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Bridge into the 21st Century
TEST YOUR OVERCALLING STRATEGY
How would you continue after the following sequence at pairs, nil vulnerable ?

   (1 Diamonds)?
 
1.  Spades6  HeartsQ J 764  DiamondsJ 10 8 6  ClubsK 8 3
1)  1 Hearts. If pass is your choice, you need to focus more on the fact that your score is being compared against all the pairs in your direction who play this deal. For you to score well you need your opponents to make an error of judgement. This is far more likely if your side is in the auction, taking up space, and giving the opponents less room to make decisions. You expect your partner to jump to 3 Hearts with four card support, and to jump to 4 Hearts with five card support.
Bidding carries its own reward, but as well as that your hand has promising features in every suit. The test of a good overcall is “are you happy if partner bids game in your suit ?”. The answer here is a resounding yes.
 
2.  Spades8 7 5  HeartsK 4  DiamondsK 6 5  ClubsA Q 8 6 4
2)  2 Clubs. You might need to take a deep breath before you overcall on this flattish hand, but it is the percentage action. Goren taught that if your opponents never make a doubled contract, then you are not doubling enough. Similarly if you never go for a penalty then you are not in the action enough.
 
3.  SpadesJ 10 9  HeartsA Q 2  DiamondsJ 8 5  ClubsK J 7 5
3) Double. Again the emphasis is on entering the bidding whenever possible, and at the first available opportunity. It’s safer than you think, especially at the one level. There are three reasons to overcall - to make it difficult for the opponents, to win the bidding if the hand belongs to your side, or to indicate a lead. Your double fills the first two criteria, and partner ’s response may solve your lead problem.
 
4.  SpadesK J 8 5 4  Hearts9 8  DiamondsK Q 10 8 7  Clubs2
4)   1 Spades. There is a faction that says you should trap pass if you have length in the opponent’s suit. However as Mike Lawrence explains, when you have length in the opponent’s suit, partner is more likely to have a shortage, and thus have support for you. More to the point, the best way to escalate the bidding is to get involved and take up space, so that opponents must make the decision to re-enter at a higher level.
 
5.  SpadesA K Q 6 2  HeartsK 10 8 6  Diamonds---  ClubsA 10 5 2
5)   1 Spades. This may seem a perfect takeout double but experience indicates it is vital to show the five card major first. When this hand came up, double was the choice. The next hand jumped to three diamonds and the opening bidder continued the barrage by leaping to 5 Diamonds. Double closed the auction. Unfortunately partner held  SpadesJxxxx  HeartsJxx  Diamondsxxx  Clubsxx. Five diamonds made, and 5 Spades would also have made. The American style, to bid your suit and then double later, to show that you have a good hand, is superior to doubling and then hoping to get a chance to bid your suit later.
 
6.  SpadesA 8 7 2  HeartsQ 7 6  DiamondsK 3  ClubsA Q J 4
6) Double. Though you have the high card points for a 1NT overcall, your hand figures to play better in a suit contract. You have only a doubleton diamond, and the chances are too great that opponents will take four or five diamond tricks against NT if partner also has only two or three diamonds.
 
7.  SpadesK Q 9 8 2  HeartsA K 7  DiamondsJ2  ClubsA Q 8 2
7)   1 Spades. Bid your suit first, and then later double for takeout. If you double first you risk losing the spade suit.
 
8.  SpadesQ J 8 7  Hearts8 6  DiamondsK J 9 2  ClubsA Q 9
8) Pass. A takeout double, except for a few rare exceptions, guarantees at least three cards in each of the unbid suits. Passing now does not bar you permanently from the auction, and is in fact the first step in describing your hand accurately. If the bidding proceeds 1 Hearts by LHO and INT or 2 Hearts from your RHO, double is now takeout . Also you could choose to double a higher NT contract, for a diamond lead, or simply on the basis that the hand sits badly for your opponents.
 
9.  Spades2  HeartsA Q J 7 2  Diamonds6 2  ClubsK J 10 7 4
9) 2NT. Just as the 2NT overcall over one of a major shows 5-5 or longer in the minors, so the 2NT overcall over 1 Clubs or 1 Diamonds also shows the two lower unbid suits. Over 1 Diamonds, the 2NT overcall shows 5-5 in diamonds and hearts, and over 1 Clubs the 2NT overcall shows at least 5-5 in clubs and hearts. When the opponents hold the spades it is more important to show your two-suiter in one bid.
 
10.  SpadesA K 8 4  HeartsA Q 7 4  Diamonds7 6 5  ClubsQ 8
10) Double. This hand represents one of the few exceptions to a takeout double showing at least three cards in each of the unbid suits. Your hand is otherwise ideal, with 4-4 in the majors, and solid values. If partner bids 2 Clubs, then pass and pray. Partner will probably have a five or six card club suit, or the opponents might bid. One way or another you should easily survive.
 



Paul Lavings, Paul Lavings Bridge Books & Supplies.