In recent issues, we have been discussing how to advance after an opponent has interfered with a two-suited overcall. This month we take a look at some similar but less common situations. Even the most workmanlike regular partnerships will not have discussed every possible scenario that might arise. The practical way to handle unexpected situations is by application of general principles that can be agreed for a specific situation and then applied in similar positions.
This is not a particularly unexpected situation.
I have made RHO a passed hand here so that the 1NT overcall is clearly showing the minors, although you will come across opposition who play this sandwich 1NT for takeout even when they have not passed initially. How would you react with each of the hands below?
Hand A is a minimum opening bid with a decent 6-card major. You were going to rebid 2 over partner’s 1 response, and RHO’s intervention should not stop you from doing so.
Hand B is a minimum opening bid with a primary spade fit. Again, you would have made a minimum raise to 2 had RHO passed, and you should probably make the same bid now. I say “probably” because it depends to some degree on your general style.
If you frequently raise a major-suit response on 3-card support, there is a case for differentiating between minimum hands containing three spades and those with four spades. RHO’s bid allows you to do so. A single raise to 2 would now show a minimum hand with only 3-card support (or 4-card support and poor offense-to-defense ratio. This is a fairly common hand type if you play 4-card majors and a strong notrump and 1 may therefore be a weak notrump type hand).
A hand such as Hand B above (and even more so if the minors are Kxx and singleton) would then jump to 3 to show a minimum opening in terms of high cards, but extra offence based on distribution.
On Hands C and Hand D, it is again clear which suit you want to bid, but this time you have extra strength to show. Conveniently, RHO’s two-suited overcall has provided you with two cuebids. This is where general principles apply – the lowest available cuebids should show a strong bid in the lower ranking of your side’s two suits. In this case, therefore, 2shows a 2 bid with extra strength, which seems to describe Hand Cfairly well.
Of course the higher cuebid is used in similar fashion relating to the higher ranking of your side’s suits. Thus, 2 would show a spade raise with extra values (which is why the jump to 3 was available as discussed above as a semi-preemptive and descriptive bid on a suitable minimum). Having established the trump at a low level, it is easy to see that investigation of level is a much easier proposition.
RHO’s intervention has also provided an easy solution to those awkward hands on which you want to both rebid your own suit and support partner’s. Hand E and, even more so, Hand F are typical.
Holding Hand E, I’d guess that you would have rebid 2NT over a pass from RHO. Partner would then have been able to check for a fifth heart (if you play 4-card majors) and/or 3-card spade support. After RHO’s two-suited overcall, you should still rebid 2NT, but doing so should now specifically show a robust 5-card heart (or a moderate 6-card) suit AND 3-card spade support in addition to a better than minimum opening bid.
Hand F would be even more of a problem without RHO’s assistance. Remember, though, that all hands on which you simply want to show extra values and good hearts start with a 2 cuebid. A jump to 3 is therefore now available to show 3-card spade support in addition to your own good suit.
The primary reason why you now have a plethora of additional bids available to show extra cards and values in your suits is that you no longer need to investigate fits in the other two suits. You also do not need to be able to describe balanced hands with extra values immediately.
Holding Hand G, you would have rebid your diamonds and then made a game try if partner signed off had RHO not entered the auction. Their two-suited overcall presents a different set of problems. The first is that it might be right for your side to defend — why should partner not hold a misfitting 8-count with 5-4 in the black suits. It is far from clear that you will make game, but you may be able to collect a substantial penalty from the opponents, even at the 2-level.
The second problem is that partner may also hold two small clubs, in which case you want to reach game in a 5-2 major-suit fit rather than a hopeless 3NT.
To cater for all possibilities, you should start with a double. Perhaps LHO will give preference to clubs and partner will double that. Or your double may be passed back to RHO, and you can then make a forcing pass when he runs to clubs. If partner cannot double 2, you will have plenty of room to investigate the best contract since you have already shown your extra values. Of course you can express your own opinion if the opponents happen to choose a diamond contract.
Holding Hand H, it will be harder to catch the opponents when you want to double them. Even so, it cannot cost to start with a double. Who knows, it may be a complete misfit and partner may be able to double them. Even when he cannot do so, you will have room to describe your hand with a 2NT rebid on the next round. This route also promises at least one stopper in each of the enemy suits.
The problem on Hand I is a common one when the opponents have bid two suits – to ensure that both suits are stopped before alighting in 3NT. The way to do this is to double to show both extra values and either a balanced hand or one such as Hand G on which you are interested in a penalty. Irrespective of which minor the opponents run to, you can now use bids in their suits to show stoppers. Thus:
With Hand I, the information you want to send partner is that you have the clubs stopped but you need him to stop diamonds for notrump.
As an aside here, it is worth pointing out that when the opponents have bid only one suit, a cuebid in that suit is commonly used to ASK partner if he can stop it. (With stoppers in the enemy suit, you simply bid notrump yourself.) The situation is obviously different when the enemy has bid (or shown) two suits. Now you should cuebid in the suit where you HOLD values, and in so doing you implicitly ask partner for a stopper in the other enemy suit.
The basic structure discussed here can apply to other similar auctions.
Again, RHO’s notrump bid shows the two unbid suits.
Following the general principles discussed above, your lowest cuebid (3here) shows a forcing bid in the lower of your side’s suits. Thus, you can bid a competitive 3 or make a forcing 3 bid (with 3) without bypassing 3NT.
Of course, to bid 3 would now just show extra suit length without promising significant extra values. With a very strong hand and a 6-card heart suit, you would bid 3 (higher cuebid shows extras in the higher-ranking of your side’s suits).
Following the logic one step further, we can see that a jump to 4 would be semi-preemptive (perhaps 5-card support) whereas a jump to 4would show a club fit in addition to a good 6-card heart suit.
At this higher level, you can simply bid 3NT if you think that is where you want to play, but on most hands on which you are angling for a notrump contact or those where you might want to penalize the enemy, you simply start with a double to show extra values. Subsequent doubles from either side of the table are then for penalties, and passes are forcing.
You don’t need to discuss the specifics of every conceivable situation with your regular partner. What is important, though, is that you have some general principles that can be applied in certain competitive bidding situations. At least then, when an auction you haven’t discussed specifically comes up, you will not be faced with the “I wonder what he means by that bid” situation.
Next month we will look at other situations that arise when the opponents have shown two suits.