Theory and Conventions


M J Bridge



Protective position

After LHO has opened one-of-a-suit, and both partner and RHO have passed, then your opponents are limited.  It is quite likely that your side holds the majority of the points.  If you don’t hold them yourself, then there is a good chance that your partner does, but did not have a suitable bid to overcall - frequently he will have a holding in the opponents’ suit, with a hand unsuitable to overcall in no trumps.

In this situation you will strain to keep the bidding open, rather than leave your opponents to play at the one-level.

Such a protective bid is essential when your opponents open with one-of-a-suit, and the principle also applies when they open with a preemptive bid such as a weak two.

An excellent starting point is to follow the traditional guideline ‘borrow a king’, but note the paragraph on ‘extending the principle’ below.

As an example, if you have a hand on which you would have made a direct overcall with twelve points, then subtract three points and make this bid in the protective position with nine points.

9 6

A K 7 5 2

Q T 3

8 5 4

LHO opens 1♠ followed by two passes.

Bid 2.

Minimum for a direct overcall at the two-level, but I wouldn’t hesitate to show this suit in the protective seat.

A Q 9 6

A 8

T 8 5 3

8 5 4

Opponents open 1 followed by two passes.


Ten points - thirteen if you borrow a king - four cards in the other major - right shape - get on with it.

K 6

A K 7 5 2

Q T 3

A 5 4

LHO opens 1♠ followed by two passes.


When you rebid in hearts over partner’s minor suit response he will be able to place you with sixteen points and a decent five-card heart suit.

Even a double might be as weak as eight points, provided that the shape is perfect (e.g. 4-4-4-1).

Similarly, with nineteen points you would have doubled first before bidding your suit for a direct overcall.  In the protective position you will take this same action with sixteen points.

(Some partnerships prefer to keep the full nineteen point requirement for this action.)

Similarly, if a direct overcall of 1NT shows 15-17 then a protective 1NT will show about 12-14.

A Q 9


K T 8 5 3

8 5 4

LHO opens 1♠ followed by two passes.

Sixteen points, balanced - excellent stops in spades.

This is equivalent to nineteen points in the direct seat.

If you have agreed to play a protective 1NT overcall at 12 - 14 points then double first and rebid in no trumps second.

You should also be less concerned about the quality of your suit than when you were when making an immediate overcall.

9 6

Q T 7 5 2

Q T 3

A K 4

LHO opens 1♠ followed by two passes.

Bid 2.

Well - you weren’t going to leave him to play in 1, now were you?


My guideline

How strong should I be to overcall in the protective seat?

Three points lighter than in the direct seat.

Beginner and above

Advancer’s next bid

Extending the principle

In some circumstances I would in fact take an even more extreme approach than that suggested above.

Playing at pairs you will only rarely get rich defending an undoubled contract at the one-level.

When not vulnerable and with a bid of almost any sort available at the one-level I would bid it in the protective seat more often than not - particularly if my suit is spades.  A part-score in spades will frequently win the bidding war, and one down not vulnerable tends to be an excellent score.

K Q 8 3

6 4 2

Q T 3

T 7 5

LHO opens 1 followed by two passes.

Not much of a hand, but consider bidding 1 when not vulnerable at pairs.

This page last revised 13th April 2017

Just how far you wish to stretch this principle is a matter of partnership style, and should be the subject of a partnership agreement.