By Kitty and Steve Cooper

Last month we discussed the five ways to intervene when the opponents open: the notrump overcall, the simple suit overcall, the takeout double, the jump overcall, and various two suited bids. This month we will discuss how to respond when partner uses one of those bids. When the opponents open in front of partner and he makes a call, he is referred to as intervenor rather than opener, and you are referred to as advancer rather than responder.

Responding to partner’s 1NT overcall

It is simplest and best to use the same system after a notrump overcall that you use when partner opens a notrump. It certainly helps prevent memory strain to play the same way. So if you play Stayman and transfers that is what you still play. We actually play these always apply no matter how high partner overcalls in notrump. For example, when the opponents open three of something and partner overcalls 3NT we still play transfers and Stayman. What you may ask does it mean to transfer to the opponents suit? Treat it as natural and don’t worry about it.

Responder to Partner’s Suit Overcall

When partner overcalls, you do not have to respond with less than eight points since he is limited by his failure to double. However, with three plus card support, raise on any excuse. When the next player passes, it is easiest to play that all your bids mean the same as they would have meant if partner had opened the bidding. The exception is that a response of 1NT is now played as real, balanced, eight to a poor eleven points, with a stopper in the opponents suit. Thus new suits are forcing for one round and show ten or more points if bid at the two level. Jump bids are preemptive. The cuebid of the opponents’ suit is used to show a limit raise or better and jump raises are preemptive.

Here is a chart of the responses to overcalls:

Response to an Overcall Shows Forcing?
Raise to two level 6-10 points, 3+ trumps no
One of a suit 8+ points, 4+ cards yes
1NT 8-11 points, balanced no
Two of a new suit, non-jump 10+ points, 5+ cards yes
Jump in new suit 4-7 points, 6+ cards no
2NT 12-13 points balanced with a stopper no
Raise to three level 4-7 points, 4+ trumps no
Cuebid 11+ support points, 3+ trumps yes
3NT to play no

Old-fashioned players may prefer to play that new suits at the two level can be bid with as little as nine points and are not forcing on a minimum overcall. To force in a new suit they jump. Other forcing hands must cuebid so that cannot promise support. Be sure you and your partner play the same way!

How do these bids change when your RHO bids as well? It is less urgent for you to respond unless your reasons for competing come into play. These are:

  • • Is there an eight card fit?
  • • Might it be your side’s hand?
  • • Do you need to indicate a lead?
  • • Are the opponents in two of an eight or longer card major suit fit?

Sometimes partner’s overcall is at the two level, so that a simple raise takes you to the three level. This raise shows about 8-10 points. With more you cuebid the opponent’s suit to show a game invitational hand or better, and with less you pass. The problem comes when the opponents take away your low level cuebid. For example, (1S)-2H-(2S). Now you can either bid game or make a responsive double followed by 3H with your limit raise strength hand. A real game force can cuebid at the three level, here 3S.

Responding to a Takeout Double

When partner makes a takeout double, he is requesting that you pick a suit no matter how bad your hand is. With zero points you must bid. The only time you pass is with length and strength in the suit the opposition opened, thus converting the takeout double to a penalty double.
Since you must bid with zero points, a hand of eight or more points is good news for partner, so jump in your longest suit or bid notrump with a stopper. A cuebid is used to show a hand of game forcing strength or better. Here is your table of responses:

Response to a Takeout Double Shows Forcing?
Non-jump suit bid 0-7 points, 3+ cards no
Jump to two of a suit 8-10 points, 4+ cards no
1NT 6-10 points, stopper no
Cuebid 13+ points yes
Jump to three of a suit 11+ points, 4+ cards no
2NT 11+-13- points with a stopper no
3NT to play no

Some people play that the cuebid is slightly weaker, only 11+, then the auction is forcing only until suit agreement (when someone raises the other partner’s bid suit).

Intervenor must act conservatively over advancer’s possible zero point response. Raising a non-jump response when the opponents don’t bid shows 16+ points, while a double raise shows a hand that would have bid game over a non-forced response thus 19-21 points.

Responding to the jump overcall

The jump overcall is a form of preempt. We covered preempting in Basic Bidding 8. To summarize, when your partner preempts you usually raise to the level that is equal to the number of trumps you expect your side to hold. Vulnerability and too balanced a hand can be reasons not to do this. With a strong hand of 16+ points you make a forcing bid to explore for game. See for more details.

Responding to various two suited bids

When you know partner’s two suits you look at your fit for each suit when deciding how high to bid. Usually your objective is to further the preempt, but with a great fit and aces you may have a game. So with four trumps in one suit and shortness in the other, you typically bid to the four level. For example you would bid 4H if you held S x H AQxx D Axxxx C xxx and your partner made a Michaels bid showing the majors. He might have something like S Axxxxx H KJxxx D x C xx, in which case you expect your game to make.

When partner cuebids the opponent’s major, showing the other major and an unknown minor, you don’t know both of his suits. If you have three or more cards in his major you just bid that suit at the appropriate level. But when you hate the major, you use 2NT to ask for his minor. Once you know it, you can decide how high to bid. Warning: some players prefer to always have invitational values to bid 2NT and just bid 3C asking partner to pass with clubs or correct to 3D with diamonds. In fact, many players play all minor suits bids, even jumps are “pass or correct” bids. Best to know your partner’s style. Without discussion, always use 2NT to ask. A certain Denver expert trotted out 3C with his expert partner expecting it to be pass or correct and found himself going down six tricks vulnerable in his 3-2 fit.

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