S Y S T E M S   ON
Systems On After a 1NT Overcall?

You Overcall With a 1NT Bid
Do you play Systems On?  You know, do you still play Stayman and Jacoby transfer bids?  If you do, let's have a discussion because something is wrong...

We can start with that graph over on the right.

This graph shows the probable number of points your partner will hold if you open 1NT in first seat.  It's not a standard bell-shaped curve but is skewed toward the low side where the peak occurs at about 8 points.  If you think about it you will say, "Hmmm... 16 points on average for a notrump bid leaves 24 points for three hands.  Yep, my partner's fair share is 8 of the missing points if I open 1NT."

But suppose your RHO opens the bidding with 1.  He will usually have about 12 points or more.  If you overcall with 16 points there are 12 points remaining for both of the other two players and your partner's share is only 6 of the missing points, right?  That graph shifts slightly to the left when the opponents open the bidding and the peak is at a lower point-count value.  If the opponent who opened has more than 12 points your partner will have even fewer.

In this example where your RHO has opened 1 there is only one of the three remaining suits that you can play at the 2-level - that's hearts.  With fewer expected points from your partner wouldn't it be better if you could also play a minor at the 2-level?  Suppose your partner has either of these two hands...   (Or something worse!)

Your Partner Overcalls 1NT and Opener's Partner Raises His Suit
Many times the opener's partner will raise after your partner overcalls with 1NT making it more difficult for you.  Here's a suggested agreement:
  • 2-Level responses are natural and non-forcing
  • 3-Level responses are natural and forcing
  • Negative double - at least one 4-card major
  • A cue bid is game forcing - no 5-card major
  • 2NT is Lebensohl and forces a 3 rebid by partner
Some players like to use Stolen Bid doubles in this auction, and they do have the advantage of a Transfer bid or they allow the notrump overcaller to pass and convert the double to penalty, but using a double as negative has the same advantage if your partner wants to convert it to penalty.  A big advantage of the Negative double is that you will be able to finds 4-4 major suit fits.

Do not check the box for Systems On for notrump overcalls!

Agree that responses at the 2-level are natural and non-forcing and that a cue bid of the opening suit will be treated as Cuebid Stayman.  You have a choice about jump responses at the 3-level; you can play them as natural and forcing or you can play them as transfer bids.  You can also use Texas transfer at the 4-level.  You have a number of choices, but for better bridge do not continue to play Stayman or transfers at the 2-level.

Roy Wilson