.3 Takeout doubles
4.4 Protective bidding
4.5 Defence to opponents’ opening 1NT
4.6 Defence to pre-emptive opening bids
4.7 Other uses of doubles
Please note that the Standard English Acol (Foundation Level) Bidding System outlined in this document is based on information adapted from Standard English Acol: Foundation Level System File, version 1 (January 2007) that is available on the English Bridge Union web site.
The basic bidding system is a weak no trump (12-14 high card points), 4-card major suit opening bids and strong 2 openers.
1. BALANCED HANDS
1.1 Opening 1NT
You open 1NT when you have a balanced hand of 12-14 high card points. A balanced hand is one that does not contain a singleton or void and does not have more than one doubleton. The possible distributions are 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 and 5-3-3-2, the suits being listed in any order.
Please note that, normally, if the hand has a 5-card major suit in a 5-3-3-2 hand, then you open one of the major suit. The exception to this is when you have an otherwise suitable hand with a weak 5-card major (usually no high honour), it may be opened 1NT.
0-10 high card points - Pass
11-12 high card points and with no interest in a 4-4 major suit fit - bid 2NT to invite game
13-19 high card points - raise to 3NT and opener must pass
11 or more high card points - bid 2♣, the Stayman convention – see section 1.2.
These bids are called weak takeouts. They show 0-10 high card points and at least a 5-card suit - opener must pass.
These are natural, 6+ cards, game forcing and usually have a slam interest.
In response, the opener:
· Re-bids 3NT with no fit and no interest in a slam
· Raises with support and slam interest
These are natural with a 5-card suit and they are game forcing
· Re-bids 3NT with a doubleton holding
· Re-bids 4H/4s otherwise
If the responder has a strong 6+ suit with slam interest, he may bid on after opener’s response.
These are natural with a 6-card or longer suit. Opener must pass.
When you bid 2C over your partner’s opening 1NT bid, this is the Stayman convention. It is used on hands worth at least an invitation to game where responder wishes to investigate for a 4-4 fit in a major and on some weaker hands seeking to find the best final contract.
Opener’s re-bids are:
· 2D - no 4-card major
· 2H - 4 hearts, possibly 4 spades
· 2S - 4 spades, but not 4 hearts
The weak options are when you have:
· at least 5-4 in the majors
· long diamonds and support for both majors
· at least six clubs
1NT - 2C - 2 any – pass: the objective is to play in any suit but clubs
1NT - 2C - 2D - 2H/2S: a 5-card suit, 4 cards in the other major
1NT - 2C - 2 any - 3C at least 6 clubs
1NT - 2C - 2 any – 2NT: 11-12 high card points, no major suit fit has been found
1NT - 2C - 2H/S- 3H/S: invites opener to bid game in the agreed major with a maximum, otherwise pass
1NT - 2C - 2 any - 3NT: no major suit fit has been found
1NT - 2C - 2H/S - 4H/S opener must pass
1NT - 2C - 2D - 3H/3S 5-card suit, 4 cards in the other major. Opener should bid 4H/4S with 3-card support and with only 2-card support, bid 3NT
1.25 If playing "Transfers" the bidding will change.
1.3 Balanced Hands with 15-19 High Card Points
When you have a balanced hand, but you are too strong to open 1NT, you open one of a suit and then re-bid in no trumps. A 5-card major should not stop you from re-bidding in no trumps.
· With 15-16 high card points re-bid no trumps at the lowest level
· With 17-18 high card points make a jump re-bid in no trumps
· With 19 high card points jump to 3NT even if the response was at the one level
· A return to two of opener’s major suit after a 1NT re-bid is weak, showing 3-card support
· A bid of three of your suit is forcing. If this is a major suit, responder will have 3-card support; if a minor suit it will normally be 4+ cards.
· A minimum re-bid in responder’s suit is weak with a 6-card suit
· A jump to three of responder’s suit over your 1NT re-bid is invitational with a 6-card suit
· A new suit at the two-level is natural and weak, unless it is a reverse.
- 1H- 1S - 1NT - 2D is looking to play in 2S or 2D
- But, 1C - 1H - 1NT - 2S is game forcing as you have already denied four spades. The responder must have a shapely hand with at least four spades and five hearts.
· A new suit at the three-level is natural and forcing. Exceptionally this can be a 3-card suit, hoping that you will show 3-card support for responder’s first suit (usually a major) on your next bid.
1.4 Opening 2NT
Open 2NT on all balanced hands of 20-22 high card points, even if the hand holds a 5-card major. 2NT may also be the best choice on some slightly unbalanced hands (including a hand with a singleton ace or king).
Responder will first consider whether the partnership has at least the 25 high card points needed to bid game in no trumps or a major suit. 4 high card points in responder’s hand is usually enough. Any response is forcing to game.
0-3 high card points Pass
4-10 high card points Raise to 3NT and then opener must pass
This bid shows the values for game and an interest in finding a 4-4 major suit fit – see section 1.5.
This bid promises 5+ diamonds and 7 or more high card points. It is forcing to game and invitational to slam.
These bids are natural, showing a 5-card suit, and they are game forcing. The opening bidder re-bids:
· 3NT with a doubleton holding in the major suit
· 4♥/4♠ otherwise
These bids are natural, showing a 6-card or longer suit. The opening bidder is expected to pass.
When you bid 2♣ over your partner’s opening 2NT bid, this is the Stayman convention. The bid shows the values for game and an interest in finding a 4-4 major suit fit. Opener’s re-bids are:
· 3D no 4-card major
· 3H 4 hearts, possibly 4 spades
· 3S 4 spades, not 4 hearts
Continuations by Responder
After 2NT-3C-3D responder continues:
· 3H/3S - A 5-card suit and indicates 4 cards in the other major. Opener bids 4H/4S with 3-card support, otherwise 3NT.
After 2NT-3H/3S responder continues:
· 3NT - no interest in partner’s suit, but indicates 4 cards in the other major.
· 4H/S - a major suit fit has been found.
1.6 Opening 2C
· Make a negative response of 2D if your hand does not contain one of the following;
- 8 high card points or more with at least one ace or king
- An ace and a king
- A 5-card suit headed by at least AQ
· With a balanced hand of 8 or more high card points, respond 2NT.
· With a good 5-card suit, respond in that suit
· With a solid (no loser) 6-card or longer suit, make a jump response in that suit
· 23-24 high card points re-bid 2NT
· 25-27 high card points re-bid 3NT
· 28-30 high card points re-bid 4NT
This is the only re-bid that responder may pass below game level. With just a couple of points responder should go for game, choosing from the same options as over a 2NT opening. Consider a slam when the partnership may have 33 high card points or compensating distribution.
· After a positive response of 2H or 2S, a slam is highly likely, so you should re-bid 2NT on all balanced hands, leaving room to investigate a fit. Over your 2NT re-bid, all continuations by responder are natural.
· After a positive response of 2NT, you can bid a 5-card or longer suit (game forcing) or bid 3NT with a balanced hand. Over your 3NT bid, responder, with extra values, can continue by bidding his lowest 4-card or longer suit to look for a slam.
2. UNBALANCED HANDS
2.1 Opening Bids of One of a Suit
Choice of suit to open
· With two suits of unequal length, open the longer.
· With two suits of equal length, with exactly 4 hearts and 4 spades open 1H
· With 4-4-4-1 shape and a red suit singleton open the suit below the singleton (i.e. singleton heart open 1D, singleton diamond open 1C)
· With 4-4-4-1 shape and a black suit singleton open the middle of the three suits (i.e. singleton spade open 1D, singleton club open 1H)
Is the hand worth an opening bid?
· Any hand with at least 12 high card points may be opened
· With 9-11 high card points, use the Rule of 20. Add the number of cards in your two longest suits to your high card points. If the total is 20 or more and your high cards are in your long suits, open the bidding.
· With borderline hands, take into account the quality of the suits, intermediate cards and whether or not you have a convenient re-bid over any response.
The normal range for a one level suit opening is 12-19 high card points, but distributional considerations may make a hand with more points unsuitable for a stronger opening, eg. a strong 4441 hand of 20 or more high card points.
2.2 Raising the Opening Bid
When your partner has opened a major suit, the emphasis is on supporting partner’s opening bid whenever you have 4 or more cards in that suit. With support for a major suit take into account shortages in other suits as well as points when raising. With enough trumps, a singleton is like an extra king and a void is as good as an extra ace. A doubleton has rather less value.
When your partner has opened a minor suit, you should bid a major suit of your own first. To raise the bidding past 3NT in a minor you should have a very distributional hand; otherwise you will investigate a no trump contract. A minor suit raise to the two or three level is usually based on high card points (6-9 or 10-12) since opener’s most likely continuation is to bid no trumps.
Losing Trick Count
A better method of evaluating a hand with a major suit fit is to use the Losing Trick Count. To assess the losing trick count of your hand, you should count the losers in each suit:
· Count each suit of three or more cards as three losers. Deduct one loser for each of the ace, king or queen that you hold in the suit.
· With two cards in the suit, count two losers. Deduct one loser for holding the ace or king.
· With one card count one loser, unless it is the ace.
· With a void there are no losers.
The following adaptations to the basic losing trick count can be used:
· AJ10 is treated as one loser
· AKJ10 is treated as half a loser
· KJ10 is one and a half losers
· Qxx is counted as 2 losers only when it is supported by a jack, or when it is held in the trump suit, or when it is held in a suit that has been bid by your partner
· A 5-card suit or longer that does not contain an ace or king increases your losers by a half
· Subtract one loser if you have more than 10 trumps between the two hands
You can then find your loser total by adding the losers in each suit together to get a total loser count. As responder:
· With 9-10 losers raise to the two level
· With 8 losers raise to the three level
· With 7 losers raise to the four level
You add the total of the losers in the two hands and then subtract that total from 18 to give you an estimate of the level to which your side should bidding. For example, if you as opener have 7 losers, you can assume that your partner has opened one of a major suit with no more than 7 losers and that is a total of 14 losers. When you subtract that total from 18, it suggests that you should bid at the 4-level.
A raise to two of partner’s major may be the best choice with only three trumps and an unbalanced hand. But, to raise to the three level or higher, you must have at least four trumps.
Hands that have 4-card support and 16 or more high card points should make a jump shift response before supporting opener’s suit. With fewer than 16 high card points always raise your partner immediately.
2.3 Responding in a New Suit
A response at the 1-level promises at least 6 high card points and, at the 2-level, at least 8/9 high card points. There is no upper limit in either case. Opener must bid again (unless, exceptionally, responder has already passed). Simple new suit responses show 4 or more cards except 1S - 2H which guarantees a 5-card or longer heart suit.
With two 5-card or longer suits, bid the higher ranking if you intend to show both suits in the most economical way. With two 4-card suits, bid the cheaper, i.e. the one which takes up least bidding space. If partner declines an opportunity to bid your other 4-card suit, you can safely ignore it and re-bid in no trumps.
With suits of unequal length, bid the longer suit first, unless the hand is too weak to respond at the 2-level. Show a 4-card major at the 1-level, in preference to a longer minor at the 2-level, with fewer than 13 high card points. To bid a longer minor and then a 4-card major at the 2-level is called a ‘responder reverse’ and is forcing to game.(If unsure of reverse bid jump the second time)
2.4 Responding in No Trumps
A response in no trumps is a ‘limit bid’, describing the hand within a defined range of high card points. The ranges are:
1NT- shows 6 - 9 high card points. Always prefer to respond in a major suit at the 1-level if you can. A 1NT response may be something of a ‘dustbin’ bid when there is no other appropriate response, e.g. weak unbalanced hands not suitable for a response at the 2-level.
Conventionally over a 1C opening, a 1NT response shows a balanced hand with 6 - 9 points and no 4 card major.
2NT – shows 10 - 12 high card points. Avoid an immediate response of 2NT prefer to change the suit first and bid 2NT the next time.
3NT - shows a balanced hand (13-15 high card points) with no 5-card suit and no 4-card major. Again prefer to change the suit first.
2.5 Opener’s Second Bid
Opener has two main considerations on the second round of the auction:
· To distinguish between balanced and unbalanced hands
· To describe the strength of the hand
A balanced hand will always re-bid in no trumps (unless you can support responder’s major suit). So to bid two suits guarantees 5+ cards in the first, except for the rare 4-4-4-1 hands, which can usually be discounted by the actual suits bid. Unbalanced hands usually fall into three point ranges.
· Hands with 12 - 15 high card points are weak
· Hands with 16 - 18 high card points are of intermediate strength
· Hands with 19 - 20 high card points are strong.
· To support partner’s major suit with 4 or more card support (occasionally only with 3-card support)
· To bid a new suit at the lowest level without reversing, showing 4 or more cards
· To re-bid the suit opened.
· A jump in the suit opened, shows a strong 6-card suit (7 Playing Tricks) and around 16-18 high card points – encouraging, but not forcing, after a response at the 1-level (forcing to game after a 2-level response). With an even stronger hand you can jump to game, but maybe you should have opened at the 2-level.
· Jump support for partner – 4-card support and the equivalent of around 16-18 high card points, taking distribution into account. This bid is encouraging, but not forcing. Again, you can go straight to game with an even better hand.
· A jump in a new suit – the strongest option – at least a 4-card suit, at least 19 high card points (or the equivalent in a shapely hand) over a 1-level response (16-19 high card points over a 2-evel response). This bid is forcing to game. (Take care if you use this bid as you are using up valuable bidding space and may not be able to find your fit. Remember a change of suit is forcing - you can jump next time!)
· A reverse bid in a new suit, 16 or more high card points, or compensating distribution. This bid is forcing for at least one round. A reverse bid is one that requires the opener’s partner to go to the 3-level to give preference to the first suit bid. Again take care as your partner may not recognise a "Reverse" bid in the early years!
After a reverse by opener at the 2-level the following re-bids by responder are not forcing:
· Minimum preference for opener’s first suit
· A minimum re-bid in responder’s own suit
· A minimum re-bid in no trumps
2.6 Responder’s Second Bid
Responder’s options after opener re-bids a third suit without a reverse or a jump bid are:
With a weak hand (6-9 high card points)
· Return to opener’s first suit at the lowest level. 3-card support is quite adequate for a known 5-card suit. Even a doubleton is acceptable with no other suitable alternative, to give opener another chance (known as ‘false preference’)
· Bid 1NT (if the bidding is low enough)
· Re-bid responder’s suit showing 6 or more+ cards.
With a game invitational hand (10-12 high card points)
· Jump raise opener’s first suit with 3-card support
· Re-bid 2NT
· Single raise opener’s second suit with 4-card support
· Jump re-bid responder’s suit showing 6 or more cards and extra points.
With a strong game going hand (13 or more high card points)
· Bid game in either of opener’s suits or responder’s suit
· Re-bid 3NT
· Bid the fourth suit
Fourth suit forcing
When the partnership has bid three suits, a bid of the fourth suit is forcing and artificial, asking partner for more information. The only exception is the auction 1C - 1D - 1H - 1S which shows four spades but two bids at the one level shows a minimum hand). In this instance 2S would be the artificial ‘fourth suit forcing’ (FSF).
· A minimum re-bid in opener’s first suit
· Simple preference for responder’s suit (often only doubleton support)
Other re-bids are forcing to game. Fourth suit at the 3-level is forcing to game. These guidelines are similar to bidding after a reverse. It follows that to use the fourth suit at the 2-level, you need at least 11 high card points and at the three level, a good 12 high card points or more. Avoid FSF if you can make a natural descriptive bid.
2.7 Slam Bidding
· 5NT is also invitational, asking the no trump bidder to bid 7NT with a maximum hand for their previous bidding.
1S 2C The 3NT re-bid by the opening bidder shows 17-19
3NT 4NT high card points. The 4NT re-bid by responder shows 14-15 high card points. Opener will bid on to slam with a maximum hand
· 5C - 0 or 4 aces
· 5D - 1 ace
· 5H - 2 aces
· 5S - 3 aces
If the 4NT bidder follows up with 5NT, this confirms that the partnership has all four aces and asks for kings on the same scale. After 5NT either partner may bid a grand slam if there appears to be sufficient tricks.
Only use Blackwood when you are certain that your partner’s response will tell you what you need to know. In particular, if you have a side suit with two losers and partner’s response to Blackwood confirms there is an ace missing, you do not know whether your partner can cover your second loser in the side suit. Blackwood has not given you the answer that you need, so you should not have used it in the first place.
Use the following guidelines when cue bidding:
· Show first round controls – aces and voids – first before second round controls.
· Shortage controls – voids and singletons – are as valuable as aces and kings in preventing the opponents from winning early tricks, but you need enough trumps to ruff partner’s losers and enough tricks from other sources.
· In particular, it is unwise as your first cue bid to show a shortage in a suit that has been bid by your partner.
· With a choice of cue bids, prefer the lowest. For example, 1H - 3H - 4D would deny a first round control in spades or clubs.
2.8 Strong 2 Opening Bids
Strong 2 opening bids of 2D, 2H and 2S are forcing for one round and show an 8 or more playing trick hand of power and quality with a good suit and at least two defensive tricks. These are hands where you might be concerned about missing game if partner were to pass an opening bid at the one level.
Since a strong 2 bid is forcing for one round, your partner must reply to your opening bid.
A bid of 2NT from your partner is negative: less than 8 high card points, not as much as an ace and a king, not as much as a 5-card suit headed by at least AQ (the same as a 2D response to a 2C opening).
After a negative response of 2NT, the opener can bid a new suit, which is forcing for one round. A return to opener’s first suit by responder is not forcing, so responder should bid game with any useful or helpful cards.
Strong responses to a strong two opener
All the strong responses are natural, positive and forcing to game:
· Single raise - forcing, 3 or more card support, at least one ace (or very good trumps with the trump king)
· Double raise - denies an ace but shows trump support and a couple of useful features, such as a king or a singleton. With a weaker hand, start with 2NT and show the support later.
· A jump bid in a new suit shows a solid (no loser) 6 or more card suit. The bid suggests that the jump bid suit should be the trump suit or, alternatively, that the hand is played in no trumps.
· With 8 or more high card points, bid a decent 5-card suit.
· With a balanced 8-11 high card points respond 3NT provided that you have some stoppers in the other suits.
Remember that it is better to bid 2NT with a strong hand, if no suitable bid is available, rather than jump to 3NT when you do not have stoppers in the other suits.
2.9 Pre-Emptive Opening Bids
Since a pre-empt attempts to steal the opponents’ contract or make it harder for them to reach their best spot, it follows that your hand must be much better in playing strength than in defence, although you are allowed to have an outside ace in your hand. The requirements for a pre-emptive opening bid are:
· A long, strong suit, normally at least seven cards
· Few defensive tricks – certainly no more than one ace
· No 4-card major, side suit in the hand (because of the risk of missing a major suit contract)
An opening bid of 3♣/♦/♥/♠ is normally a 7-card suit, preferably containing at least 2 of the top 4 honours in a hand that is not strong enough to open at the 1-level.
An opening bid of 4♣/♦/♥/♠ is normally an 8-card suit, preferably containing at least 2 of the top 4 honours.
An opening bid of 5♣/♦ is normally a 9-card suit, preferably containing at least 2 of the top 4 honours
Your strategy for opening with a pre-emptive bid is also affected by your position in the auction at the table:
· As dealer and the first person to bid, you should always open a pre-emptive bid when you get the chance with a hand that meets the ‘rule of 500’. The chances are 2:1 that you will be pre-empting the opposition and making life difficult for them, rather than for your partner.
· At the second position in the auction after a pass by one of your opponents, you need to remember that you are just as likely to be pre-empting your partner as you are your opponent who has not yet bid. Therefore, it is suggested that your pre-emptive opening bids in this position should contain a good primary suit and be at the stronger end of the scale to enable your partner to more easily enter the auction and reach the correct contract, if he has a strong hand.
· At the third position in the auction after a pass by one of your opponents and your partner, the only person that you can pre-empt is the opponent who is yet to bid. There is a greater likelihood that he has a strong hand and will want to enter the auction. Therefore, you should pre-empt in this position whenever you get the opportunity, even with quite weak hands. In addition, if you are at favourable vulnerability, it is acceptable to ‘shade’ the ‘rule of 500’ and open with a rather weak pre-emptive bid that you would normally pass.
A raise to game may be a further pre-empt by your partner or a bid that is made in the expectation of making game, bearing in mind that only trumps and top cards in side suits are likely to be valuable. For example, an ace will make a trick, but outside queens and jacks are generally of little use. A shortage in the opener’s pre-empt suit is no bar to raising the bidding in that suit, as you can count on a good suit in the pre-emptive opening hand. Note that a raise below game (e.g. 3D 4D) is not a game try.
You should only bid 3NT if:
· You can see the tricks in your own hand, or
· You have a fit for partner and can guard all the other suits.
A new suit by responder is natural and forcing. It should be at least a strong, 6-card suit so that opener needs little to support it.
3.1 Takeout Doubles of Overcalls after Partner has Opened
Doubles of all suit bids up to and including the level of 2S are for takeout. When partner opens with a suit bid and the next player overcalls at the one or two level, a double is for takeout and implies support for the other two unbid suits. In practice, you can be a bit more flexible in its use, but only if you can handle any subsequent bid by your partner.
1C - 1S - dble Promises four hearts (and diamonds)
1D - 1H - dble Promises exactly four spades (and clubs)
1C - 1D - 1S Shows 5 or more spades (as a double would show 4 spades)
1C- 1D - dble Shows four cards in both majors
This is quite straightforward and very similar to responding to any other takeout double. Just imagine that partner had made a minimum response in an unbid suit. For example, if the bidding has started 1D - 1S - double – pass, you simply bid as if partner had responded 1H. If considering a raise, responder should always remember that he has, in effect, already bid the suit.
3.2 Action over Opponents’ Takeout Double of the Opening Bid
You no longer need to strain to bid something on a mediocre hand, just to give partner another chance to bid. The double means that partner gets another chance to bid anyway. So, with a minimum responding hand, you may pass, rather than bid a poor suit or 1NT. Your choices are:
· Pass - with up to 6 high card points and no good suit
· 1NT - balanced hand, 7-10 high card points, stoppers in the other suits
· New suit: 6 or more high card points and a reasonable suit at the 1-level. With 9 or more high card points bid at the two level.
The options are:
· Bid a new suit, natural and forcing – just as if there had been no intervention
· With good defence and no outstanding playing strength - redouble. A redouble informs your partner that you have more high card points than the opposition and seeks opener’s co-operation in penalising the opponents.
The more cards you have in the partnership in one suit, the more likely it is that opponents have a fit also. (If your side have a 9-card fit, it is mathematically certain that opponents have at least an 8-card fit in another suit). So both sides may be able to make a high level contract and you want to make it harder for the opponents to find theirs best resting place. That means you should not be afraid to raise the level of bidding when you are a little short of high card points that you would normally need to make that bid.
Watch for the vulnerability and be prepared to raise to the 3 or 4-level, especially if not vulnerable. You can raise to the 2-level with 3-card support and a bit of shape.
With a genuine raise to the three level or higher of opener’s suit, you bid 2NT, which has no meaning in a natural sense, since you would redouble with a balanced 10 or more high card points.
3.3 Action over Intervention of our 1NT Opening Bid
As after a suit opening, a double is for takeout. A suit bid at the lowest level is not forcing and a jump suit bid is forcing. A cue bid of the overcall suit is ‘Stayman’ showing a game going hand and your partner is expected to bid a 4-card major, if he has one.
If the opponents overcall your partner’s 1NT at the 3-level, a double is still for takeout as the overcaller will have a good suit, so any penalty is likely to be small. Thus, the emphasis should be on seeing if you have a 4-4 major suit fit and on whether the opening 1NT has a guard in the overcalled suit.
· All suit bids by you are natural and weak, including 2C (Stayman is cancelled).
· Pass suggests there is no better resting place
· Redouble is strong, hoping to make 1NT redoubled or to double the opponents for penalties if they bid on.
4.1 Suit Overcalls
With more than 16 high card points it may be better to start with a takeout double rather than an overcall and then bid your suit at your next turn to bid.
Supporting partner’s overcall is straightforward. As the overcaller should have a good suit there is no need to strain to find an alternative place to play. You can raise the overcall whenever you have 3-card support. Raise the overcall on the same values as you would raise an opening bid.
To bid no trumps in response to an overcall you need a little more than in response to an opening bid, as the overcaller may be weaker, and you also need a good guard in the opponents’ suit. A 1NT response shows about 9-12 high card points and a 2NT response 13-14 high card points.
To bid a new suit opposite an overcall you need a good suit – six cards or five very good ones - the bid is encouraging, but not forcing, so partner may leave you to play in your suit. At the one level, you should have 8 or more high card points to bid a new suit and, at the two level, 10 or more high card points. Do not respond just because you do not like your partner’s overcall suit. A jump change of suit is forcing.
A jump overcall to one higher level than necessary (e.g.1H-2S) shows a strong 6-card spade suit and around 12-16 high card points (it is referred to as an ‘intermediate jump overcall’). In practice that usually means that you can expect to take about six or seven tricks, even with nothing useful in dummy. At the three level (e.g. 1H - 3C), especially when vulnerable, the suit should be very sound (a seventh card would be an asset).
When responding to a jump overcall, bear in mind that the overcaller’s hand will be about an ace better than a minimum opening bid in terms of playing strength and that the suit will need little support. A response in a new suit is natural and forcing. A 3NT response over a jump bid in a minor suit is to play.
A double jump in a new suit (1C - 3S or 1H-4D) shows exactly the same sort of hand as a pre-emptive opening bid - a very good 7-card or longer suit but little else. If doubled, you would expect to go down no more than 500 points, even if partner has no useful cards.
4.2 Overcalling in No Trumps after a Suit Opening
A 1NT overcall shows a balanced hand of 16-18 high card points, including some strength (ideally two stoppers) in the opponent’s suit. With 20-22 high card points, overcall 2NT. For hands that have a good 18 to a poor 20 HCP, you should double and then bid no trumps at the lowest level.
Bid exactly as you would in response to an opening no trump bid, but take into account the fact that partner has a stronger hand. Therefore, you can bid Stayman, make a weakness takeout bid, etc.
4.3 Takeout Doubles
Occasionally you may be stuck with a good hand with only a doubleton in one unbid suit. You should certainly have support for any unbid major suit, because partner will often respond in a major if at all possible. With support for all suits prefer a double to an overcall on a poor suit.
You must respond to a takeout double unless you are exceptionally strong in the opponents’ suit. In that case, your partner will usually lead a trump to prevent the declarer from ruffing with his small trumps, so your trumps must be really good.
· With up to 8 high card points, bid your best suit at the minimum level.
· With about 9-12 high card points jump in your suit. A good guideline is to imagine partner had opened the bidding in your suit - if you would have considered giving jump support you should make a jump bid now.
· With a choice of suits, prefer to show a major.
To bid no trumps you need much the same strength as in response to an opening bid. Make sure that you have good values in the opponents’ suit, the one in which partner will be short.
With the values to at least invite game, but with no obvious suit to bid, cue bid the opponents’ suit. This is forcing to suit agreement; in other words neither partner may pass until a fit has been found.
4.4 Protective Bidding
If your left hand opponent’s opening bid has been followed by two passes, you are allowed to overcall or double on weaker hands than you would normally do when sitting over the opening bidder, because your partner is marked with some values. In response to a protective bid, assume that your partner has already bid about 3 HCP of your hand (known as the ‘principle of the transferred king’).
A jump overcall still shows about 12-16 high card points with a good 6-card suit.
After an opening bid by the opponents at the 1-level followed by two passes, a protective 1NT shows 11-14 high card points. Your partner will respond as if you had made an opening bid of 1NT - use Stayman and weak takeouts, etc.
With stronger hands:
· With a hand on which you would normally overcall 1NT in second seat, a double is usually the best first action in the protective position.
· A protective 2NT overcall would show around 19-21 high card points.
When deciding whether or not to make a protective bid, a rough and ready rule is to add the number of spades to your points. If the answer is less than 14, then do not make a protective bid.
4.5 Defence to Opponents’ Opening 1NT
If the 1NT opener’s partner rescues into a suit, any further doubles by your side are for penalties: 6+ HCP and four trumps headed by an honour are enough to make the penalty double.
Use the same criteria when deciding whether the suit is good enough to overcall an opening 1NT, as you would for deciding on a two level overcall of an opening suit bid – at least 10 high card points and, preferably, a 6-card or longer suit, though a hand with a good 5-card suit can be acceptable on, say, a 5431 distribution. A jump overcall shows a 7 or very good 6-card suit and about seven tricks in your own hand.
4.6 Defence to Pre-Emptive Opening Bids
It follows that, with values to spare, say about 8 playing tricks, you should take the strain off partner and bid game yourself if you can.
4.7 Other Uses of Doubles
If your partner has overcalled and the opener’s suit has been raised, a double by you shows interest in at least one of the other suits and a hand with useful high cards. For example, 1D-1S-2D-dbl - this is called a ‘competitive double’.