Pre-emptive overcalls

Pre-emptive overcalls are intended to shut out the opposition. They start at the three level.

3NT overcall

A 3NT overcall is natural and shows the same as a 2NT opener; but in addition a stopper in opponent’s suit. In reply, with stoppers in the other suits, South will pass. Without stoppers South will bid 4♣ as a negative. If the overcaller’s suit happens to be ♣s he will pass, if not he will bid 4.

1♠3NTPassNo bid

East overcalls 3NT to show 20-22 points and a balanced hand. With a weak hand West no bids. While he probably lacks stoppers in any suit he will be fairly balanced. With a wild distribution, however, he would have signalled East to avoid no trumps. In the event East is happy with his NT contract. See also: The 2NT opening bid

3-suit overcall

The three-suit overcall means the same as when used in the opening position: no more than 9 points and at least a seven-carder. It is made over an opening bid of one of a suit.

Response to partner’s three-level overcall of opener’s bid
15 or lessPassOr you may bid a very long suit
4-suit overcall

It is a strong-pre-emptive showing at least 11 points. With a seven-carder the overcaller needs 14 points. This is rarely bid over a 1 suit opener. But here are some examples where it might be warranted:

14♣The 4♣ overcall is the same as a 3♣ opener
1♣4The 4 overcall over the ♣ (a minor suit) is the same as a 4 opener (that is, natural)
14But a 4 bid over a major is showing a hand of only 7 points and a very long suit; this is because it is only a jump of two, making it the same as a 3 opener
1NT4♠Over 1NT, any 4-suit overcall shows the same opening as 3 of a suit
5-suit overcall

Again this is similar to the 5-suit opening bid used to show interest in the minor suits. Typically, you want the same points as a 4-suit overcall but more heavily represented with at least a nine-carder. Needless to say it is a rare bid. For further details see the section in Chapter Eighteen. The 5 suit opener


Jump bid. A jump bid is a bid of one more than necessary, usually of a no trump call. For example: 1 – 2NT.

Overcall. An overcall is a bid by defender over an opening bid.

Sacrifice. A sacrifice bid is a deliberate attempt to deny opponents from bidding a contract. It is made in the belief that penalty points lost will be less than points won below the line for the opponents.

Cardinal rule

Rule No 18 – Never make an overcall in a suit that can lose more than two tricks. For example, a five-carder headed by an ace-queen and three small cards is not going to cut the mustard. Whereas a suit with a good run, Queen, Jack, 10 and an 8 would be a workable combo.

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By Nigel Benetton – based on the UK Acol Bridge Bidding System

Last updated: Wednesday, 16th June 2021