A Suit Overcall

By Andrew Robson Mike Lawrence

Courtesy of AndrewBobson.co.uk

A good five+ card suit in a hand of a wide­ranging point-count, anything from six or seven points (with a very good suit) to 17 or 18 points: that’s what a suit overcall looks like. It’s the strength of the suit that matters, not the strength of the hand. 

Use as a guide the Suit Quality Overcall Test: Add up the number of cards in the suit (five+) to the number of honours in the suit. The total should get to (at least) the number of tricks bid for. In marginal situations, be more cautious when vulnerable.

Hand (i)

Hand (ii)

Hand (iii)

Hand (iv)

K J 10 7 2
7
Q 9 8 2
9 3 2

Q 3
K 8 7 6 2
K J 4
Q 8 2

K 10 
A 4 3
A Q 9 4 2
Q J 6

K J 9 2
A K J 4
Q 4 2
8 2

Hand (i): Bid 1 . Just six points, but a suit quality count of eight; that ten of spades really helps to bolster the suit. 1  over 1 . consumes plenty of bidding space – maximising the nuisance value.

Hand (ii): Pass. 11 points, but what a poor suit, poor shape (you’d much prefer Hand (i)’s 5431) and defensive looking ‘soft’ honours (picture cards as opposed to aces).

Hand (iii): Bid lNT. Yes, you could bid 1 , but, bidding lNT as an overcall shows 15-19, balanced with a stopper in the opposing suit. Perfect.

Hand (iv): Double. You can’t bid l for the lack of a fifth card. This double for take-out shows a three-suited opening hand with short clubs  and asks partner to choose a suit. Ideal.

Our deal emphasises a key overcalling point: if you really want your suit to be led, bid (even with a poor hand). If you don’t particularly want your suit to be led, don’t bid (even with a fair hand):

 

 
E-W
North
N
North
A5
762
AQ10854
Q3
 
W
West
K8742
J9
932
1076
 
E
East
Q93
K8543
K6
K94
 
S
South
J106
AQ10
J7
AJ852
 
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
Pass1
2
Pass
2
Pass
3NT
Pass
Pass
Pass
(1) Poor heart suit in a balanced, aceless hand, vulnerable to boot. 1H would take up no bidding space and attract a (relatively unwelcome) heart lead.

If East had bid 1 , West would have dutifully led  J and 3 NT would have romped home with overtricks. On  4 lead (to  5,  Q,  6) and  9 to  A, declarer led  Q to  K* and  A, then ran  J. East won  K and his  3 return enabled West to score  K87. Down one.

*Probably a mistake for East to cover: it is likely declarer will rise with the ace anyway, as he needs the diamond finesse to succeed to make nine tricks