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(pre-)alerting the Overcall Structure


Although I've played the Overcall Structure for quite a while with multiple partners, I've gone back and forth a lot in my mind in terms of proper disclosure (FWIW I'm in ACBL-land).

So for example, say the opps open a natural 1.  Then, in our implementation of the O.S. we overcall as follows:

  • double: 15+ any shape (but tends to be balanced/semi-balanced)
  • 1M: 6-14 HCP, frequently 4-card suit; tends to deny holding 4 cards in a higher-ranking suit; could be a hand that would pre-empt 2M or 3M in standard methods
  • 1NT: 8-16 HCP, at most 2 diamonds, at least 3-card support for the other suits
  • 2: 5+ clubs, 6-14 HCP; could be a hand that would pre-empt 3 in standard methods
  • 2: 4+ hearts, 5+ clubs, 6+ HCP
  • 2: 4+ spades, 5+ hearts, 6-14 HCP
  • 2: 4+ spades, 5+ clubs, 6-14 HCP
  • 2NT: regular unusual 2NT
  • 3, 3, 3: 13-17 HCP (or the exceptional 12 or 18), 6+ in the suit
  • 3: stopper-asking
  • 3NT: gambling-3NT-type with a stopper

Remember, this post is about disclosure, not the merits of these methods :-)  Also everything described above is on the GCC.

For some of these it's pretty clear from the ACBL Alert Chart/pamphlet/etc. that an alert is definitely required, or definitely not required.

But how would you treat, say, the 1M overcalls?  There are negative inferences from failure to bid 1NT for takeout or make one of the 2-suited overcalls, plus the possibility it could be a hand that would ordinarily have pre-empted.  But IMO it's often unclear what to do about negative inferences, except in cases the ACBL has enumerated.  I personally think this falls under the rubric of "systems that may be fundamentally unfamiliar to the opponents" (but not all of my partners agree).

Would you pre-alert 1M and/or 1NT?  Or merely alert when it arises?  Or in the case of 1M, do you think checking off [x] often 4 cards suffices, and no alert?  Should the otherwise-natural 2 overcall be alerted simply because it includes hands that would pre-empt 3 in standard methods?

Would you vary your choices depending on whether it was, say, a club game or a Flight A/X event, or 2-board movement or a long KO?

At the moment my pendulum swings to the "pre-alert" side of the line, but (especially in a club game) the frequency with which people don't understand what that is can make it a bit tedious.  Of course, I don't think "usually more trouble than it's worth" is a valid reason to shirk responsibility...

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