SAYC by Ned Downey

Suit Overcalls show 8-16+ points. At the one level a major suit overcall may be made on a four-card holding of exceptional quality. All other overcalls show five+ cards. Responses are as follows:

  • A simple raise shows three+ trump and 6-11 points.
  • A jump raise shows four+ trump and is preemptive. [In standard versions this bid shows 10-12 points]
  • A jump to game shows five+ trump and is preemptive. [In standard versions only four trumps are required, but in keeping with the Law of Total Tricks we recommend a minimum 10-card fit.]
  • 1NT shows 9-11 points and denies a fit.
  • 2NT shows 11-13 points if it is a non-jump, 13-15 if a jump.
  • 3NT shows 15-16 points.
  • A new suit is non-forcing and usually denies a fit with partner's overcalled suit.
  • A cue bid of opener's suit shows a limit raise or better in overcaller's suit. [In standard versions, this bid is game forcing and does not necessarily show support for the overcalled suit]
  • Overcalls of preempts are natural and show extra values, usually opening count or better.

An Overcall of 1NT shows 15-18 points, a balanced hand and stopper(s) in opener's suit. In response, all systems are "on." [In standard versions, only Stayman is "on."]

An Overcall of 2NT is the "unusual notrump" showing 5-5 or better in the two lowest-ranking unbid suits. The bid is made with weak hands, usually less than opening count. The bid can also be made with hands of 17+ points, in which case the bidder plans to take further action. The bid of 2NT over a 2C opener is also "unusual," but not over a weak two bid. Over a weak two it shows a balanced holding of 16-19 points. Responses are:

  • A preference bid.
  • A jump preference (usually preemptive).
  • A cue bid of opener's suit, which is a game or slam try.
  • A new suit - - non-forcing.
  • 3NT - - to play.
  • 4NT - - Blackwood.

A Direct Jump Overcall is preemptive and shows the same shape and values as would an opening bid at the same level.

A Direct Cue Bid when the opponents have bid only one suit is "Michaels". If the bid suit is a minor, the cue bid shows 5-5 or better in the major suits. If the bid suit is a major, the cue bid shows 5-5 or better in the other major and an unspecified minor. Values are the same as for a bid of the "Unusual NT" - - see above. Cue bids of opening preempts are also Michaels. Responses:

  • A preference bid.
  • A jump preference (usually preemptive).
  • A cue bid of opener's suit, which is a game or slam try.
  • A new suit - - non-forcing.
  • 2NT - - when the cue bid is in a major suit this asks partner to name his minor suit.
  • 3NT - - to play.
  • 4C serves the same purpose as 2NT in competitive auctions when 2NT is no longer available.
  • 4NT serves the same purpose as 2NT in competitive auctions when 2NT and 4C are no longer available.

A cue bid when the opponents have bid two suits is natural.

Doubles of suit bids are for take out over opening part score bids and penalty over opening bids at the game level or higher. Responses to takeout doubles are:

  • Any minimum bid (0-9 points).
  • 1NT. 6-10 points, balanced. Stopper in opponent's suit.
  • A jump response is non-forcing and shows 10-12 points.
  • 2NT. 10-12 points, balanced. Stopper in opponent's suit.
  • A cue bid response to a take out double is forcing. Normally shows an opening hand and support for any suit partner may choose.
  • 3NT is to play (13-16 points).
  • A double jump is preemptive.
  • Pass (rare). Shows a hand with at least five decent cards in the opponent's suit.

Rebids by the takeout doubler after a minimum response:

  • Pass (16 points or less).
  • Raise (17-18 points and four-card support or better).
  • Jump raise (19-21 points and four-card support or better).
  • New suit (18-20 points and a five card suit or better).
  • Jump in a new suit (six-card, self sufficient suit and a strong hand). Non-forcing.
  • 1NT shows 18-20 points
  • 2NT shows 19-21 points if a non-jump, 21-22 points if a jump.
  • 3NT shows 9 tricks.
  • A cue bid shows 21+ points with slam interest.

Direct Doubles of 1NT are penalty oriented and are made with a hand that is roughly the same shape and strength as that of the opener. After a pass by RHO, responder should:

  • Pass with any decent holding.
  • "Pull" the double to a suit at the two-level when holding a weak distributional hand.
  • A jump response (rare) shows a good distributional hand with 8+ points, invitational to game.
  • If RHO bids over the double then responder to the double may:

  • Pass.
  • Double for penalty.
  • Cue bid (for take out).
  • Bid normally

Balancing (fourth seat) bids mean much the same as their direct seat counterparts, but can be lighter.

  • A balancing bid of 1NT shows 11-15 points.
  • Balancing with a jump in a suit shows opening count.
  • A balancing double followed by 2NT shows 16-17 points.
  • A balancing jump to 2NT shows 18-20 points.
  • A balancing cue bid is for take out and shows a void in opener's suit.

Bids made after an opponent has intervened, in general, carry much the same meaning as those made without interference. Bids that carry special meaning are as follows:

  • A cue bid of an overcall by RHO [e.g. 1S (2C) 3C] is game forcing and asks for further clarification by opener. Often the bid is made as an attempt to get the partnership to 3NT (in the event opener holds a stopper in the overcalled suit) or as a game-forcing raise in opener's suit. Further bidding will usually clarify matters.
  • Negative Doubles are employed through 3S [In some standard versions they are used only through 2S]. In general, negative doubles show values in the unbid suits - - most particularly the majors - - and insufficient strength and/or length to bid naturally.
    • 1C (1D) Double: shows 4-4 or better in the major suits.
    • 1D (1H) Double: shows four spades. A bid of 1S in this auction promises a five-card suit.
    • 1D (1S) Double: shows four+ hearts.


    • Minimum rebids show less than 16 points and are non-forcing.
    • Jump rebids show a good 16-18 points and are non-forcing.
    • A cue bid of the opponent's suit shows 19+ points and is game forcing.
    • A pass, albeit rare, is for penalty.

When playing negative doubles, partner is no longer in position double an overcall for penalties. Accordingly, when two passes follow an overcall, opener should strain to reopen with a double when holding less than three cards in the suit of the overcall.

  • If RHO makes a takeout double:
    • Suit bids at the one level are forcing for one round.
    • Suit bids at the two level are not forcing and usually show six cards and less than 10 points.
    • A jump raise is preemptive.
    • 2NT shows a limit raise or better in opener's suit (Jordan). If in response to a minor, it shows adequate trump support and denies a four-card major. In response to a major, it shows 3+ trump.
    • Redouble shows 10+ points and tends to deny a fit with opener.
    • A jump shift is preemptive.

REDOUBLES take on different meanings in different auctions. In general, the redouble:

  • Is to play if your side is at the four level or higher.
  • Is to play if the opponents double an artificial bid by your side (e.g. 1NT pass 2D* Double Redouble).
  • Shows a good hand if the opponent's double was for takeout (e.g. 1S Double Redouble).
  • For SOS when your side is doubled for penalty at the three level or lower.