IMP scoring. Neither vulnerable. Right hand opponent was the dealer and opens 1C. The auction went

1C 1S P 2C
3C P P 3S

I had


Partner had


I had a lot of losers -7 even if we lose no spades-and thought my partner had a limit raise. Should my pass show a little bit extra (stronger than bidding 3S)?

  • If I look at your cards you have 11 high card points and partner has 9. Are there some points missing here or how is that supposed to be an 'easy game'? You have a 9 card fit and partner has a bit of shape but in general 20 points is like 5 points or so short to make 4S.
    – quarague
    Feb 14, 2022 at 7:51
  • @quarague - Think about how the play is going to go. How is the defense going to manage to take 4 tricks? On normal breaks you lose the ace of hearts, a club, and one spade. You can't ruff all of South's losers, but some of them can be discarded on the hearts once they set up. Feb 15, 2022 at 1:30
  • Of course you need the spades to be either 3-1 with East having the King or 2-2, but that's 65% Feb 15, 2022 at 1:33

6 Answers 6


This, as with nearly everything in bridge, depends on partnership agreements and style.

However, taken in the standard methods, 2c is the only real forcing bid available. As such, it usually promises at least a limit raise, although there are other scenarios where there's no better bid; but most commonly it's a limit or better. So, partner has at least a limit raise, and could have more.

After the 3c, pass is not a forcing bid in my opinion. Pass is a "I have nothing interesting to say". You don't have a six card spade suit, you don't have anything unusual. The real question is whether you have a stronger hand than expected for an overcall, and that is definitely not the case in standard - standard would overcall all the way to about 16-17 (before you're in the double-and-bid range). So, you have a normally shaped hand (roughly), 5-2-2-3 (well, I hope you have a 13th card there somewhere...) - so pass is perfectly fine. That lets partner make the choice - what did that limit raise mean? Let you know. Pass is technically an option for them, though usually you'd want to compete.


Now you're not making 4S (losing one in each suit, if they just take their aces after getting back in from a club lead). If you'd overcall with that, then you need to differentiate that from what you actually have here - because your actual hand could play game opposite some limit raise hands, while the example hand here definitely doesn't want to. But if you play more tight overcalls - like, six losers or less or something like that - then you probably don't need to. Me, I would at least think about overcalling with that hand but probably wouldn't actually do it (the Jh is worthless, and the Jc almost worthless, so I'm not sure I rate this 8, and the broken spades and lack of aces is worse). Make the Ks an Ace, and it's more palatable - but we also then probably make this game.

For your bid, the key is to have a good understanding of what all of partner's options are. What range will partner pass with? Will they ever pass, or do you prefer to compete with any hand that would limit raise? What does X mean - is it penalty? What does X mean for you (you do have 3 clubs and a hand that plays decently on defense, and West probably has little to nothing)?

If Partner would compete in basically any auction, and never pass, then 3S is not telling you much - and P should be doing something else. I would argue that there should be some hands you would pass there, mostly because otherwise there's no reason for E not to bid 3c there and eat up space (and you lose a useful bid). But it'll be rare. And either way, P's hand is not one of those pass hands. So let's evaluate their 3S.

Most likely, Partner should be showing something here other than 3S, given they probably do have a slightly better than limit raise hand. They have a singleton diamond, which plays well no matter what you have there (and you're rated to have some). They have KQ hearts, which is nice (even if it is likely to only be worth 1 trick). They have the ace of clubs, so E can't easily get much there. And, most importantly, they have four spades - so there is 9 spades on your side!

I think you could make an argument for 3H, to show that absurd length in hearts, mostly because the hand is so major-heavy and shapely that there's concern you might miss a weird slam. Their hand is a three loser hand outside of spades - give you


All of a sudden it's an odds-on finesse from six hearts! So not something North should be ignoring. If they bid 3H, you either bid 3S (minimum) or 4S (not minimum) if you are uninterested in hearts or slam. If they see any other bid from you, it's a specifically meaningful bid - agree on what, but probably controls of some sort, indicating you are interested in the weird slam.

All together, I think my answer is you're both somewhat at fault here - maybe. If this is anywhere close to your minimum overcall, then it's less your fault; if it's well above that, then you need to have a bid to make after 3C that shows this hand.

But partner definitely has a good hand - probably better than yours in some ways - and underbid here, assuming you weren't showing an 8 count with your pass. Even an eight count plays okay if it's the right 8 count - so I'd like to see something more interesting than 3S, on balance.


Four Spades is not such a great contract. You are going to get a Club lead. You have to decide immediately whether to try and set up dummy's Hearts, or to ruff your Diamond and Club losers in dummy. In either case, you have a Club and a Heart loser, so you can't afford two Spade losers.

There are several pitfalls. First, the Spade finesse is not guaranteed; there are 20 points outstanding, and East only needs 16-17 of them for the Three Club bid. Second, East could easily have a singleton Heart, which means you can't afford to overtake the second Heart trick. Third, if you try to ruff your minor-suit losers in dummy, West will probably be able to ruff the third round of Clubs ahead of dummy.

So I would not be too disappointed about missing Four Spades. In fact, Four Hearts is probably better; it needs the Spades to come in for one loser, and not much else.

Having said that, with North's hand I would not stop short of game; in fact I would bid Four Spades on the first round, because slam is very unlikely opposite a simple overcall. In a competitive auction, bid to the limit, and then stop.

  • I assume you mean East's 3C bid. I don't think East needs any strength beyond an opening hand for that bid, just enough distribution to want to make life hard for opponents. I would bid 3C there on x Ax Qxx KQJxxxx. Feb 14, 2022 at 23:53
  • @AlexanderWoo: Yes, thank you. I was thrown off by the OP putting South on top :-) (And your comment only strengthens my point.)
    – TonyK
    Feb 15, 2022 at 1:06

I would like to be in 4S on these hands, but I wouldn't worry about it. Change a small heart to a small club in North's hand, and this would be the right bidding sequence. Change a small heart to the King(!) of diamonds in North's hand, and this would be the right bidding sequence. Even changing a small club to a small heart in South's hand makes 4S more dicey.

I might have underbid North's hand even more and made a 3C bid on the first round, showing 4 spades, a singleton somewhere, and less than a normal limit raise. But I would also bid 3C with the Queen of hearts changed to a low heart (or even a low club).

  • 1
    IMP scoring and White I think 3S or 4H are my choices. (Matchpoints or Red is another story of course.) It doesn't pay long term to push for aggressive White games or aggressive Red small slams in IMPS. If OP bid and went down in 4S he'd be posting the question "How do we stay out of 4S on this hand?" Resulting has drawbacks. Feb 15, 2022 at 1:20

South's decision over 3C:

  • Pass implies only a five card suit and no interest in game opposite a limit raise.
  • With an extra trump, South should usually compete to 3S. This is not invitational to game, it's based on an assumption that the partnership has nine trumps. Google "Law Of Total Tricks" if curious.
  • To invite game, South should shift to a new suit, 3D or 3H.

North's decision over 3C, Pass, Pass:

  • North wonders "Can we still make a game opposite partner's minimum overcall?" The answer is yes. Even if partner overcalled 1S with SAK432 and nothing else (which many strong pairs do at nil vul these days), the partnership will usually make 4S when trumps are 2-2. Playing IMPs, I would bash 4S, happy with the odds. Playing matchpoints, I would rebid 3H, a natural game try.

South's hand is strong in the context of a 3H game try - JT in partner's suit and two aces. The clubs are a worry, but otherwise the hand is a non-minimum given all the hands that pass over 3C. Easy 4S bid for South.


I would say that the fault is due to "cracks" in conventional bidding systems, rather than to the two individual bidders. There is a saying that "opening hand opposite opening hand equals game" (in four of a major). You both had the equivalent of opening hands, and perhaps one or both of you failed to recognize it because they were both on the "boundaries" according to the (changing) theory.

Let's start with your hand. You "only" overcalled, with it, but it has 11 points, which many today (but not in times past) would consider an opening hand, given its five card suit and two aces. The one flaw is your "stranded" jack in the doubleton (deduct one point) but the shortness of the doubleton itself is an asset (add back one point to get back to 11).

Your partner had a good six card heart suit, and four (not three) cards in your spade suit. Even with "only" nine high card points, I would have opened this "light" in the third seat, even without knowing that you had five spades opposite his four. His having heard this extra feature in fourth seat opposite your overcall would make his the equivalent of an opening hand (because of the double fit in spades and hearts). He did well to intimate this fact by cue bidding the opponents' suit. That might have impelled another person to bid four spades (although I won't criticize you because you and partner both had minimum "opening" hands).*

To sum up your combined assets: Given your two aces, you have at most one loser in the minors (zero if you can "ditch" the extra club), one loser in hearts, and one to two losers in trumps, depending on whether the opponents' KQJT are divided 2-2 or 3-1. It's true that you got a benefit in hearts with your JT working opposite his length, but on the other hand, when partner has four trumps, s/he will usually have at least one honor (but not so in this case, according to your narrative).

*Computer studies such as this one show that 11 points opposite 11 points is a favorite with a nine card fit.


Your hand is intermediate strength (11-13HCP) for a 1S overcall. Partners cuebid is asking for more information so a 3S bid would best describe this. It's up to partner then to continue or not. Partners singleton diamond, non vulnerable might encourage them to a risky 4S. As a very amateur player I would be happy with a 3S decision on 20 HCP. Although 4S can be easily made it may not be the right place to be.

  • 3
    Good players have ways to evaluate their hand beyond point count. South's hand is definitely very good for its point count, and further greatly improved by partner having a spade overcall. North's hand is roughly average for its point count, but it's also improved by partner having a distributional raise (unlike, for example, KJTxx xx KJx KTx, which is also 11 points and the same distribution but clearly much worse in context). Learn to take these differences into account! Feb 17, 2022 at 1:28

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