overcall n : (bridge) a bid that is higher than your opponent's bid (especially when your partner has not bid at all and your bid exceeds the value of your hand) [syn: overbid]
- A call which occurs after another player has already called
In contract bridge, an overcall is a bid made after an opening bid was made by an opponent; the term refers only to the first such bid. A direct overcall is a bid made directly over a bid by right-hand opponent; an overcall in the 'last seat' (made over a bid by left-hand opponent and two subsequent passes) is often referred to as a balancing overcall.
A natural overcall denotes length and strength in the suit bid. Conventional overcalls, such as Michaels cuebid, Unusual notrump and Raptor, denote specific hand types.
In most bidding systems, natural and artificial, overcalls in unbid suits are natural. The common requirements for an overcall include:
The general rule of thumb is that the weaker a hand is the better the bid suit must be (i.e., longer or with more honors).
The overcaller usually bases his or her overcall on a combination of the following objectives:
- To buy the contract
- To induce a good lead from his or her partner
- To 'lift' the opponents' contract to a higher level
- To find an effective sacrifice
- To hinder the opponents in their bidding
According to modern bridge theory, the following hands:
all warrant a 1 overcall over an opposing 1/1 opening. Stronger hands such as are considered too strong for an overcall, and should be bid via a takeout double followed by the most economical rebid in hearts.
Responses to overcalls
The system of responses to overcalls typically adheres to:
Notrump overcalls at the 1-level normally indicate 15-18 points in a balanced hand, with at least one stopper in opponent's suit. For example, the hand is suitable for 1NT overcall over any opening bid, as well as 2NT overcall over e.g. an opponents' weak two bid.
Jump overcalls are made by skipping one level of bidding, e.g. 1–2. In the past, such bids described either "strong" overcalls (e.g. with 17 points or more) or "intermediate" ones (11-15 points with a 6-card suit). Today, far more common treatment is to use weak jump overcalls (WJO)—6-card suit with 5-10 HCP—similar to weak two opening bid (or even weaker).
Some partnerships utilise more exotic overcalls. An example are the canapé overcalls used by the Italian top pair Norberto Bocchi and Giorgio Duboin. In canapé overcalls the suit bid typically contains a three card, whilst the hand contains a five card in another suit.
- Mike Lawrence, The Complete Book on Overcalls in Contract Bridge, 1st edition (1979), Library of Congress number 80-123383