Last week we looked at limit bids and how useful they are at quickly letting partner know the safety of the path towards Eternal Bridge Happiness. This week we’ll look at what happens when the opponents attack our leisurely stroll through the bidding box towards our ultimate goal.
Once the opponents overcall our opening bid – do not despair. While it is true that they will try to deprive you of space, disrupt your communications and generally be unpleasant, it’s crucial to
understand that they also, as a result of the overcall, gift you a whole TWO extra bids you wouldn’t otherwise have at your command. These wonderful explanatory bids they dump
freely in your lap are:
Let’s take an example:
Partner opens 1D and your hand hovers over 1H, but out of the corner of your eye you notice the opponent on your right putting down 1S! This is annoying, but at least not as annoying as if they’d put down 2S! (Weak Jump Overcall) But all the same, your intended bid – 1H – is now unbiddable. You have a reasonable responding hand, 8HCP, no immediate fit for partner’s suit but you want to bid with any hand worth more than 6HCP. What are your options?
With 6 - 9 HCP you might think: that’s what I’ll tell partner, so - 1NT. Yes but, no but but but but … 1NT in this sequence, where opponents bid, should promise a stop in their suit. I’m not saying you should always have AK in their suit, but four to the J at the very least. Here you have nothing like that at all. So 1NT is OUT. Have another think.
What about 2C? It's true you have 4 clubs and the bid of 2C doesn’t promise any more than that, but what it would promise is 10 HCP (Possibly 9 with a decent 5 card suit.) You have 8HCP. So both 1NT & 2C would be lies, would set partner off on the wrong track and might get you into the proverbial mire, ending up 3 down doubled and partner getting all tight-lipped. So should you just quietly PASS?
Nooooooo!!! The answer is clear-cut. Instead of casting about for a bid you don’t have – DOUBLE!
In these low-level auctions Double is for “take-out”, i.e. it asks partner pretty please to bid. It doesn’t promise masses of HCP or anything, nor any great holding in the opponents’ suit but what it does promise is : interest in the two so far unbid suits – hearts and clubs in our example and about 7+ HCP. So, far from being a nuisance, the opponents bid has given you a chance to tell partner much much more than without the overcall. Before, you were going to bid 1H. Now, you have, effectively, bid 1H & 2C all at the same time. That’ll teach ’em to interfere!
Cue-Bid To Show A Fit!
As the piece last week tried to point out, if you have a fit for partner you must convey the news as soon as possible about it and at the right level so partner may judge any further course of action.
This is fine in unopposed auctions, but in real life you bid, they overcall. They want to make life difficult, steal the auction, disrupt your partnership harmony and watch you fret. Well, frankly m’ dear, two can play at that game.
The bidding goes: 1H(partner) - 1S(Overcall) - ???? Now what do you do?
2H is the “correct”, by the book bid. 6HCP plus some shortage extras make the hand worth about 9. If there were only 3 hearts in the hand then 2H would (probably) be right. But 2H does absolutely no damage to THEM. Overcaller’s partner can now freely bid 2S and your partner is now deep in the land of GUESSWORK.
Almost anything poor partner does now could be wrong. PASS, 2NT, 3H all fraught with danger. And it’s no good watching partner squirm and feeling smug – you sink or swim together. So take that guess away from partner and do it yourself. Bid 3H!
This says: “I have a 4-card fit, a few points and not much else, so I’m getting in their faces before they have a chance to take over.”
This bid, variously known as a “stretch raise” or “bidding to the level of the fit”, applies only when they overcall. Otherwise stick with what we did last week.
But then what happens when you have this sort of hand?
On the evidence of last week, after 1H from partner and NO overcall, you should bid 3H – limit bid: 10 -12 HCP. But, after the overcall situation above, we just used 3H to be a bit of a difficult, lousy, obstructive, petulant obfuscator. So now, when they have overcalled, we can’t use 3H. That bid would tell partner we are bidding defensively, while what we actually want to do is tell partner we are attacking with the goal of bidding game still very much in view. Damn. Damn. Damn.
Luckily, all is not lost, and a torch is lit in the gathering gloom. The auction has gone 1H - (1S) - ??? You now, as I said earlier, have 2 extra bids. Well we used one of them already – the double, so now it’s time for the other – the CUE BID.
In a “competitive” auction – after they bid – a cue bid is a bid of THEIR suit and says “I like your bid partner. Ignore these upstarts. I have good support and good points – anything from 10 +HCP upwards.”
So the bidding goes: 1H - (1S) - 2S!
In this case the cue bid says nothing about the spade suit but is used as a stepping stone to help partner cross the lake to the next level knowing they won’t sink. The overcall HASN’T made life difficult at all. It meant you were able to distinguish between a hand with “real” support for partner (cue bid) and a hand with nuisance value (jump raise).
Don’t be put off by overcalls. They are designed to shove you off the path. Shove back. Help your partner. Partner needs you. Above all, if you do PASS partner will know you don’t have a fit or any points or the other suits. This is incredibly valuable information. What responder DOESN'T do is just as important as what he does do.