Squeezing The Dummy

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Interfering Over Strong Club

Many people feel compelled to bid whenever they have thirteen cards and the opponents open with a strong club. Having played a strong club for several years with my main partner, I can say I definitely love when these people sit down to play against us.

The main disadvantage of this active style comes in the play. The opponents will probably end up playing the contract and will probably play it double dummy. This is especially true if you have come in with a two-suited bid. Even if you came in with a Suction or CRASH bid and never disclosed the nature of your hand it is generally trivial to figure out which hand type you were bidding with.

Another thing that happens frequently is that these players go for numbers when we couldn't make anything. For instance, recently an opponent overcalled 2 with K4 QJ872 T973 52 at favorable vulnerability. It went pass pass X all pass and he went for 500 against air. It is important to remember that when the opponents open a strong club they do not automatically have a game. This may seem obvious but people who overcall 2 with a hand like this seem to forget it. It is even easier to get people for numbers when they play Suction because responder can pass then X or X then X again. Suction is highly ineffective as a preempt because the responder to the strong club will almost always get two shots to bid.

Sometimes when the opponents interfere they actually give you MORE room than you would have had had they passed. For instance, if it goes 1 X now responder has pass and XX available as options. If RHO bids 1 now, opener also can pass or X and has a much easier time defining his shape and strength. Similarly a 1 overcall increases the number of bids responder can make. Since these are the least dangerous bids some systems make them the most frequent. If your goal is to be a nuisance and screw up the opponent's auctions then these bids are in general counter productive.

Sometimes when you overcall on a 4-card suit or make a two-suited bid with 4-4 shape you will induce the opponents to bid 3N instead of 4 of a major since they know the suit will be breaking badly. This happens more often than you would imagine. It's true that occasionally 3N will go set when 4M would have made despite the bad break, but this is much less common.

Finally, we must remember that bridge is a partnership game. How can partner bid accurately when you are prone to making two-suited bids with 4-4, 4-5 and 5-5? When you do actually have a profitable save or partscore, or even a game yourself, it will be much harder to work out because partner won't be able to judge correctly. One possible remedy to this problem is to bid more when you are 5-5, for instance overcalling 3 in suction instead of 2. While this will help partner bid more accurately, it is also much more dangerous and will lead to some ridiculous results. There is no good remedy to this. Likewise, if you preempt at the 2 level with 5-card suits, you may bid to the 3 level with 6-card suits and the 4 level with 7-card suits but this will just lead you to go for more numbers.

So, we have a lot of potential downsides to showing the majors with a hand like KQ42 Q532 Q4 732 and overcalling 1 with a hand like KQT2 K42 Q432 82, so what are the advantages? Well, if partner is able to jump you may create some tough problems for your opponents. They are less likely to get to the right contract with you always getting in their way. You also may get a good lead from partner on the second hand even though you are likely to be on lead yourself. You may be able to push them up a level when otherwise you would have passed throughout. These are all pretty minor gains for some huge risks.

My advice would be to have more upside when you do decide to overcall against their strong club. With an offensive hand a save or a partscore may be a very realistic goal, and then you would want to bid. The same rules to making normal overcalls should apply to overcalling a strong club. Typically you want a good suit or a good hand, or if you are making a two-suited bid then you will want decent shape and decent suits. With bad hands or balanced hands just pass.



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