Defensive Bidding

Defensive bidding style is not something that impinges on the offensive half of any bidding system. OCP is no exception to this: Precision does not make any particular specifications where defensive bidding is concerned. What follows on this page is probably very similar to what some of you already play, perhaps with a few twizzles here and there. You do not have to follow these guidelines. You will, however, find that what follows below incorporates many things that are used elsewhere in OCP, so from a consistency standpoint it may well benefit you to at least study what lies below, even if you end up discarding some or all of it.

Certainly "Defensive" Bidding merits just as much attention and study as "Offensive" Bidding, because even playing an aggressive system such as Precision, the likelyhood is that Opps will Open the hand in front of you on approximately 50% of the hands you ever play. The other aspect of this that merits close attention are conventional defences to certain Openings by Opps, and certain situations in competitive sequences. Our preference on these matters can be found on the Defences Page.


Simple Overcalls
Simple overcalls can be relatively weak and mainly lead-directing. The main issue with simple overcalls is that they should be constructive rather than merely announcing to the table that you're still in the game. Simple overcalls can be as strong as a 17-18 count, however, so it pays to have a variety of mechanisms whereby both members of the partnership can subsequently clarify their range and hand-type. In this system, the main tools for achieving this are Unassuming Cue-bids (UCB) and Lebensohl. Simple overcalls ostensibly promise at least a 5-card suit although there may be rare times when it is necessary to overcall on a 4-card suit. It should be stressed, however, that 4-card overcalls are rare and can cause problems if partner decides to support with only 3-card support.

In response to an overcall, direct suit raises by the "advancer" are purely pre-emptive and hands worth a genuine invitation or a force proceed by other means (UCBs or Lebensohl - see below).

New suit bids at the 2-level tend to be competitive and non-forcing but at the 3-level their meaning depends on whether 2NT Lebensohl was available or not and whether it was used. A splinter (double jump-shift) carries it's normal meaning, showing a shortage in the suit above.

Jump Overcalls
Jump overcalls are always weak and obstructive. They promise a reasonable 6-card or longer suit and at adverse vulnerability the points should be "pure" and just less than opening strength.

At favourable vulnerability, however, more licence can be taken and the hand can be very weak with a poor suit. It should be stressed that weak jump overcalls are primarily an attempt to disrupt the opponents bidding and to prepare the way for a sacrifice if partner has a suitable hand. They are not normally constructive, but exactly the same methods (UCBs and Lebensohl) are used by the advancer as over simple overcalls in cases where they have a strong hand that genuinely wishes to compete.

Unassuming Cue Bids

An Unassuming Cue-bid (UCB), also known as is a bid of the opponents' suit when partner has made a overcall. The reason it is called an "unassuming" cue-bid is because overcaller cannot assume anything about the advancer's holding in the opponents' suit. The exact meaning of a UCB is affected by the availability of Lebensohl in competitive sequences, so if the bidding has reached the 2-level, then a Cue of the opponents' suit can have a slightly different meaning than normal.

A UCB normally shows either a hand with good 4-card support for the overcaller's suit and a hand worth at least a genuine 3-level limit raise or any game-going hand with at least a tolerance for the overcaller's suit. This contrasts with a raise of overcaller's suit at any level, which is primarily pre-emptive rather than invitational.

In response to a UCB, the overcaller tries to clarify their range and distribution, the most discouraging response being a simple return to their suit at the minimum level possible. If the bidding is by this stage at the 2-level and a minimum rebid possible in the overcaller's suit is at the 3-level, then the availability of Lebensohl 2NT does affect this, however: For example in the sequence (1)-2-2(UCB)-???) then a slow 3 is discouraging whilst a fast 3, is strong and invites cue-bids. A bid of 4 in this situation is less encouraging than 3, showing long (at least 6-card) Hearts, but without any interest in proceeding past game if the advancer has no more than a decent 3-level raise.

Note: Do not confuse Unassuming Cue Bids with so-called "Western" Cue-Bids, which in this system are referred to more clearly as "Directional Asking Bids" (DABs), and which are normally made at the 3-level asking for a stop in Opps' suit for the purposes of playing in 3NT or, in the absence of a stop, for a further description of partner's hand. Unassuming Cue Bids almost never carry that connotation.

Take-out Doubles

In this system take-out doubles of 1-level Openings are usually 3-suited (2344, 4441 or 5431). It is recognised that there are times when no other bid will do, even if the hand's shape doesn't fit exactly. A Takeout Double will usually have at least 4-card length in any unbid major, but likewise this is not an absolute requirement. The main promise that a takeout double makes is at least 3-card support for all the other suits. The closer the doubler is to the perfect distribution of 4441/5440/5431 the weaker they can be, but a takeout double normally shows at least opening strength. If the doubler's hand moves away from a 3-suited takeout, then they should have additional strength to compensate for the fact that partner may make a response that is awkward for them. If a player makes a takeout double, partner responds in a suit as requested and the doubler now bids a new suit, this generally shows a very strong hand, too strong for a simple overcall (normally 19+).

Take-out Doubles over Weak-2 Openings give rise to Transfer Lebensohl. You can also successfully use Transfer Lebensohl over any takeout double, even at the 1-level. This requires a fairly firm agreement as to the minimum standards for a takeout double so that partner can assess what constitutes a game-going responding hand. The responses for Transfer Lebensohl over takeout doubles at the 1-level are identical to those over weak-2's but simply one level lower and the bid given up is a natural 1NT response. Jason Hackett and I experimented with this for a while, but eventually discarded Transfer Leb at the 1-level simply because the 1NT was too useful and descriptive a bid to give up and was also a really useful potential resting place (which 2NT is not, in our view).

For more guidance on Doubles of all sorts, please see the Doubles page.


Lebensohl is an invaluable asset in competitive sequences when both sides have bid. In a situation where our side has overcalled their opening and, by any means, the bidding is now at the 2-level, then you can use Lebensohl 2NT to differentiate between hands that are merely competitive, invitational or forcing. If the bidding is still at the 1-level or has already reached the 3-level, then Lebensohl is generally not available (you can play it at the 1-level, but the advantages are much fewer in comparison to the loss of 1NT as a natural bid, and you cannot afford to lose 3NT as a natural bid). The general scheme for Lebensohl follows (If an Unassuming Cue-Bid has been made immediately prior to this, and it is the overcaller's turn to bid, see Unassuming Cue-Bids above). Otherwise...
This page cannot possibly anticipate every kind of competitive sequence, but the general principles will guide you and the scheme is flexible enough that partner will normally realise when your choices are constrained by the opponents' action. A few examples (opponents' bidding in brackets):
(1)-1-(2)-3 Forcing, showing Diamonds and a decent tolerance for Spades, if not support
(1)-1-(2)-2NT-3-3 Not forcing but merely competitive, decent Diamonds but not much support for Spades
(1)-1-(2)-2NT-3-3 A forcing raise in Spades showing 1st or 2nd round control of Hearts
(1)-1-(2)-2NT-3-3NT A "slow" 3NT, game values and a good Heart stop, but no interest in Spades.
(1)-2-(2)-2NT-3-3 A "slow" cue-bid in their suit when partner has overcalled a Minor. This suggests 4-card Spades, game values, a Heart stop and at least minimum support for Diamonds.
(1)-2-(2)-3 A "fast" cue-bid in their suit when partner has overcalled a Minor. This suggests 4-card Spades, game values, and support for Diamonds but denies having a Heart stop. By inference, the overcaller is invited to bid 3NT with a Heart stop. Failing that they can support Spades or fall back on Diamonds.
(1)-1-2-2NT-3-3 Over the UCB of 2, the overcaller is now showing a minimum-strength hand with a red 2-suiter, whereas
(1)-1-2-3 Over the UCB of 2, the overcaller is now showing a decent strength hand with a red-2-suiter, the 3 bid being forcing.
It is impossible to cover all the permutations and combinations with Lebensohl and Unassuming Cue-bids, but hopefully the above will have given you enough of a flavour to be able to follow the logic behind the various sequences.

Michaels Cue Bids

Michaels Cue-bids are an immediate cue-bid of an Opponent's natural Opening Bid and show 2-suited hands with at least 5-5 distribution weighted towards the Majors. There are 2 ways of playing Michaels. "Classic" Michaels is as follows:
The other method you can use is that Michaels Cue-Bids always show the 2 highest unbid suits, so that in the second example above, the 2 bid would show Hearts and Diamonds (in practice, over a Major, Michaels would always show the other major and Diamonds, using this method). Michaels in a Minor suit always shows both Majors, whichever method you are using. There is not a huge amount to choose between the two methods: The "2 highest" method can leave you without a bid unless you are playing full Ghestem (see below), whilst the "classic" method has to encompass a means of escape if partner has a weak hand with no support for the anchor Major. Since Michaels Cue-Bids are usually made at the 2-level, Lebensohl 2NT is usually available to differentiate between different hand-types if you are using the "2 highest" method, but is sometimes required as an escape route if you are using the "classic" method.

Given this systems extensive use of Lebensohl and the inclusion of Ghestem in its arsenal of defensive bids, the rest of this section will assume the use of the "2 highest" method.

Just like simple overcalls, Michaels can be weak and primarily obstructive, but can be as strong as a good opening strength hand. It is sensible, however, to stipulate that Michaels over a Major suit (ie: showing a Major and a Minor) should be at least opening strength or nearly so, since partner will often be forced to choose a suit at the 3-level. For this reason, the "2 highest" method is preferred, because Lebensohl gives the advancer a means of showing pre-emptive, invitational and forcing strength hands in different ways. Because 2 definite suits are being shown, 2NT is not ever needed to show no support for the anchor Major and ask the Michaels bidder to show which Minor suit they hold. The general sense behind continuations over Michaels is as follows:

Unusual No Trump

The Unusual 2NT can be treated, in effect, like Michaels in reverse, ie: showing a 5-5 or greater 2-suiter weighted towards the Minors. Thus over a Major suit Opening, an overcall of 2NT shows both Minors, whilst over a Minor suit Opening it shows either...
As with Michaels, there is not a great deal to choose between these methods. The first has the advantage that the 2NT Bidder's suits are both known at all times, whilst the second permits Spades and the other Minor to be shown when a Minor Suit has been opened. As with Michaels, the inclusion of Ghestem in this system tips the balance in favour of showing the 2 lowest unbid suits. Lebensohl is not an issue here, since it is never available. UCB's are available, however, to differentiate between strong hands and ones that merely want to raise one or other of the Unusual 2NT bidder's suits pre-emptively.

Modified Ghestem

The last in this trio is Ghestem. Classic Ghestem uses a jump overcall of 3 to show the two highest unbid suits and the direct cue-bid to show the 2 extreme unbid suits (ie: the combination not provided for by a combination of Michaels and Unusual 2NT). Modified Ghestem switches these around, so that the direct Cue-bid is still Michaels, and the 3 overcall shows the two extreme unbid suits. Thus using Ghestem, the sequence (1)-3 shows Hearts and Clubs, (1)-2 shows Hearts and Diamonds, and 1-2NT shows the Minors. (If you are playing Ghestem and you find yourself with a weak-jump overcall in Clubs, you must not bid 3 and then correct to 4 when partner supports one of the extreme unbid suits, as this is very unethical: either pass or pre-empt with 4). Using Ghestem, UCB's are still available to create a forcing sequence but, as with Unusual 2NT, Lebensohl is not available, for obvious reasons. The inclusion of Ghestem is the main reason for preferring the "2-Highest" and "2-Lowest" variants of Michaels and Unusual 2NT.

Note: It is possible that one of the main reasons why the original description of Ghestem had the 3 overcall showing the highest two unbid suits was to lessen any likelyhood that the overcaller would forget the system and bid 3 with a weak jump overcall in Clubs. This is definitely something you must guard against, because extricating yourself can be nearly impossible if you do. However, since many Bridge players learn Michaels Cue Bids very shortly after someone introduces them to the mysteries of Stayman and the finesse, we felt it would be easier to learn and play Modified Ghestem and keep Michaels as Michaels.


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