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Discretion is the better part of valor
Charles Goren
September 21, 1959
Some thoughts on defensive bidding, in which our bridge expert points out that while counterattacking is vital it must never be done without a definite purpose in mind
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September 21, 1959

Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor

Some thoughts on defensive bidding, in which our bridge expert points out that while counterattacking is vital it must never be done without a definite purpose in mind

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When one has committed to memory the high points of the valuation table, when he has learned proper responses and how to handle the rebid, it would appear that his basic training is over and that he is ready for serious combat. That would be true if we operated in a vacuum. But nature abhors a vacuum, and so do bridge players. In real life, adversaries are always with us and we must learn to live with them. We must not only know how to counter an enemy attack, we must also learn how to do some attacking on our own part. Thus, defensive bidding.

In a discussion of defensive bidding perhaps the first thought to come to mind is the overcall, the term we apply to a competitive bid when an adversary has opened the auction. There are a great many players who, still operating under the influence of a prior generation, are constantly champing at the bit to enter the auction when an opponent has opened. In those pioneer days, the bleeding defender who had been briskly doubled and stung by his left-hand opponent was not apt to profit by the error he had committed in overcalling—even in the face of innumerable disasters he could be heard to wail (for perhaps the hundredth time), "But partner, I had a perfect right to overcall. I had a trick and a half." (Today he is more apt to tell you that he had eight or nine points.)

Overcalling without a definite purpose may help your opponents instead of harassing or road-blocking them.

If you are contemplating an over-call, consider the value of suggesting a favorable lead to partner. If your right-hand opponent has opened with one club, an overcall of one spade is clearly in order with:

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

Surely this is the suit you wish partner to lead if your left-hand opponent becomes declarer. But we would decline to act if our holding were:

[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

There are other hands on which action is taken in an effort to make a legitimate try for the part score. Against an opening bid of one club you hold:

[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

An overcall of one heart is recommended with a singleton spade. A takeout double is not appealing. If it becomes expedient to do so, you intend to bid diamonds on the next round.

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