Tuesday, March-03-09


Hand Evaluation – 2 Level Overcalls




        Another aspect of hand evaluation is making the choice between a 2 level overcall & a T/O double. This choice should be based on the probability that partner may have enough values for a major suit game or 3NT. A two level overcall is in itself pre-emptive for partner as she must have enough values to respond at the 2 level. Without a fit for your suit , she may pass with enough values for a game in another suit. When you make a bid in Bridge , you should have three main objectives in mind. 1) Make the bid at the earliest opportunity to describe your hand type as either defensive or offensive 2) Make the most constructive bid to reach your game. 3) Make life easier for your partner to respond.


        With the above objectives in mind , a 2 level overcall normally shows a single suited hand of 6 cards or longer. With two suits , you usually have a toy to use & good hands with tolerance for unbid suits should be described with a T/O double. What about 17-19 HCP hands with a minor suit ? Are these hands too strong for a two level overcall ? This depends on suit quality & vulnerability as you have most of the HCP's in the deck accounted for. RHO opens showing an average of 13 HCP & you have 18 HCP's. This leaves only 9 HCP's between the remaining two hands. With normal probabilities , game is unlikely so getting to the best partial can be the way to go. I disagree though with that style in IMPS . If there even is a remote chance of game , I will go for it. I double with these hands followed by bidding my suit in case partner does hold the balance of power. Missing games in IMPS is repulsive in my mind , anyway.  I do not feel I lose anything by doubling & bidding my suit as I change captaincy to partner who is now in a better position to direct the auction. Overcalling at the 2 level with huge hands almost guarantees your partner will have no say in the outcome of the auction.


       This hand came up recently . AKx Qxx JxAQxxx , RHO opens 1 . Is this a T/O double or a two level overcall ? This hand is not even close , in my opinion. A 5-3-3-2 is not a single suited hand & you hold 16 HCP with 3 1/2 quick tricks. This hand is a T/O double due to its defensive nature & tolerance for the unbid suits . Say you overcall 2♣ & partner holds ♠J109xxx Kx xxx ♣xx . This hand & even stronger hands do not have a bid after a 2♣ overcall , so you miss your +620. Your overcall at the two level has pre-empted partner from responding. Worst still , with this crummy suit you set yourself up for a penalty double & with your overall strength you guarantee that the opponents cannot make anything their way. In general , it is best to double with defensive hands & bid ( overcall ) with offensive hand types. Partner may wish to double the opponents for penalty & will be reluctant to do so after a mere 2♣ overcall. A double going in announces your defense quickly & you may get a chance to make a 2nd clarifying double . This 2nd double may be all that partner needs to know to start wielding the axe. A 2♣ bid going in with this hand is ambiguous as to overall strength , suit length ( quality ) & support for the unbid majors. Ambiguity is the killer in Bridge bidding. In general , an overcall at the two level leaves partner out of the bidding & doubling invites partner to the party. Partner does not expect that type of hand when you make an overcall , so that action is very single handed . Overcalls are an offensive Bridge weapon showing single suited hands. Bridge is a partnership game.