Bidding after a 3NT overcall

by Chris Jagger

Suppose opponents open a weak two or three bid against you, and your partner overcalls 3NT, do you know how to proceed? I'm not sure there is a common method, but we shall present a sensible, reasonably simple system.

To start with, when they open a three level preempt, what does 3NT show? A stop and a minimum of a 15 count, with a balanced hand, or alternatively with a stop and a good minor suit. With a major suit he would tend to overcall in the major. Bear in mind that normally you should pass - partner has probably already bid your hand for you!

If you think your hand is strong enough or distributional enough to bid on, we suggest the following methods:

4c is used as an enquiry, with 4d/h/s being transfers (with the transfer to their suit showing diamonds). Thus

3h-3NT-P-4c = asking bid, with responses:

4d = Hand based on a long diamond suit (then cue bids, with 4NT natural)

4h = Hand based on a long club suit

4s = 15-17 points, balanced

4NT = 18-19 points, balanced

Higher = Natural five card suits, and 20+ points.

If they open three of a minor, the same applies, except that now there is only one long minor we might wish to show over the 4c bid. Thus 4d and 4h are both used to show that minor, but 4d shows above minimum.

When opponents open a weak two, essentially the same system is played, but now partner will bid 2NT with 15-18 or 19. Over 2NT you should play your usual methods over a 2NT opener.

If partner overcalls a weak two with 3NT, showing 19+, you can enquire with 4c as above. Now partner shows 19-21 by bidding 4s or 22-23 with 4NT.

An alternative system is to double with the stronger balanced hands, reserving the 3NT bid for long minor hands. A disadvantage with this style is that partner frequently responds to the double with a Lebensohl 2NT, and you end up playing 3NT the wrong way up.