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LHO opened with 1C – Partner overcalled with 1S – (I have 6 pts, 4 Spades) → Do I respond with 2S?

P.S. rho pass.

EDIT : what my gripe with this is, that according to textbooks, you respond to opening (which is 12+pts) with minimum 6 pts. Now overcall shows 8+ pts, so shouldn't I respond then with only 10 pts (e.g. 6+4)? (looking for logic in here...)

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3 Answers 3

There's a few reasons to take a bid here.

The bidding has gone 1C-1S-P. This indicates that RHO likely has fewer than 6 HCP. Let's consider a few different scenarios.

  • If partner has only 8 HCP, LHO has an extremely strong hand. You would like to force LHO to take a second bid at 2NT or above, rather than at the one level. 2SX is likely to be fairly lucrative -- you will most likely take 5-7 tricks in trumps alone (partner won't open on 8 HCP missing both top spade honors, and your 9 card fit suggests multiple ruffs are possible), while opponents likely have a game, which they will find if you allow the inexpensive 2-level call.
  • If partner has 12-14 HCP and balanced shape, 2S is likely to make and nobody is likely to take another bid; if you pass 1S you'll likely allow opponents to find a making 1NT or 3C, or even a making 4H if opponents have a good fit and LHO is allowed to make a 2H call (even worse, partner may double a making 4H if you don't warn that their spade honors likely aren't cashing).
  • If partner has 15-16 HCP and 6-3-2-2 shape you may find yourselves in a making 4S, but only if you speak up now.

You don't give much detail about your hand, but with a known 9+-card fit and weak values you should consider Tom Au's suggestion of making a 3S call with a hand that suggests it will be the right thing to do. A singleton or a void with few HCPs suggests this, especially if the shortness is in clubs. A hand that is likely to take fewer than 2 tricks on defense should also consider 3S.

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+1 for the last paragraph. The offensive/defensive analysis is very important in these competitive decisions. –  Pieter Geerkens Jun 9 '13 at 15:02
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Yes! Never hide support and a smattering of points if it can be shown at the two level. Especially with 4-card support, any 4-4-3-2 hand with a couple of Q's is worth a raise to the 2 level. This is especially true in spades because of locking out the 2-level from the opponents.

This gives partner a wealth of valuable information:

  • Don't double on tricks in the overcalled suit (vs a trump contract).
  • Do consider competing forward on extra values.
  • Game investigation is possible on a two-suiter.
  • The opponent's have a fit in 1, and maybe 2, suits.

In the given situation, where you now know that the opponents have a fit in 1 or 2 suits, either partner or opener or both has extra points. If partner, let him know that game might be on; if opener, make it more difficult for him to come back in. a 2S call is perfect here.

I like to play that a new suit (by an unpassed hand) by overcaller's partner is a one-round force, showing support for overcaller's suit. In essence, a long-suit game try. The premise is that if no fit exists, let the opponents balance or double if they must. A NT call by overcaller's partner shows good values but exactly 2-card support.

Update
In regard to addendum about comparing responses to advances:

  1. Virtually all 12 HCP hands should be opened, but only 8 HCP hands with a good 5-card or longer suit and offensive orientation should overcall at the 1-level. The total points on these two hands may be quite similar after a complete evaluation.
  2. Virtually all 6 point hands should respond at the 1-level, but only 6 point hands with 3-card support or better should advance an overcall. Likewise.

Re terminology: Opener's partner is responder, and overcaller's partner is advancer.

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Pieter: thank you very much for responding, please see edit to my question: –  user5185 May 6 '13 at 15:17
    
@user5185: It is very hard for a 2-level contract to be doubled confidently if your side has 8+ trumps, because a trump stack against you is very rare. Even if you frequently go down 1 or 2 tricks, being doubled into game occasionally will slow the opponents back a bit. Also 3C or 3D is a much easier contract to double confidently than 2S or 2H. –  Pieter Geerkens Jun 9 '13 at 15:00
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Overcalls have more offense and less defense than openers. Ironically, this means that your responses should be about the same for overcalls as for openers, for different reasons.

Your partner's overcall shows about eight points as you said. Together with your six, that means 14 for your side and 26 points for your opponents. They probably have an eight card fit, and the ability to make four clubs, four diamonds or four hearts. If their suit is hearts, they have game; otherwise they have a part score. If that's the case, you don't mind "going down" by say, one or even two tricks, as much as if they didn't have a four level contract. Ironically, your weakness (and oppoents' strength) causes you to bid more aggressively.

Your partner's bid showed five spades (as in an opener) headed (probably) by three honors. Between the two of you, you should have five "natural" spade tricks, one ruff, and one to two side tricks, for a total of seven or eight. On offense, your hands are worth more than 14 points because your spades are solid. If you raise to two, you might make it, and worst LIKELY case, you'll go down one. Given this fact, you probably won't be doubled, and "down one" is better than letting the opponents have a part score in three or four diamonds or clubs.

Because of the opponents' potential for a heart GAME, some experts say that you should go to THREE spades if not vulnerable. That's down one or two, 100-300 points if doubled. Down one (-100) beats their likely part score, and down two (-300) beats their possible game. You can be more aggressive if your opponents are timid doublers because the penalties will be less.

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The hand should have a singleton or void to consider three, and at most 5-6 HCP, offensively rather than defensively oriented. –  Pieter Geerkens May 6 '13 at 21:18
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