Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NT Openings and Overcalls

I thought strong notrump overcalls and unusual 2NT jump overcalls were pretty standard and well known but apparently a significant portion of players do not know and are confused about when each applies and when each is alertable or announceable.
I’ve run across some beginners over the years make an unusual 2NT JUMP overcall with a flat 20 and make a 2NT overcall of a weak 2 with both minors, and Iusually take a few seconds to explain to them that that is not standard bidding and the rationale behind it: The reason 1H-2NT isn’t the same as a 2NT opening is that it is significantly less likely that you’ll have 20-21 hcp when RHO opens and it is a hand that we can show by doubling and then bidding 2NT. The reason 2H-2NT is not an unusual 2NT showing both minors is that you are likely to have a strong NT (15-18) and do need a way to show that hand after RHO has shows a preempt. That is more common and generally more important that being able to show both minors.
I am accepting and polite when a new player confuses these things but when an experienced player, a tournament director, playing with someone with whom he has played for decades, claims to not know the rules of their agreements here, it really bothers me and proves that much needs to be done to educate the bridge population.
So here’s a quick run down of NT overcalls in standard bridge.
1NT openings are technically supposed to be announced by the partner of the opener. I’ve never known a director to assign any sort of penalty or chastise anyone for not announce a 15-17 1NT but for all other notrump ranges, it definitely should be announced. And it is better to never announce 15-17 than to announce it only sometimes. This is one of the few things in the ACBL that I strongly dislike. Someone who plays the most basic or standard of methods should always be able to make a non-alertable and non-announceable bid regardless of the situation. There is no doubt that 15-17 1NT is standard. And this requirement to announce and opening 1NT range makes it the only bid that you cannot legally make without an alert or announcement.
Regardless of the opening bid, a non-jump direct overcall of 1NT, 2NT, or 3NT shows approximately a strong 1NT. This includes 1C-1NT, 2H-2NT, 3S-3NT, 1S-1NT, among others. The range is typically 15-18 and more leniencies can be taken with this than with a NT opening because of being more pressed for bidding space in a competitive auction. The overcaller’s partner is not supposed to announce or alert if the overcall shows this. If it shows anything else, it must be alerted.
A balancing 1NT overcall typically shows a weak NT, 11-14 or 11-15 hcp and a stopper. This includes only auctions of the form 1Y-P-P-1NT where Y is any suit. This is not alertable or announceable either. Many inexperienced players apparently have never heard of this standard treatment and some people still play strong NT overcalls in balancing seat anyway, which is fine. Just mark it on your card.
Jump overcalls of 2NT (1Y-2NT) typically show 5-5 in the two lowest unbid suits. Strength is somewhat nebulous. While this is called unusual 2NT, it is very standard and any other meaning of 2NT in this situation is alertable. Jump overcalls of 4NT are also normally understood to show the 2 lowest unbid suits (typically more like 6-5 or 6-6). If you play unusual 2NT when it is not a jump, it is alertable.
Jump overcalls of 3NT typically show a gambling-type hand, something like a running suit with a stopper in the opponents’ suit. Big balanced hands would start with a double.

No comments:

Post a Comment