1NT Overcall for Takeout

1NT overcalls are standard takeout doubles with the exception that they cannot have any very big hands. The normal maximum is about 18 HCP with a void in opener's suit, 17 with a singleton, and 15 with a doubleton. With more, start with a power double. NTOs guarantee at least three-card support for every unbid suit. Without that, don't do it. They promise 2 or fewer cards in opener's suit. Exceptions to that ought to be very rare. The reason for these stringent requirements is that advancer is going to take advantage of the limited nature of the 1NT overcall and jump preemptively a lot more than vs. a standard takeout double, because he doesn't have to worry about a strong jump overcall. Passes are very rare and tend to deny a four-card suit outside of opener's. Since advancer's hand must be weakish, almost all of the high cards are in that suit. He should not have more than 10 HCPs in general.


2-level bids are natural, nonforcing, same as normal minimum level responses to a takeout double. 0-7ish.

3-level bids are blocking, long suits, limited values. Except red on white, they are not invitational, although with a good fit and a good hand, NTOer can bid game. Expect about 5-6 HCP and a good 5-card suit, although it will be six fairly often. Red on white, jumps are not strictly invitational, either, but they are sound hands, so NTOer can move with a good fit.

All invitations start with the cue bid or 2NT. 2NT is a normal 2NT response (11-13ish) but with a better stop, since the opening lead will come through it.

I don't know what jump cues mean.


If they double: Advancer redoubles with four- card length in the highest unbid suit (usually spades). He can bid a suit with five or more cards. Once in awhile, advancer will have only one place to play. Bid it, even without five. It won't happen that he has a good hand, and if he does, he can make forcing bids of various sorts (usually passes) until we get doubled. A pass denies any of those hands, although tactical bidding is sensible sometimes. Jumps are preemptive. Think about jumping in any five-card suit if you have two or fewer cards in their suit; RHO is going to have to support partner, and if he takes a simple preference at the 3-level, that will sound ambiguous, and if he jumps to the 4-level, they've had a nullo auction. If advancer passes, opener redoubles without a five-card suit; he bids one if he has it. (Some partnerships play this the reverse way.) After doubles, bids in opener's suit are natural. Note: if advancer is short in spades, he should take some direct action, so passing normally shows 2 or 3 spades.

If responder bids a new suit or raises opener, doubles are responsive (takeout). At high levels (4C: and up) these doubles just show cards and will be passed more often than not, although (1m)-1NT!-(4m)-X is takeout for the majors and is not passed often.

Rebids by NTOer

NTOer can double or cue to show a maximum with one or fewer cards in their suit. Since the NTOer can't have a huge hand, the cue is almost always reserved for a void in their suit.

Passed hands

Passed-hand 1NT overcalls are takeout and can be light. They promise exactly 3 cards in the highest unbid suit; double promises four or more. This is not necessary to be played; we can play 1NT by a passed hand as unusual instead if you prefer.

Other auctions

Weird bids are just the same as if we had made a takeout double. 2NT will sometimes be for the minors.


  1. Auctions that begin with their opening bid and our takeout double tend to be fit auctions. It's rare that no fit exists. Therefore, we want to accelerate the auction. We don't want the opening side to keep the advantage of forcing 1-level investigatory bids.

  2. 1NT overcalls never have a great hand. Advancer can use this information to jump the bidding on hands that risk missing game or risk hitting shortness in a takeout doubler's hand.


  1. Our game bidding is cramped. This happens rarely because we usually bid game on fit, not high cards. Investigation is difficult, however, so we lose something here.

  2. We can get a little high sometimes.

  3. Notrump is played from the wrong side sometimes.

Jeff Goldsmith, jeff@tintin.jpl.nasa.gov, Nov. 11, 1997