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overcall vs double

#1 User is offline   perk1329 

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Posted 2018-November-02, 18:30

i’ve always overcalled with 10+ pts in a five card suit and doubled with 12+ pts and no five card suit. I thought that the whole purpose of a the takeout double was to manufacture a bid because otherwise with an opening hand and no 5 card suit you don’t have a bid.

i looked online and found this to be essentially correct except

1: to double you also need a minimum of three cards in each of the unbid suits.

so, what do you do with distributions of 4-4-2, 4-4-1 and 4-4-0 in the unbid suits?

2: in some cases “they” double with a five card suit and 12+ pts.

why? “they” claim this is a more descriptive bid but i prefer the overcall because it identifies a five card suit.

thank you

#2 User is offline   steve2005 

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Posted 2018-November-02, 21:39

You can't always be 4441 the perfect hand for doubling. In fact this shape is relatively rare.
5431 is also a good hand to double on. It is much more flexible than overcalling your 5-card suit.
Double will be better whenever your partner bids your 54 card suit. Even when partner bids your 3-card suit this may turn out better if partner has 5+ cards and ,maybe the 4-3 is playable..

Also, if your side doesn't win the auction you may find out partners best suit which may turn out to be a better lead if you dont have a clear ;ead
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#3 User is offline   smerriman 

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Posted 2018-November-02, 22:07

The primary meaning of double is "I want to play in your best suit". It does not mean "I have an opening hand".

A lot of people new to the game double with shortness in another suit, find partner bids that suit, and then try to escape by bidding something else. This does not work. In fact, by saying "I want to play in your best suit", and then on the next bid saying "Actually, I don't", you are showing a very strong hand, too strong to simply overcall the first time.

If you have a hand not suitable for a double or overcall, you have an easy bid - it's called pass! Again, contrary to what people new to the game think, this does *not* deny an opening hand.

If the LHO bids on, you will get another chance to bid and more accurately show your hand.

If the LHO does not bid, the meanings of your partners bids change in order to 'protect' you. For example, if they are short in the opener's suit, they should almost always double - even if quite weak - hoping you will pass and collect a large penalty.

#4 User is offline   The_Badger 

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Posted 2018-November-02, 22:07

There's also the scenario where a takeout double is used to describe a very strong hand unsuitable for a simple one level overcall. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, a jump shift overcall was made on a strong hand. In today's bridge jumps shift overcalls (1 - 2) are made on weak hands due to frequency. And as steve2005 rightly says, you cannot always have 4441 shape suitable for a TOX (takeout double). 4441 shape only crops up about 3% of the time whereas 5431 shape is about 13%.

And welcome to the forum, perk1329.

#5 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2018-November-03, 11:59

View Postperk1329, on 2018-November-02, 18:30, said:

1: to double you also need a minimum of three cards in each of the unbid suits.

so, what do you do with distributions of 4-4-2, 4-4-1 and 4-4-0 in the unbid suits?

Generally you pass, although some people will double with 4-4-2 and hope that if partner bids your 2-card suit he has 5 of them.

Also, if you have a strong enough hand and a stopper in opener's suit, you may overcall 1NT.


2: in some cases “they” double with a five card suit and 12+ pts.

why? “they” claim this is a more descriptive bid but i prefer the overcall because it identifies a five card suit.

With a strong hand (the minimum varies, but it's generally in the 16-18 HCP range) you double first and then bid your suit. With an even stronger hand and a good 6-card suit, you double and then jump in your suit.

And if your hand is too strong for a 1NT overcall (e.g. 19-21 HCP), you double and then bid NT at the cheapest level.

#6 User is offline   rmnka447 

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Posted 2018-November-03, 16:09


People did use doubles for takeout without promising 3+ cards in each suit back in the 1950s. Back then it only promised about opening values. But as smerriman pointed out, there were always some problems when doubler's partner bid a suit that doubler was short in. Gradually, bridge players moved toward doubles always guaranteeing 3+ cards in unbid suits and presumably about opening values. Many of the "disasters" disappeared and competitive bidding proceeded on a much firmer basis.

But, of course, that left the very hands OP poster is asking about -- those with values but imperfect shape for takeout doubles. Those hands had to be passed which sometimes meant missing reasonable part scores and even some games. What made the shaped takeouts eventually work was the concept of balancing/reopening the auction when the opponents find a fit and stop at a low level, or, the initial opening bid is passed to 4th seat.

In the latter case, opener's partner didn't have enough to respond, so the person in 4th seat knows that their partner must have some values. Thus, 4th seat could make a bid even on pretty modest values knowing partner was likely to have enough to roughly "balance" out the points between the two sides. To be sure opener, on occasion, opener can have a monster of a hand and that isn't true, but those cases are rare enough and don't necessarily result in disaster to not worry about. For example, if 4th seat has 7 HCP and the auction goes 1 -P-P-?, 4th seat knows opener's partner likely has no more than 5 HCP and quite possibly less. That leaves at least 28 HCP split between opener's hand and 4th seat's partner. If opener has a normal 12-14 opener, then 4th seats side has at least half the points in the deck and can compete. Additionally, 4th seat's partner sits behind the strong hand so whatever points that hand holds are likely to be a little more valuable in terms of trick taking because of their position.

Likewise, if the opponents find a fit and stop at a low level, a similar situation arises. When one side has a fit, the other side is very likely to have a fit also. So, again the person in pass out seat, can compete. After the opponents bid unopposed 1 - 1 - 2 - P - P to the pass out seat, pass out seat knows there's probably a fit somewhere and the opponent's don't have much more than half the points in the deck (responder didn't invite, opener didn't jump raise). So with a suitable hand, pass out seat can compete.

Without spending a lot of time completely explaining balancing beyond the concept of why it's possible, the current state of competitive bidding is that you pass with hands that are imperfect for a takeout double and hope either partner or yourself can balance later in the auction.


Generally, you prefer to overcall with a 5 card suit. But situations arise, where the 5 card suit isn't particularly good and the hand is otherwise suitable for a takeout double. In those circumstances, it may be preferable to double instead of overcalling. That is especially true when the 5 card suit is a minor. For example, you are vulnerable and hold Axxx KJx x A5432 and RHO bids 1 in 1st seat. If you overcall on this hand, it'll have to be 2 and that's not very wise with such a bad suit. (After a few 800-1400 sets when LHO holds a stack and some values, you'll understand why this is so.) But your hand is good enough for a takeout double and does have the proper shape so here double is preferable. If your hand were Axxx xxx x AKJxx, you have good , so 2 is fine.

Note that if the suit were a major and could be bid at the 1 level, most good players would prefer an overcall --bid 1 on A5432 KJx x Axxx or AKJxx xxx x Axxx.

#7 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2018-November-03, 17:00

Many, many years ago in an Oklahoma City club game, my partner and I on a lark decided we'd adopt our kibitzer's system, Chuck Donaldson, who never played but was adamant about the best system to use, part of which was to make a takeout double with any 12-point hand - and the response to the double was to bid an exclusion bid - a short suit.

This led to some strange auctions like 1C-X-P-2C all pass. Oddly, it worked surprisingly well so I learned to never be so sure you really know anything. :D
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#8 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2018-November-04, 06:24

As others have said, with 5431 (the singleton in opps' suit, the 5-card suit being a minor) double is better. You may occasionally double with a 5-card major also, especially if it is a poor suit and if you can't bid it at the 1-level, but normally bidding a 5-card major if you have it is recommended.

I would sometimes double with a doubleton in an unbid minor, but as a general rule, if you have a balanced hand with a doubleton in an unbid suit and not strong enough for a 1NT overcall, you just pass.
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#9 User is offline   mikeh 

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Posted 2018-November-05, 12:48

I think others have covered the main points.

These days you will find some very good players advocating a takeout double of, say, 1C on 4=4=2=3 hands, or of 1D on 4=4=3=2, with a real opening hand.

The argument is that partner will always bid a 4 card major in response to a takeout double of a minor, unless he has a very long side minor. So if I double 1D with 4=4=3=2, partner will bid 1S with 4=x=y=5, and not 2C.

I haven't read teaching books in many years so don't know what new players are taught. Obviously if they are taught to always bid their longest suit (other than opener's) when advancing a takeout double, this doubling on 4=4=3=2 is not a great idea!

Once in a while one ends up in an inferior spot. However, statistically (and I don't pretend to know the numbers), partner will be able to do something other than bid a 4 card club suit when we double 1D. Many times he can bid 1M. Other times he can bid 1N. In addition, and this happens many times, he doesn't have to bid because responder bids over our takeout double.

It is for all of these reasons that doubling with an off-shape hand is increasingly popular amongst experts, and one usually finds that these sorts of trends trickle down to advanced players, then to intermediates, and then become 'standard'.

However, there is a world of difference, after a 1D opening, between KJxx AQxx Kxx xx (double) and KJxx xx Kxx AQxx (pass, but see below)

Sometimes one has an opening hand with no double due to shape. Thus the KJxx xx Kxx AQxx example after RHO opens 1D.

Make it, say, AQ10x xx Kxx KJxx, and I expect the vast majority of good players would happily overcall 1S!

A 4 card overcall can and often should be made if certain conditions exist. How one tweaks the requirements is up to the partnership, and different pairs will have slightly different approaches. In my view, the main ingredients are suit quality and vulnerability.

I would be hesitant to overcall a 4 card major if red v white. There is so much downside at this heat. Remember that you having only a 4 card suit increases the odds that an opponent also has length. In addition, even with players who 'often' bid 4 card suits, their partners will usually play them for 5 and thus over-compete on occasion.

Give me, say, KJ9x Kxx Axx Kxx and I would double 1m rather than bid 1S.

One can even bid 1D over 1C with a good 4 card suit, although since 1D is 'anti-preemptive', one should do this only with a very good suit and some compelling reason not to double (or pass). By anti-preemptive, I mean that 1D takes away no bidding space (unless responder was about to bid 1D, in which case one almost surely won't be happy making the overcall), and in fact allows responder to show both majors with one call (negative double) when, had we passed, he would show only one major initially.

Nobody systemically overcalls 2C on a 4-card suit, by the way, nor any other 2 level overcall. If one chooses to do so, the consequences (which may be wonderful but will more often be terrible) are on the head of the overcaller.

Finally, be aware that bidding evolves. When I learned the game I was taught that one passed 1m with any 4333 13 count. There are very few 4333 13 counts with which I would now pass. So if your learning source is 'old', be aware that it may not reflect current best practices.
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