The Competitive Auction

YMCA Bridge Lecture for BB2 Ch4 (March 23, 2017)

Our chapter for today — Audrey Grant’s Bridge Basics 2 series, Ch. 4 — tells how our partnership can find its best contract even when the Opponents are disrupting our auction. This contrasts with Chapters 1-3 where we learned how our team could disrupt the Opponents’ auctions with tactics such as preempts, overcalls, and doubles. In Ch. 4, “our partnership” is the team that wins the auction. Our partnership may have entered the auction as the Opener/Responder, Overcaller/Advancer, or Doubler/Advancer. You may download this lesson in one of the two following formats:

  1. Paragraph: AG BB2 Ch4 Para
  2. Outline: AG BB2 Ch4 Note.docx

Who Wins the Auction?

  Winner = 20+ HCP  
  Responder (6+ HCP)  
Doubler (13+ HCP)   Advancer (6+ HCP)
Overcaller (7+ HCP)   Advancer (13+ HCP)
  Opener (13+ HCP)  

Table of Partnership Strength: The table above shows who might win a competitive auction. Without a sacrifice or extremely distributional hands, the successful team will probably be the one with more than half the High Card Points (HCP). That would be 20+ HCP since there are exactly 40 HCP in a deck. Here are some possibilities:

  • South (S) Opens: If S opens in a suit, S has 13-21 HCP. If S opens in NT, S has 15-17 HCP.
  • West (W) Overcalls or Doubles: If W bids, East (E) will be able to estimate the team’s minimum point count. North’s speed will help E decide where the majority of the points lie. If N bids slowly, then N is unfazed by W’s bid. If N jumps, then N is concerned that E/W is a threat.
  • North (N) Responds: Until South makes a rebid, N will not know the team’s exact point count. N will know that the team has at least N’s HCP plus S’ 13+ HCP. N will also know whether W has ≥ 7 HCP for an overcall or ≥ 13 HCP for a double. If West doubles, a minimum North will jump quickly to a partscore in a Golden Fit.
  • East (E) Advances: Until W makes a rebid, E will not know the team’s exact point count. Nevertheless, E has heard the three other players. E knows a broad range of possible points for S and W. E also knows what urgency N has shown. E will bid high. E’s immediate task is to force S to pass.

“Our Partnership” is Opener/Responder

Opener/Responder: These players are N/S in the table. S’ opening shows a hand worth 13-21 HCP. The opening may show a 5cM, a 4cm, or a flat NT hand.

Responder’s 1st Bid

Overcaller Bid a Suit

Responder’s Modifications: After our partnership opens the bidding, the Opponents may interfere with preempts, overcalls, or doubles. Their interference may have negligible impact on our bidding, or it may require completely different meanings for our subsequent bids. Chapter 4 says Responder’s six modified bids can be no change; slight change; jump shift of Overcaller’s suit; cuebid of Opponents’ suit; double; or redouble.

  1. Responder Makes No Change: Many planned 1-level bids are still possible even w/ an overcall. The exceptions are when Responder has less than 11 PVP1 (can’t bid at the 2-level), no support for partner (can’t raise), or the Overcall is at 2+ level (can’t bid a 4c♥). Responder then passes or continues down this list.
  2. Responder Makes a Slight Change: A change in plans is not necessarily bad. Responder’s bids may be more descriptive with competition. For instance, if Overcaller bid Responder’s suit, then a 1NT call shows almost certain stoppers in that suit. Responder will play behind Overcaller whenever the suit is opened. If Overcaller bids past Responder’s suit at the 1-level, then Responder’s call of 2m/M shows the same suit but with more points than if bid w/o competition. If Responder’s suit is ♥, then a call of 2♥ shows more cards (5c+) than if bid w/o competition.
  3. Responder Bids a Preempt (Law of Total Tricks): These bids require Responder to be a minimum (~6-9 points). With 3-card support, Responder raises to 2M. With 4-card support, Responder jumps to 3M. With 5-card support (and void or singleton!), Responder jumps to 4M. With 6-card support (and void or singleton), Responder jumps to 5m. Making 5m will be tough. In a competitive auction, Responder’s goals are to show Opener a fit as quickly as possible, and to preempt the opponents from finding their fit. The weak jump response w/ 4c support is new and preemptive (ie, this bid is “new” because it is not available w/o competition).
  4. Responder Makes a Cuebid: This is like the uncontested “Limit Bid” because it requires 4c+ support and 11+ points. With just 3c support and 11+ points, Responder shifts before returning to partner’s suit. After a cuebid, Opener who is a minimum will raise while an Opener who is medium+ will jump to game. Responder who is a minimum will pass. Responder will rebid with 13+ points even if Opener is a minimum. The cuebid is equivalent to an uncontested limit bid.
  5. Responder Makes a Negative Double: Responder must have a two-suited hand w/ 4c+ in each suit and 6/9/11 PVP. Responder’s required points depend on the level Opener will rebid: if 2-level, Responder needs 6+ points; if 3-level, 9+ points; if 4-level, 11+ points. A neg X usually applies at the 1 or 2 level, as it should not be bid at higher levels. Note that a Neg. Double is cheaper than an uncontested new-suit response, which requires 11+ points at the 2 level. Responder is showing support for all unbid suits, and the points to compete. A neg. X is great if Responder has the other two suits, doesn’t have stoppers for 1NT, and doesn’t have 11+ points to bid at the 2 level. A neg. X is also great if a strong Responder simply prefers to hear more from Opener before picking the suit and level.

Overcaller is a Doubler

Theory: We saw in Ch. 3 that a Doubler has the equivalent of an opening hand. If Doubler has 13+ HCP, then Opener/Responder have ≤ 27 HCP. Opener/Responder may not have game. In most cases, Opener/Responder try for partscore and to preempt the Doubler, just like they would an Overcaller.

Responder’s Redouble: This 6th modification is rare! Opener has 13+ points. Doubler has 13+ points. Responder’s XX requires 10+ HCP. Advancer by elimination has between a Yarborough (0 HCP) and a Quack (3 HCP). Opener is expected to pass with interference (ie, relay back to Responder). Responder then describes their hand (eg, balanced NT, new long suit, or support for partner’s suit).

Break Communication with Advancer: The Doubler has shown too many points for the Opener/Responder to continue towards game. The team may still have a partscore if they can break communication between Doubler/Advancer. The Responder should preempt (weak, w/ 4+ trump support); bid a new suit at 2-level (weak, 9 points, non-forcing); or rarely redouble (strong but vague on shape). Any bid by Responder shows ≤ 10 HCP, since with more the Responder would redouble. With such weak hands, Responder’s bids at the 2-level or higher are not forcing. If Responder does dare to bid, Opponents may continue to X as Opener/Responder get higher and higher, Opener/Responder may find a makeable partscore, or Opponents may find their own partscore.

Opener’s 2nd Bid

Opener is Captain: On their 2nd bid, Opener adds the partnership’s combined points to determine the appropriate signoff level. Opener then forces or sets the contract. Opener can double with a maximum if Responder’s previous bid was Pass. Note that in uncontested auctions, where there is plenty of time to go slowly, the Responder is the Captain.

  1. Responder Shifts: Responder may have a 4c suit. Opponents have overcalled. If Opener passes or raises their own suit, Opener shows ≤ 2c support for Responder’s suit. If Opener raises Responder, then Opener shows 4c+ support. If Opener doubles (or redoubles) RHO, then Opener shows a support double of exactly 3c support. Responder will decide which suit is best. Your team must mark your use and level of support doubles on your Convention Card, plus you must alert as support doubles are rare, non-standard, and highly unusual bids.
  2. Responder Bids a Negative Double: Responder shows support for the unbid suits and sufficient points to compete. Good bids after a negative double would be a 4cM at the cheapest level, showing a minimum (13-16 points); a jump with a medium (17-18 points, inviting responder to game with 8+ points); or get to game with a max (19-21 points).
  3. Responder Bids a Cuebid: Responder shows support for Opener’s suit and 11+ points. With a minimum, Opener rebids the original suit cheaply. If Opener has 15+ points, Opener gets to game. If Opener does rebid the original suit cheaply, Responder needs a max (13+ points) to continue bidding.
  4. Responder Preempts after Overcaller’s X: Responder’s jump raise is preemptive. Opener needs more than a minimum to rebid, but even so will pass in most situations.
  5. Responder is a Pass: If Opener is a maximum (19+ points, but the example in the book shows 22 Dummy Points on p. 158), then Opener doubles for takeout on their 2nd bid. More likely, the contract belongs to the Opponents.

Responder’s 2nd Bid

Card-Showing Double: This bid is constructive. It is not alertable. Partner opened and you responded. Now the Opponents have overcalled and Opener has passed. A double shows the strength to compete. It does not show stoppers in Opponents’ suits. It just asks Opener to continue. You must mark your use of card-showing doubles on your Convention Card.

“Our Partnership” is Overcaller/Advancer

Overcaller/Advancer: These players are E/W in the table. W’s bid shows a hand worth 7+ HCP. W’s double shows a hand worth 13+ HCP. W’s overcall/double may show a 6c preempt, a 5cM, a 4cm, a flat NT hand with stoppers, or a 3-suited hand.

Advancer’s 1st Bid

Overcaller or Doubler: Whenever 2nd-seat bids or doubles, and Responder bids also, there aren’t many points left for Advancer to hold. Advancer should strive to bid. Advancer’s bid depends on whether their Partner is an Overcaller or a Doubler.

Advancer Knows Overcaller’s Suit: If Advancer can make the same call they would have if Responder had passed, they should. More likely, Responder made a preemptive bid, in which case “it depends.” Advancer should try to compete even when Responder’s bid makes such advance non-forcing.

Advancer’s Supporting Bids: An Advancer with 6-9 points can make bids like those that a Responder would make with the same strength; these are bids that make no change from what Advancer would bid without Responder’s interference, make a slight change due to Responder, or are preemptive jumps designed to block Opener/Responder communications. With 3c support, raise one level. With 4c support, Advancer would make a preemptive raise in Partner’s overcall. With even more points, Advancer would cuebid.

Advancer Does Not Know Overcaller’s Suit: Overcaller has doubled. If Responder has kept the auction open with a bid or XX, then Advancer is free to pass when weak. An Advancer interested in an offensive strategy should try to compete even when Responder makes this unnecessary. A cheap bid would be equivalent to a 1-level shift w/o interference, showing a 4c+ suit and 6+ points. A 1-level jump would be invitational, 4c+ support, 9-11 points. With more strength, Advancer would cuebid cheaply.

Overcaller’s 2nd Bid

Advancer is Captain: Generally, the Advancer will bid something. The Advancer is the Captain and will be the Declarer if the team wins the contract. Only if Overcaller has extra strength, or Advancer made a forcing bid, should Overcaller bid again.

Advancer Makes a Cuebid: Advancer shows 11+ points. With a good suit and a medium+ hand, Overcaller would bid game. With a minimum, Overcaller would raise 1-level.

Overcaller Makes a X: If Advancer has passed Overcaller’s X, then Advancer is weak. Overcaller with strength (the book shows 21 Dummy Points in its example on p. 159) can double again for takeout.

Penalty X

Score is Doubled: Either the Opener/Responder or the Overcaller/Advancer may double for penalty if the Opponents continue to bid aggressively. At high levels, holding QT, a double can be very profitable, as some setting tricks are worth 300 points each. The disadvantage is that successful contracts are profitable for the Opponents, making game possible on Declarer’s doubled partscore. Generally, doubles of 1-3NT, 4M, 5m/M, 6m/M, 7m/M are for penalty.

Good and Bad Doubles: The book mentions two good doubles when your team seems to have strength. One is a penalty of 1NT. Defending well against 1NT may yield a higher score than a partscore in your own suit; you need a long suit of any strength and entries to that suit. A second is a penalty when an Opponent has opened a weak-2 and their Responder has preempted the suit to game. You need strength (AK) in the side suits, but not length as length will be ruffed. The book does not like doubles of 2M as these bids push the Opponents into game. Nor does the book like competitive bids beyond 2♠. Don’t double the 2♠ Opponents into game and don’t raise to the 3-level with your own minimum hand opposite a minimum partner.

Tests of Comprehension

  1. Responder after Interference: For a test on Responder’s bids after interference from 2nd seat, go to Quiz 1 (p. 164). Try f, h, i, j.
  2. Responder after Interference 2: For a test on Responder’s bids after interference or a double from 2nd seat, go to Quiz 2 (p. 166). Try a, e/f, h, i.
  3. Opener after Interference: For a test on Opener’s 2nd bid or Advancer’s 1st bid, go to Quiz 3 (p. 168). Try c, d.

 _ _ _ _ _ _

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. All points discussed in this paper are PVP unless they are specially identified as HCP only.

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. 170 #13 W N 2♠ 5♦ A
BB2 P. 172 #14 S E 2 A♠ B
BB2 P. 174 #15 E S 3♠ K♦ C
BB2 P. 176 #16 N W 4♠X A♣ D


  • A: E=9 points. W=12 points. South (S) opens a better minor. West (W) overcalls a 5cM with 12 points. North (N) supports Partner cheaply. East (E) also supports partner with 3c support and 9 points. All pass. N leads 4th best in Partner’s suit. Declarer has 8 QT. N/S are entitled to 5 tricks. Making partscore (+110).
  • B: N=9 points. S=13 points. S opens a better minor. W overcalls a 5cM with 15 points. N has the other two suits, so bids a negative double. S suggests ♥. All pass. W leads top of a 2c sequence. E signals Hi for attitude, and gets a ruff. W signals for a ♦ lead, promoting the Q. E/W are entitled to 5 tricks. Making partscore (+110).
  • C: E=9 points. W=13 points. S opens a 5cM in 1♥. W has good support for any other suit, so doubles. N is very weak, but does have 4c trump support, so jumps to show a weak preempt. E raises to a doomed 3♠, which is worse than passing but better than Opponents playing in 2♥. S leads an honor sequence. NS are entitled to 5 tricks. Down 1 (-100).
  • D: N=15 points. S=11 points. N opens 1♠. E has good support for any other suit, so doubles. S makes a limit bid. N rebids a non-rebiddable ♠ suit. EW are entitled to 5 tricks. Down 2 (-200, or -500 doubled).

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of AG BB2 Ch4 may be downloaded at

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