After a Raised Maximal Overcall

Neither side vulnerable
The bidding has gone:

1 2 2 3

Modern competitive-bidding methods redefine many doubles from the traditional suggestion of penalties to general value-showing. Prominent among these are doubles after at least one side has bid and raised a suit. In Bridge World Standard, this redefinition takes place only when both sides have raised, and even then only when the suit doubled ranks exactly one below the doubler's raised suit. The theory is that this double is necessary to substitute for a game try when there is no intervening suit for that purpose.

As South, what call do you make with each of the following:

(a) A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   10 2   A Q 3

(b) A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   2   A Q J 3

(c) A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   A   A Q J 3

(d) A J 6   K 9 7 6 4 2   2   A J 10

(e) A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   K Q 10   A J

(f) A 6   K 9 7 6 4   2   A Q J 6 3


A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   10 2   A Q 3

(a) Pass. You have some slight extra high-card values, but essentially you have minimum high-card strength in a balanced hand. You have no reason to believe it will be easier to take nine tricks at hearts than five at diamonds (or vice versa). It is almost certain that partner will be in at least as good a position to make the final decision for the partnership. This does not mean he will inevitably be well placed, just that his hand is more likely than yours to contain some special feature that will guide the way. For example, if he has four hearts he will usually bid on.

A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   2   A Q J 3

(b) Double. This is a fairly typical "maximal-overcall double," a game try in hearts based at least in part on high-card values. Partner is invited to bid game in hearts, but he may pass with length and strength in diamonds and not too many hearts. If North can't pass or move towards game, he will retreat to three hearts; you will pass.

A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   A   A Q J 3

(c) Double. Here you have enough to drive to game, and intend to reach that level no matter what action North takes. However, since your hand is defensively oriented, you will be happy to play for a penalty if partner chooses to pass three diamonds doubled. So, you can give him this option. It is irrelevant that you don't expect this to happen often.

A J 6   K 9 7 6 4 2   2   A J 10

(d) Four hearts. If the maximal overcall double were not available, as in traditional methods, the level of the interference would force you to choose between a competitive, non-invitational three hearts and a game bid. Here, you have a double available to suggest the correct degree of offensive interest, but it is risky to use the double with extra length in your side's suit and only ordinary high-card strength, because your hand is too likely to prove unsuitable on defense should partner pass. This puts you back in the traditional position--you must guess between three hearts and four hearts. If your clubs were a little weaker, three would be a better guess.

A J 6   K 9 7 6 4   K Q 10   A J

(e) Three notrump. Under old-fashioned methods you could double, and get to defend three diamonds doubled unless partner was wildly heart oriented. That's something you have to give up when using maximal-overcall doubles. Your choice is among: double, intending to pass three hearts, a reasonable view considering the possible duplication in diamonds; double, intending to rebid three notrump; and, three notrump directly. We think the first and third positions are better, since a delayed three notrump might suggest less secure diamond stoppers.

A 6   K 9 7 6 4   2   A Q J 6 3

(f) Four clubs. Might not four clubs be read as a slam try, since it is an unnecessary bid in a minor suit after a major has been agreed? Today's view is that slam mechanisms are less likely to be relevant when the opponents are in the auction. In a competitive sequence, it is important to show extreme distribution so that partner can cooperate in the final decision should the bidding reach a high level.

(Adapted from "Rate Your Own Game" in The Bridge World.)


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