Advanced Bridge


Lesson 20

Balancing Overcalls


DEFINITION: - The bidding of partner’s cards in the reopening position, (The so-called “PASS-OUT SEAT”, or 4th seat relative to the last previous call or bid other than a pass) is commonly called “BALANCING”. It is called this because the bidding presumes that the partner has the balance of the HCP strength, and because upon that player’s shoulders rests whether or not the bidding dies or continues. This presumption is based upon the opponent’s bidding (or, in this case, the lack thereof) and the points the player in the fourth chair is NOT looking at in his/her own hand.

                                       Example:   (lC/1D/1H/1S)   P    P   ???


The use of balancing bids will be a source of considerable profit to a partnership when used properly in situations in which the opposing bidding has stopped at a low level and where the bidding would otherwise cease. In order to balance effectively, however, it is extremely necessary to make and understand adjustments in the meaning of such competitive tools such as doubles, overcalls, no-trump bids, cue-bids, and jump- overcalls. Such tools all have altered meanings when used in the balancing position.


B. BALANCING OVERCALLS: -   A balancing (4th seat) overcall does not require the same strength and/or distribution, or either, that is normally necessary for a direct

(2” Seat) overcall.

                                                    1H   P    P   ???


Examples: (a) XX JXXX A1OXXX AlO (Overcall 2D with fewer than 10 HCP’s)


    (b) K1OXX XXX KXX A1OX (Overcall 1S even with a 4—card suit)


     (c) QXXX X Q1OXX AQXXX (Bid a Take-out “Double” even with less


          (d) KXXX XXX AXX KXX   (Overcall 1NT - evidencing a balanced Hand,

                             a Spade stopper, but with 10—14 HCP’s —

                             not the usual direct (2nd) Seat 15—17 HCP’s)


    (e) AKJXXX XX AXX KX   (Overcall 2S — A jump shift in the balancing

                            seat, shows a strong opening count with a good

                            5—card or longer Suit, as opposed to the

                            jump shift in the direct (2nd seat) which is

                            equivalent to an opening weak 2-Bid.)


Note: None of these hands meet the standard requirements for a direct overcall, but all are appropriate balancing overcalls.  When one balances with an overcall, partner should not get overly enthusiastic.  Balancing overcalls are usually the weakest of the actions one may exercise in the balancing chair (with the exception of {e} above), and, as noted above, can even be done with a weak hand, a poor suit quality, and even with a 4-card suit.  Even if the previously-passed partner holds a good hand, game is highly unlikely unless in addition to his/her good hand, he/she holds a fit for the balancing partner’s suit.


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Summary of Overcalls


                                                  Direct Position              Balancing Position


                                                             (Mandatory Requirements)           (Flexible Requirements)


1.                   Simple Overcall at                  8-15 HCP’s and a                       8+ HCP’s with a

                  The 1-Level                   5-Card Suit or Longer                4-Card Suit or Longer




2.                   Simple Overcalls at                10-15 HCP’s and a                     8+ HCP’s with a

                  The 2-Level                    5-Card Suit or Longer               5-Card Suit or Longer




3.                   Take-Out Double                Opening Count or Better                8 or More HCP’s

                                                          With few Cards in the              With few Cards in the

                                                              Opponent’s Suit                        Opponent’s Suit

                                                    4 Cards in the Unbid Major(s)    4 Cards in the Unbid Major(s)


                                                                        (or)                                            (or)


                                                             16 or More HCP’s +                16 or More HCP’s +

                                                    Your own 5-Card Suit or Better     A Cue-Bid or A NT Bid

                                                      Bid at Your Next Opportunity      at the Next Turn to Bid




4.                   1-No Trump Bid                        15-17 HCP’s                             10-14 HCP’s

                                                            Even Distribution                     Even Distribution

                                                     One or More Stoppers in                  Stopper(s) in the 

                                                     The Opponent’s Bid Suit            Opponent’s Suit Desired

                                                                                                               But not required




5.                     Cue-Bid in                   A Michael’s Cue-Bid with         A Michael’s Cue-Bid with

          The Opponent’s                a 5-5 or Better Distribution        a 5-5 or Better Distribution         

                  Suit                            0-10 HCP’s or 16+ HCP’s          0-10 HCP’s or 16+ HCP’s




6.                   Jump-Overcall                       A Weak 2-Bid                      A Strong Opening Bid

                                                        5-11 HCP’s with a                      16 HCP’s or more

                                                      6-Card Suit or Longer                         (Usually)

                                                         3 or More of the                    A 6-Card Suit or Longer

                                                   Top 5 Honors (Optional)


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