These notes are reproduced with the permission of Dave Huggett who gave the seminar on the subject on October 8th, 2017.
They have been modified to make them interactive. If you make an incorrect bid three times you will be able to see the correct bid.

Inteference And How To Deal With It

In the early days of bridge and indeed up until the eighties it was considered impolite to enter the auction unless you had a reasonable sort of hand. Those days have long since passed and the thrust now is to bid at all costs in an effort to derail the opposition.

Defensive Bidding - Simple Overcalls

When your right hand opponent (RHO) opens the bidding there are four reasons why you might wish to enter the auction: -

1) To ‘buy’ the contract. It is possible that your side has more points than the opposition and can bid to a makeable contract.

2) To make bidding difficult for your left hand opponent by taking up bidding space. For example if RHO opens 1 and you bid 1 your left hand opponent cannot now bid hearts or diamonds at the one level.

3) To pave the way for a possible sacrifice. If you go one down in 4 it is much better than letting the opposition make 4.

4)To suggest a suit for partner to lead should they end up on lead at the end of the auction.

Requirements for an overcall

An overcall MUST be made in a five card suit or longer, and the cards in the suit must be of reasonable quality. An overcall can be made on hands in the 7-16 POINT RANGE although overcalls at the two level should be in the upper range or contain an extra trump to compensate.

As a rough guide :-

overcalls at the one-level need 7+ points non-vulnerable.
overcalls at the one-level need 9+ points vulnerable.
overcalls at the two-level need 10+ points non-vulnerable.
overcalls at the two-level need 12+ points vulnerable.

Examples:-
a) RHO opens 1 and you hold:

A Q 10 9 3     J 7     K 6 5     8 7 2

    What do you bid  

Bid 1. Your suit is good and you may be able to buy the contract.

b) RHO opens 1 and you hold:

3 2     8 7 6     K 9 8     K Q J 7 3

    What do you bid  

Pass. It is too risky to enter the auction at the two level. Give yourself another club and it would be reasonable to overcall 2.

c) RHO opens 1 and you hold:

7 2     A K 10 9 8     J 8 6 4     8 3

    What do you bid  

Bid 1. You have a good suit and would like partner to lead a heart.

d) RHO opens 1 and you hold:

Q J 10 9 8     A 8 6     10 9 8     J 2

    What do you bid  

Bid 1. You have a fair suit but more importantly you cut out bidding space for LHO.

e) RHO opens 1 and you hold:

A 7 6     K 9 8 5     6 4     A Q 7 2

    What do you bid  

Pass. Despite your 13 points you have no five card suit.

Responding to a simple overcall

Bidding is natural but responder must bear in mind that the overcaller can be relatively weak. In fact they must organise their bidding on the assumption that partner is weak.

Examples:-

The bidding goes 1 from LHO 1 from partner and 2 from RHO, and you hold:

a) K 3 2     Q J 8 4     5 4     K 6 5 4

    What do you bid  

Bid 2. Your three card support is ample.

The bidding goes 1 from LHO 1 from partner and 2 from RHO, and you hold:

b) 6 4     A K J 8 7     9 7 6 5     K 2

    What do you bid  

Bid 2. You have a good suit and can bear it if partner bids 2. Note that following an overcall a new suit bid by the overcaller’s partner is not forcing, merely encouraging.

The bidding goes 1 from LHO 1 from partner and 2 from RHO, and you hold:

c) Q 8 7 6     A K Q 3 2     2     10 8 7

    What do you bid  

Bid 4. You may not make it after a non-vulnerable overcall but partner needs very little. Say AJ10xx xx xxx Kxx.

The bidding goes 1 from LHO 1 from partner and 2 from RHO, and you hold:

d) Q 5     K J 5 3     K J 10     Q J 9 3

    What do you bid  

Bid 2NT. You have stops in all the other suits and no primary support for partner. Notice how you must shade your values. Generally a 1NT bid in response to an overcall shows about 10/11 points, while 2NT shows 12/13.

The Unassuming Cue Bid

If you have a good hand in support of partner’s suit and want to find out if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for their overcall, then you simply bid the opponent’s suit. If the overcaller is minimum they just repeat their suit, and you can stop at a safe level.  Such a cue-bid is called an Unassuming Cue Bid.

For example, LHO opens 1 your partner overcalls 1, RHO passes and you hold:

    A J 3     A 6 5 4 3     7 6 5     K 3

    What do you bid  

Bid 2, and if partner bids 2 then pass.

A corollary to all this is that jump bids in partner’s overcalled suit are not strong but merely show the number of cards in that suit. For example if you jump to the three level after a one-level overcall you are showing four card support in a modest hand and are bidding to the known trump holding, i.e. nine trumps = nine tricks. All stronger hands are dealt with by making an UCB.


While overcalling at the lowest level can often put a spoke in the opposition’s wheels think what more damage can be done by making a jump overcall. That is all very well but you have to have a strict agreement with partner as to what they mean!

Jump Overcalls

In traditional Acol a single jump overcall of a right hand opponent was made on a strong hand with a good six-card suit; something like 16-18 points. However the frequency of such a hand arising was very low and these days the accepted approach is to play jump overcalls in one of two ways:-

a) Weak jump overcalls when not vulnerable. The requirements are to have a reasonable six-card suit and about 5-9 points.
For example, RHO bids 1 and you hold:

    A Q 7 6 4 3     8 2     Q 6 5     7 2

    What do you bid  

Bid 2.

b) Intermediate jump overcalls when vulnerable. The requirements now are to have a reasonable six-card suit and about 11-13 points.
For example, RHO opens 1 and you hold:

    6     K 8 6     7 5 3     A K J 8 3 2

    What do you bid  

Bid 3.

Note that in both cases the jump is a single jump. Any higher barrage could be made on a normal preempt type hand, although if partner has already passed the hand might be quite strong.
For example, if partner passes and the next hand opens 1 and you hold:

    A K 10 8 6 5 3 2     A 4     K 2     7

    What do you bid  

It would be quite acceptable to bid 4

If partner has made a single jump overcall the responder to that overcaller can only show a good hand by bidding the opponent’s suit. All raises of the overcall suit are defensive in nature. 
For example, if partner has overcalled 1 with 2 at favourable vulnerability and you hold:

    K 6 5     K Q 7 3 2     6 4 2     7 3

    What do you bid  

It would be quite acceptable to bid 4 And you should bid this whether right hand opponent bids or not. The purpose of this call is not so much an attempt to make game as to make life difficult for the opposition.

In the following deal N/S can make 6 but will find it difficult to bid if the opponents barrage to 4.


9
A J 8
A Q J 10 5 3
K Q 9

K 6 5
K Q 7 3 2 
6 4 2 
7 3

A Q 10 8 4 3
9 5
8 7
J 8 2

J 7 2
10 6 4
K 9
A 10 6 5 4


So how can we use the fact that the opponents have overcalled to our own advantage? The cleverest by far is to use ‘double’ as an extra bidding tool.

Sputnik or Negative Doubles

Sometimes a bid which would have been automatic without any intervention from the opponents becomes impossible in the face of that intervention.
For example, your partner opens 1, RHO opens 1, and you hold:

    x x x     A J x x     Q x x     x x x

    What do you bid  

Given a free run you would have no hesitation in bidding 1 but now that has become impossible. So what are the options?

a) Pass. A bit feeble. We have some points so we should be able to show them.

b) INT. We have the right number of points but no spade stop - the suit we know they are going to lead.

c) 2. We are not strong enough to bid at the two level and anyway this would show a five-card heart suit.

d) 2. Possible but partner will surely expect four-card support.

The answer to this apparently insoluble problem is to double, not for penalties but to show this type of hand. Typically it shows four hearts or five hearts in a hand not strong enough to bid 2. This double is known as a ‘Sputnik’ or ‘negative’ double, and was introduced into the bridge language in 1957 when sputniks were whizzing around the stratosphere.

Because a bid of two hearts in the above sequence should show five the double can be made on a much stronger hand:-

    x x x     A K J x     K Q x     x x x

The only thing that matters is that it is forcing and shows at least four hearts.

Although the above use of the negative double was unique in the early days, after a while it became obvious that its use could be extended and that in fact the opponent’s overcall could assist in your bidding.

Suppose you open 1 and the bidding goes 1 – (1) - 1 – (4) and you hold:

    Q x x     x     A K Q x x     A J x x

You would like to be able to bid four spades if you knew that partner had five of them, but of course there is no reason why they couldn't have just a four-card suit. Playing Sputnik doubles allows you to differentiate!

In the sequence 1/1 – (1) -? a bid of one spade shows a five- card suit or longer while you show a four-card spade suit by doubling.

Lastly if partner opens 1/1 and the next hand intervenes with the other major then a double by you would be showing the minors. You can also have the arrangement that if partner opens 1 and the next hand bids 1 then double by you shows precisely four spades AND four hearts.


If partner opens 1 and the next hand overcalls 1 you hold:

    K x     K J x x     Q J x x     x x x

    What do you bid  

My guess is that you would bid 3 and that would certainly be correct without the intervention. The explanation of the 2 is given in the answer to the next bidding question.

But on the other hand if partner opens 1 and the next hand overcalls 1 you might hold:

    x     K x x x     K x x x x x     x x

    What do you bid  

Again you would feel that 3 is the right bid but this time your reason for bidding it would be because of the distributional strength and not the high cards. What is more it takes up more bidding space from the opposition – when your left hand opponent might have been considering raising spades. The answer is to use their bidding to help you! With the first hand you should bid 2, their suit, to show a high card raise while with the second hand you bid 3, a more distributional type of bid. In the old days an immediate cue-bid of an intervention showed a rock-crusher but those days have long gone for the simple fact that the hand never came up!


If it’s good tactics to come into the auction with a single suit think how much more useful it would be to show two suits at the same time. That’s commonplace these days with the invention of a number of gadgets, the most commonly used being the so-called ‘Michael’s Cue Bid’.

Michaels Cue Bid

One of the most popular ways of showing a two-suited hand

after the opponents have opened in front of you is by using the exotically sounding ‘Michaels Cue Bid’.  It is very simple and works like this:

1. After RHO opens 1 a bid of 2 by you shows at least 5-5 in spades and a minor.

2. After RHO opens 1 a bid of 2 by you shows at least 5-5 in hearts and a minor.

3. After RHO opens 1 a bid of 2 by you shows at least 5-5 in the majors.

4. After RHO opens 1 a bid of 2 by you shows at least 5-5 in the majors.

If the responder in cases 1) and 2) wishes to know which is the minor they ask by bidding 2NT.

Example
(Note: Where a deal is to be bid you will first see the dealer's hand and after you have made a bid the next hand will be shown and you may bid that hand. When bidding has finished the complete deal will be shown.)


J x x
Q x x x
10 x
J x x x

x x
K J 10 x x
A Q x x x
x

A x x x
x
K x x x
Q 10 x x

K Q 10 x
A x x
J x
A K x x


S
W
N
E
1 2 Pass 2NT
Dbl 3 End

You must have an agreement as to the strength of this overcall but popular wisdom has that it should be weak non-vulnerable, say 6-10 points, and intermediate if vulnerable, say 11-14 points.

An extension to all this is that a bid of 2NT over an opening bid shows the lowest two suits of the remaining three.

Over 1 a bid of 2NT shows diamonds and clubs
Over 1 a bid of 2NT shows diamonds and clubs
Over 1 a bid of 2NT shows hearts and clubs
Over 1 a bid of 2NT shows hearts and diamonds

Example Hands

1. Love All. Dealer North.


K 5
K J 7 4
A Q 6 5 4
A 7

A 8 3 2
8 2
J 9 2
Q 10 6 5

Q J 10 9 6
6 5 3
8 3
K J 2

7 4
A Q 10 9
K 10 7
9 8 4 3


N
E
S
W
1 1 Dbl 3
4 End


N4H

South doubles the overcall to show that they would have been 1 without intervention and West raises to the level of the fit. With a 5-loser hand North can bid game.


2. N/S Game. Dealer East.


6
Q 10 7 5
J 10 5 4
K Q 8 2

K 9 5 2
6 3
A 9 8 6 2
7 5

8 7 3
A K J 9 2
K Q 3 
9 3

A Q J 10 4
8 4
7
A J 10 6 4 


E
S
W
N
1 2 Pass 2NT
Pass 3 End

S3C

2 shows hearts and a minor and 2NT asks which the minor suit is. This is the Michaels Convention.


3. E/W Game. Dealer South.


8 7 5 3 2
J 9 7 5
8
9 7 5

Q 9
A Q 10 6 3
Q 10 3
K J 2

A J 10
K 8 2
K J 9 5 4 
10 3

K 6 4
4
A 7 6 2
A Q 8 6 4


S
W
N
E
1 1 Pass 2
Pass 2NT
Pass
3NT
End


W3N

2 is the Unassuming Cue Bid asking how good the overcall is and usually promising three trumps. Here West can describe their overall strength by bidding 2NT, which East happily raises to game in no-trumps rather than hearts.


4. Game All. Dealer West.


6
K Q J 10 7
A 10 6
K Q J 5

9 8 5 2
A 9 5 4
K 7 5 3
3

A Q J 10 7 3
2
Q J 8
10 8 7

K 4
8 6 3
9 4 2
A 9 6 4 2


W
N
E
S
Pass 1 2 Pass
4 End


E4S

2 is an intermediate jump overcall and West raises to the level of the fit. Ten tricks is an easy make.



5. N/S Game. Dealer North.


K Q 8 4
J 3
A K 9 7 6 4
8

J 9 5 2
10 9 7 2
8 3
K J 5

7 6 3
A K Q 8 5 
2
Q 10 7 3

A 10
6 4
Q J 10 5
A 9 6 4 2


N
E
S
W
1 1 2 3
3 Pass 4 Pass>
5
End


N5D

2 shows at least a good raise to 3 and West bids to the level of the heart fit. 3 and 4 are both natural and forcing.


6. E/W Game. Dealer East.

K 7 5
K 9 7 5 3
6
8 6 4 2

Q J 10 6 2
6 4
A 7 5
A 7 3

A 9 3
2
K Q J 10 4 2
K Q 5

8 4
A Q J 10 8
9 8 3
J 10 9


E
S
W
N
1 1 1 4
4 End


W4S

1 shows at least a five-card suit because West would make a Sputnik double with only four. North bids to the level of the fit and East can bid 4 knowing partner has at least five. As it happens 6 is an easy make with the spade king onside.



7. Game all. Dealer South.


7 6
Q J 10 9 5
A 6 4
A 9 2

K J 9 8
A 8
Q J 10 3
K Q 3



 S 4 2
 H 7 6 4 2
9 5 2
J 10 7 6



A Q 10 5 3
K 3
K 8 7
8 5 4


S
W
N
E
1 1NT
Dbl
End

W1N

Nobody here has done anything wrong but E/W are in for a terrible score with 1NT being defeated by at least three. Whilst most low-level suit doubles are for take-out that is not the case over no-trump bids. Here doubles are strictly for penalties.


8. Love All. Dealer West.


10 8 6 4
7 5
A 8 6 4
K 9 2

2
K 8 4 3
J 9 3 2
J 10 6 5

Q J 9
A Q 10 9 2
K Q 5
Q 3

A K 7 5 3
J 6
10 7
A 8 7 4


W
N
E
S
Pass Pass 1 1
3 3
End

S3S

3 is a weak raise. With a high card raise West would bid 2 the opponents' suit. North bids to the level of the fit making the final decision for East very difficult. Pass, double and 4 are all options.