Overcalls and Advances

YMCA Bridge Lecture for BB2 Ch2 (March 16, 2017)

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 2, Ch. 2 — tells how to overcall. We can overcall (bid higher than an Opponent) with a good to very good suit. If we are the Overcaller’s Partner, then we are the Advancer. As an Advancer, we need to know whether the Overcaller is weak and being obstructive, or strong and really wants our partnership to get to game. You may download this lesson in one of the two following formats:

  1. Paragraph: AG BB2 Ch2 Para
  2. Outline: AG BB2 Ch2 Note.docx

Overcall Theory

Our Book: The initial callout box in Ch. 2 lists ten factors important to an overcall. The first is suit length and the second is strength. A simple overcall shows a good or rebiddable 5c+ suit in a 7-17 HCP hand. A good 5c suit has 2 of the top 3 honors or 3 of the 5 honors. A rebiddable suit meets the Rule of 8 (ie, length of the suit plus number of honor cards in the suit ≥ 8). Compare the HCP ranges for Ch.2’s overcalls to Ch.1’s preempts, where preempts showed a good or rebiddable 6c+ suit in a 5-11 HCP hand.

Internet: The Bridgeguys website has a link to The Overcall Structure, 11p, by Paul Cornelius, published in May 2001. Paul is a photographer who plays bridge. His paper is an excellent investigative summary of all available overcall information. He says a simple overcall shows 4-14 HCP. His lower range would include about 15% more hands than would Audrey Grant’s range. His suggested range might be so low as to be unsound.

Probability to Compete: Paul’s analysis proves that you always have about a 50% chance of holding a hand with 9+ HCP whenever an Opponent has opened. Assuming you find yourself in the 50% with 9+ HCP, you are the LHO to Opener, and you share an 8c+ fit with partner, Paul says you should compete up to the 2-level. If your partnership were lucky enough to share two such 8c+ fits, he says you should compete up to the 3-level. The problem, of course, is that you won’t know that you share one or two 8c+ fits until after you bid and partner response positively.

Your Partner is Weak: Paul says Advancer is the Captain who determines how high. If you are Opener’s RHO, then your partner bids before you do. If your partner passes rather than bids, your partner is in the weak 50% with an inability to compete at the 1-level. Your partner is holding a bad suit, a bad hand, or length in Opener’s suit. Your team probably does not have a safe overcall if your partner has passed over an Opponent’s bid.

Your Partner is Combative: If your partner did make an overcall, your bids as the Advancer are more nuanced than shown in our book. In addition to what you learn in Ch. 2, you must consider the action taken by Responder. If Responder passed, your team may have several more points than it would if Responder had the 6-10 HCP needed to support Opener. If Responder bid, your partnership has little chance of being constructive.

Simple Overcalls

Overcaller’s Requirements: A simple overcall is made to be both obstructive and lead directing. The Overcaller values their hand based on Length Points. Overcaller promises a good suit and close to opening values. The overcall should not be a combination of “good-bad” such as a good suit in a bad ≤ 6 HCP hand or a bad 4c suit in a good ≥ 7 HCP hand. Any bid by Overcaller is non-forcing on Advancer.

Advancer’s Requirements: Advancer values their hand based on Dummy Points. Since Opener may jump on their 2nd bid, Advancer should anticipate such jumps by being preemptive. Advancer should support Overcaller when holding 3c+ in Overcaller’s suit. Advancer should not shift suits unless Overcaller made an awful suit choice. Advancer can force only with a cuebid, not with a shift.

Constructive, Obstructive, and Destructive: An opening bid is made to be constructive. We have seen that an overcall can be obstructive. If the Overcaller and Advancer have a very good suit but weak values, their partnership may even overcall in a destructive manner, such as jumping to 4♠ with a Weak Freak hand when Opener and Responder might otherwise have a 4♥ contract. In the table below, Overcaller would be constructive if they had the points for game. Let Responder have the strength to bid, and Overcaller shrinks to obstructive position. Make Responder even stronger, and Advancer shrinks to a destructive position.

PLAYER Constructive Obstructive Destructive
Opener 13 13 13
Overcaller 13 7 7
Responder 1 8 11
Advancer 13 12 9
TOTAL 40 40 40

Convention Card: The Convention Card used in duplicate games has space for 1-level overcalls only. Convention Cards do not mention the point ranges for 2-level-or-higher overcalls. Each player on the team marks their 1-level point range for an overcall, such as 7-17 HCP. For advances and 2nd bids, players may elect one of 3 approaches to suit shifts, either (1) forcing, (2) non-forcing but constructive (NFConst), or (3) non-forcing (NF). The AG way is to mark such suit shifts as NF.

Overcaller’s 1st Bids: Bidding Ladder

  1. 1m/1M: Shows a rebiddable 5c+ suit in a 7-17 HCP hand.
  2. 1NT: Shows 15-18 HCP, 3c+ in all unbid suits, and stoppers in Opponents’ bid suits.
  3. 2m/2M: Shows a rebiddable 5c+ suit in a 13-17 PVP1 opening hand.
  4. 3m/3M: Shows a 6c+ solid suit and 16+ PVP (ie, a medium+ hand). This bid happens if Opener preempts or Responder raises, forcing Overcaller to the 3-level.
  5. Weak Jump Overcall: With a hand suitable for a weak-2 preempt opening (ie, a 6c suit in a hand with 4 or 5 playing tricks), Overcaller makes a 2-level weak jump overcall. With a hand suitable for a weak-3 preempt opening (ie, a 7c suit in a hand with 5 or 6 playing tricks), Overcaller makes a 3-level weak jump overcall. Be very cautious if the bidding ladder forces your “weak-2” jump to be made at the 3-level or your “weak-3” jump to be made at the 4-level; you should prefer to be nv if such jumps are made.
  6. Conventions
    1. Over a Minor: Michaels Cuebid shows 5c+ in both majors. The Unusual 2NT shows 5c+ in the other minor and in hearts.
    2. Over a Major: Michaels Cuebid shows 5c+ in the other major and one minor. The Unusual 2NT shows 5c+ in both minors.
    3. Over 1NT: Landy 2♣ shows 5c+ in both majors. For 4c and 6c fits, there are other conventions such as DONT, Meckwell, or Woolsey. See “Adventures in Bridge” for such conventions.

Advancer’s 1st Bids: Table

  1. Advancer is a Bust (0-7 PVP): Pass. This hand is worth less than a 3-suited Yarborough, even when you add one void and one Quack. [A Yarborough is a hand with no card higher than a 9. A Quack is a Queen and Jack, not necessarily paired in the same suit.]
  2. Advancer is a Minimum (8-9/10 PVP): Destructive bids at the 1-level.
    1. Raise: With 3c support, raise cheaply; the partnership chooses whether to treat a cheap raise as forcing or invitational. With 4c support, jump 1 level as a preemptive jump raise; most partnerships treat the preemptive jump raise as non-forcing. With 5c support and a s/v, jump to game; this hand is a Weak Freak.
    2. Shift: With a rebiddable 5c+ suit, bid a new suit cheaply at the 1-level. Non-forcing.
    3. 1NT: With a balanced hand, 2c in Partner’s suit, and stoppers in Opponents’ bid suits, shift to 1NT.
  3. Advancer is a Medium (10/11-12 PVP): Obstructive bids at the 2-level.
    1. Cuebid: Shows 3c+ support and interest in game when bid cheaply. Forcing. A 1-level jump cuebid shows 4c+ support equivalent to a “limit bid;” the jump cuebid is alertable.
    2. Shift: Shows a rebiddable 6c+ suit. Bid a new suit cheaply, up to the 2-level. Non-forcing.
    3. 2NT: Shows a balanced hand, 2c in Partner’s suit, and stoppers in Opponents’ bid suits. Jump cheaply in NT. If Overcaller (partner) bid 1NT, then jump to 3NT.
  4. Advancer is a Maximum (13+ PVP): Constructive bids at the 3-level.
    1. Cuebid: Shows 4c+ support and interest in game. Forcing. On your next bid (probably at the 2NT or 3m/M level), bid NT cheaply or invite in the suit. If you have 17+ PVP, get to game.
    2. 3NT: Shows a balanced hand, 2c in Partner’s suit, and stoppers in Opponents’ bid suits. Shift to 3NT, particularly if Overcaller (partner) bid 1NT.

Overcaller’s 2nd Bids: Table

These bids require the same strength as if Overcaller were the Opener. Rebids depend on whether Overcaller has a min, med, or max hand. Note that all Overcaller’s 2nd bids include a pass option. In most cases the Advancer will have already set the obstructive contract correctly.

  1. Overcaller is a Minimum (7-10 PVP): This strength is likely.
    1. Advancer Made a Simple Raise: Pass.
    2. Advancer Bid a New Suit: There are now two suits. Pass if you can play in Advancer’s suit. Otherwise, shift back to your suit.
    3. Advancer Bid NT: If your hand is balanced, pass. If distributional, shift to a new suit, giving Advancer the preference to choose between your 1st suit, NT, or your 2nd suit.
    4. Advancer Made a Cuebid: With no interest in game, rebid your 1st suit cheaply. Advancer will pass. With more values, shift or jump. Advancer will take preference.
  2. Overcaller is a Medium (11-14 PVP): This strength is less likely.
    1. Raise: Invite if there is a chance the partnership has game. If Advancer has 6-7 PVP, Advancer will pass. If Advancer has 8-9 PVP, Advancer will bid game.
    2. Advancer Made a Cuebid: Rebid the original suit.
  3. Overcaller is a Maximum (15-17 PVP): This strength is unlikely. If there is a chance the partnership has game, get to game in your suit, 3NT, or Advancer’s suit. If Advancer made a cuebid, either raise cheaply or get to game. If game seems unlikely but the Opposition continues, then raise cheaply as a preemptive measure. Otherwise, pass.


  1. Checklist: See Audrey Grant’s summary on p. 75.
  2. Convention Card: See David Lindrop’s “Overcalls Part I” and “Overcalls Part II” at Audrey Grant’s website. David is Audrey’s husband.
  3. Good Starting Point: See the BridgeGuys.com for its Glossary. At the Glossary, lookup “The Overcall Structure.” Select “Overcall Structure Version 3,” by Paul Cornelius.

Tests of Comprehension

  1. Overcalls: For a test on nv overcalls in 2nd and 4th seats, go to Quiz 1 (p. 76). Good exercises are a-d.
  2. Advancer w/ Support: For a test on Advancer’s 1st bid and Overcaller’s 2nd bid when v, go to Quiz 2 (p. 78). Good exercises are a-i.
  3. Advancer w/ and w/o Support: For a test on Overcaller’s 2nd bid after a shift and Advancer’s 2nd bid after a cuebid, go to Quiz 3 (p. 80). Good exercises are c, e, f, g, i.

Hands to Play, from BB2, Competitive Bidding (230 p.)

Note that we have studied NT, major-suit, and minor-suit bidding, so please bid. However, if you reach a different contract than AG, please play her contract and opening lead. Consider playing the hands as “double dummy” so that everyone at the table can see the offense and defense unfold. If you finish the four hands early, please use the remaining time for dealt hands.

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
BB2 P. 82 #5 E N 2♠ 5♥ A
BB2 P. 84 #6 W E 3NT 7♥ B
BB2 P. 86 #7 N S 4♠ 4♥ C
BB2 P. 88 #8 S W 4♥ K♦ D


  • A: E=13 PVP. W=9 PVP. North (N) opens 1♥ with a minimum. N/S have 19 PVP. East (E) overcalls with 13 PVP and a great ♠ suit. E/W have 21 PVP. South (S) has support in ♥ while West (W) has support in ♠. W leads Partner’s suit. Opponents are entitled to 2 ♥ and 3 ♣ tricks. Making 2 (+110).
  • B: E=14 PVP. W=14 PVP. East (E) opens 1♦ to show a better minor. South (S) with 11 PVP and a 5cM overcalls. West (W) is a maximum with stoppers in all suits unbid by Partner or bid by Opponents, so goes to 3NT game. North (N) uses the overcall as a lead-directing bid. South drives out the A♥ initially, then when regaining the lead in ♦ can drive out the last high ♥. N/S take 5 tricks, defeating the contract. Down 1 (-100).
  • C: N=13 PVP. S=8 PVP. W opens 1♥ with a 6cM and 19 PVP. N overcalls is ♠ with a 5cM and 13 PVP. E supports ♥. S jumps to 4♥ game with a Weak Freak (5cM, few points, and a v/s). E leads Partner’s suit. E/W are entitled to 4 tricks. Down 1 (-100).
  • D: N=14 PVP. S=14 PVP. W opens 1♦ to show a better minor. N with 14 PVP and a 5cM overcalls. E has nothing. S is too strong to support, so shifts to ♥ to show strength and a 5c+ major. N shows game-going support. S bids game. W leads a 3c honor sequence. Declarer has 10 QT. Making game (+420).

_ _ _ _ _ _

1PVP: Partnership Valuation Points = HCP + Length Points (for Declarer) + Dummy Points (for Responder). Declarer’s PVP = their HCP + their Length Points. Responder’s PVP = their HCP + their Dummy Points.

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of AG BB2 Ch2 may be downloaded at BetterBridge.blog.)

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