Main     Lesson 5F by Richard Pavlicek    

Combating Weak Openings

Preemptive opening bids and weak two-bids by the enemy make it difficult for you and your partner to reach the best contract. If you pass you might miss a game, and if you bid you might get overboard. There is no perfect defense; if there were, players would stop making weak bids.

The methods described in this lesson are the best available and used by almost all of the top players.

Suit Overcalls

The most common defense to an enemy weak bid is to overcall in a suit. Generally this shows opening-bid values and a 6+ card suit or a strong 5 card suit.

A nonjump suit overcall shows 13 to 18 points.
Partner should usually respond (below game) with 8+ points.

1.
S K 7
H 8 7 6
D A Q 6 5
C 8 6 4 2
TableS A Q J 8 6 5
H J 2
D 4 3
C A 9 3

West

3 S
North
2 H
Pass
East
2 S
Pass
South
Pass

West should not pass with 9 points. It is acceptable to raise with a doubleton honor (or any 3+ cards) since East should have a substantial suit. East’s overcall is toward the minimum range so he passes.

2.
S 9 7 6 4
H A 4
D K J 3
C Q 8 7 4
TableS A 2
H K Q J 8 7 5
D 7 6
C A 6 2

West

3 NT
North
3 D
Pass
East
3 H
Pass
South
Pass

West chooses 3 NT instead of a heart raise to protect his diamond holding. This contract may fail if North does not lead a diamond, but it is clearly the best chance to make game.

A new-suit response to an overcall is forcing below game by an unpassed hand.

3.
S A K J 8 5
H 9 6 2
D J 8 2
C 9 4
TableS 10 7 4
H A 4
D A K Q 7 6 5
C 3 2

West

3 S
North
3 C
Pass
East
3 D
4 S
South
Pass

Rather than raise diamonds West bids his spade suit (forcing) and East raises with three trumps.

Do you know what to do when I overcall a preempt?
Yeah, I take out my wallet and hand it to the opponents.

With 11+ points bid game, or make a forcing response and be sure to reach game later.

4.
S A 7 6 5
H Q 8 4
D A 6
C 10 9 8 2
TableS K 8 3
H A K J 10 7
D 4 2
C Q J 3

West

4 H
North
2 D
Pass
East
2 H
Pass
South
3 D

West would bid 3 H with 8-10 points so with 11 points he should go to game. The enemy 3 D raise is basically ignored.

5.
S 9 7 2
H A K 4 2
D 9 6 4
C A J 3
TableS K 4
H 9 5
D A J 8
C K Q 10 8 6 5

West

3 S
Pass
North
2 S
Pass
East
3 C
3 NT
South
Pass
Pass

West does not want to commit the hand to 5 C and he has no 5+ card suit to bid. The 3 S cue-bid is a general game force. East bids 3 NT to show his spade stopper and West is happy to pass.

TopMain

Takeout Doubles

Another common defense to an enemy weak bid is to double. This is almost the same as a double made at the one level. It is for takeout through the level of 4 D.

A takeout double requires 13+ points with 4+ cards in each unbid suit; 15+ points with 3+ cards in each unbid suit; or 19+ points with any hand pattern.
Partner should respond at the cheapest level with 0-9 points.

6.
S 8 4
H 10 6 5 3
D A Q 7 3
C J 8 4
TableS A J 9 6
H A Q 9 2
D 10 8 5 2
C 7

West

3 H
North
3 C
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
Pass

East’s hand barely qualifies for a double and West chooses to bid an unbid major suit instead of diamonds.

7.
S 7 4
H K 9 3
D 10 8 7 3
C A J 9 8
TableS A K Q 5
H 4 2
D A 9 2
C K 7 5 4

West

3 NT
North
3 H
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
Pass

Since West must bid at a high level, it is better to bid 3 NT with the heart stopper than to go to 4 C. If West held four hearts, he might pass the double for penalty.

With 10+ points bid game (or with 10-12 jump below game). You also may cue-bid the enemy suit if unsure of the best contract.

8.
S A Q 10 8 4
H 2
D 10 9 3
C Q 7 5 3
TableS J 9 6
H A Q 5 4
D 8 2
C A K J 4

West

4 S
North
3 D
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
Pass

West has only 8 HCP but with distribution his hand is worth 10 points so he jumps to game in his sturdy spade suit.

TopMain

Notrump Overcalls

If an opponent opens with a weak bid, an overcall of 2 NT or 3 NT is a natural bid promising a stopper in the enemy suit. Typically this is the same as a 1 NT opening bid.

An overcall of 2 NT shows 16 to 18 HCP.
Partner should respond using the same system as after your 2 NT opening (3 C is Stayman and transfers apply if you use them).

9.
S A 9 7 2
H J 8 7 4
D 2
C K 9 6 2
TableS K 5
H A Q 9 2
D K 10 4
C A J 8 4

West

3 C
4 H
North
2 D
Pass
Pass
East
2 NT
3 H
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

East shows a “strong notrump opening” and West uses Stayman to locate the 4-4 heart fit, a superior game contract.

10.
S Q 9 7 6 5 4
H 4
D J 6 2
C 8 7 3
TableS A 3
H K J 7 2
D Q 9 5
C A K J 2

West

3 H
North
2 H
Pass
East
2 NT
3 S
South
Pass

If you play Jacoby, West’s 3 H response shows at least five spades and East dutifully bids 3 S. West will then pass.

An overcall of 3 NT shows 16 to 24 HCP. This may be a balanced hand or it may contain a 6+ card minor suit.

11.
S 8 4
H K 10 5 4 2
D J 6
C K 10 7 3
TableS K 7
H A 9
D A K Q 10 8 7
C 6 4 2

West

Pass
North
3 S
East
3 NT
South
Pass

After the 3 S bid the most likely chance for game is 3 NT so East takes a chance and bids it. West should not bid 4 H.

TopMain

Jump Suit Overcalls

The adage “never preempt over a preempt” applies here. A jump suit overcall indicates a good hand.

A jump suit overcall shows a self-sufficient 6+ card suit and within one trick of the bid made.

12.
S 9
H 9 8 4 3
D 7 6 4 3
C A K 8 4
TableS A K Q J 7 5
H 2
D A K 2
C 7 6 5

West

4 S
North
2 H
Pass
East
3 S
Pass
South
Pass

East shows 8 tricks (1 less than his bid). West can provide 2 tricks so he raises to game; trump support is not required.

TopMain

Two-Suited Overcalls

A couple of seldom-used bids are used to show two-suited hands with 16+ points and at least 5-5 shape:

A cue-bid of a minor suit shows both majors.

13.
S 3
H J 9 7
D Q 7 3
C A 9 8 6 5 3
TableS A Q 10 7 5
H K Q 10 8 4
D 2
C K 2

West

4 H
North
3 D
Pass
East
4 D
Pass
South
Pass

East shows at least five hearts and five spades. West clearly prefers hearts so he bids 4 H, the optimum contract.

A bid of 4 NT over a major suit (except 4 S) shows both minors.

14.
S J 8 4
H A 9 7 6 2
D 4
C 10 9 6 5
TableS 2
H 3
D A K 9 7 6 3
C K Q J 8 7

West

5 C
North
3 S
Pass
East
4 NT
Pass
South
Pass

East indicates clubs and diamonds, and West takes the obvious preference.

TopMain

Optional Doubles

If the enemy bid is 4 H or 4 S, you may still overcall (if you dare); but usually the only sensible action is to double to indicate a good hand.

A double of 4 H or 4 S shows 15+ HCP. This is optional — it does not ask partner to bid.
Partner may bid over an optional double only if he has a 6+ card suit or a 5+ card spade suit.

15.
S Q J 10 8 3
H 2
D K 9 7 3
C 7 4 2
TableS K 9 6
H A 4
D A Q 10 5
C Q 10 8 5

West

4 S
North
4 H
Pass
East
Dbl
Pass
South
Pass

East doubles to show 15+ HCP and West uses good judgment to bid his spade suit. 4 S rates to go down, but the good news is that 4 H probably would make.

16.
S A 7 5 3
H 8 2
D J 7 3
C K 10 8 2
TableS J 8 6 2
H A 4
D K Q 9 5
C A Q 7

West

Pass
North
4 H
East
Dbl
South
Pass

West should pass the double with only four spades. The 4 H contract should be defeated, probably two tricks.

Since a double is not for takeout, one more agreement is desirable:

A bid of 4 NT over 4 S (but not over 4 H) is a takeout for all unbid suits.

17.
S 10 9 8 3
H A 10 9 6
D Q 7 2
C 8 3
TableS
H Q J 8 5
D A K 8 6 5
C A J 9 6

West

5 H
North
4 S
Pass
East
4 NT
Pass
South
Pass

With a spade void East judges correctly to compete. 4 NT asks West to bid any unbid suit — hearts included.

TopMain

© 2013 Richard Pavlicek