Overcalling Pre-empts: The Chiaradia’s Sword

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 by esme 11A difficult problem in the contested auction is the overcall after a weak two or three bid in major: the bidding room between the opening and the game level is narrow, and the overcaller needs more tools than those available; alongside the natural new suit at level three or four, the overcaller might need a call for business double, one to show the other four card major, one to show the stopper in the opening suit, one for both minors. Too many desiderata.

Eugenio Chiaradia partially resolved the knot in the same way Alexander the Great untied the knot of Gordium. There was in the Phrygian town of Gordium (today Yassihuyuk in Turkey) a cart joked to a pole by a very intricate knot; a prophecy said that who disentangled the knot would have been master of the entire Asia. Alexander come there on 333 BC and was told of the prophecy; he looked at the knot, then drew the sword and cut it.

In bridge language, the convention I called The Sword of Chiaradia cuts the knot getting rid of the duty of showing the stopper. Here’s the way it works:

A) Over 2 or 3 pre-empts, double stands for spade four or good three card support; NT stands for both minors.

B) Over 2♠ or 3♠, double stands for minors, NT for hearth support.


This applies in overcalling as in balancing. The information about the stopper remains unvoiced, but it will not be lost, at least not entirely. When the pre-empt is at level two, the advancer (i.e. the overcaller’s partner) has in each case, double or 2NT, the room either to ask or to show the stopper. When the pre-empt is at level three, instead, the coverage is not as complete; here does fall the Chiaradia ‘s Sword. In practice, the 3NT can stand only if the stopper is held by the advancer.


Here, from Chiaradia’s book, some meaningful examples of overcaller’s call and holding after 3 opening (double for spade, 3NT for minors):

a) ♠KQx  x  KQxx  ♣AQxxx: Double

b) ♠Kx x  AKxxx  ♣AQxxx: 3NT

c) ♠x  x  KQxxx  ♣AKxxxx: 3NT

Note that in a) it is preferred showing the good three spade support rather than the 5-4 minors.


After 3♠ opening (double for minors, 3NT for heart):

d) ♠Kxx  KQJxx  ♣AKJxx: Double

e) ♠x  Jxx  AKJx  ♣AKQxx: Double

Summarizing, the other major support is always fourth or very good third as in the example a); the minors are always 5-5 or more, but a very good fourth as in e).


The reason for the inversion of NT/Double depending on the opening suit, heart or spade, is better understood if we consider the case of the pre-empt at level three. Over the 3 pre-empt there is still room to bid spades at level three, thus the double has to stand for the other major. After 3♠, on the contrary, the auction is forced anyway to the level four; now, when the advancer has long heart and no minor support – a situation foreboding general misfit – the best is to transform the double.


The Grand Slam by Piero Tiffenau and Fabio Colasante

In the semifinal of Intercity League played a week ago, the Italian team Ascoli Piceno defeated the Polish Szprotawa; the final, against Messina, will take place on January 14th.

In the third hand, E-W vulnerable, in both table South opened 3. The Polish West bid 3NT, the natural call which does show stopper and, perhaps, denies spade support. East had:

♠QJ76  A2 K7  ♣AJ762

And passed. Maybe it might be tried something more: the club fit looks likely, and if the worst comes to the worst there should be at least two 5-2 minor fits or one 4-3 spade’s; on the other way, the 3NT contract looks armoured, whereas beyond 3NT the research of the fit and the key cards might be a way throughout unknown marshes.

In the other room the East-West Italian pair, Fabio Colasante and Piero Millevoj, played Chiaradia’s Neapolitan Club; the cards were:

West (Piero): ♠A  K4  AJ832  ♣K9854

East (Fabio): ♠QJ76  ♥A2 K7  ♣AJ762

and the auction went as follows

West                  East (after South’s 3 opening ; N-S always passed):

…3NT               4

4♠                      4NT (Declarative-Interrogative)

5                      7♣


From the examples seen above, East, who has one head in both minors, is allowed to place the partner with diamond ace and club king, then he can count at once not less than eleven tricks playing club (diamond ace and king; three diamond ruffs;  five clubs; the ace of heart).

West gives his spade cue bid; it should be by honour, as he doesn’t yet know which contract is going to be the final one; thus this is the twelfth trick in East’s accountancy.

East’s 4NT is a declarative-interrogative bid (D.I.) whose meaning usually depends on the past bids or will be unfolded in the future; in this case East is using it just to keep open the auction. West follows to bid his cue-bids, well aware that the partner is trying to count tricks, then the shortness wouldn’t add tricks but the infrequent case of reverse dummy. What’s more, his 5 is a grand slam invite, as forces the minor slam and still leaves room for further investigations; and East can call it confident that 4♠ and 5 were heads.

The complete hand:

















Paolo Enrico Garrisi

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