Responses to Two-Suited Michaels Cue Bids

A coherent system of advances need not tax the memory excessively.

Note: this was originally published June 14, 2012. I had to delete the original because someone figured out how to add a large number of SPAM comments.

The Michaels cue bid is useful in the direct seat after an opening bid because it provides a way to describe a hand with five or more pieces in two suits. If the bid was in one of the minor suits, the cue-bidder is telling his partner that he has at least five in each of the major suits. If the original bid was in one of the majors, the cue-bidder announces at least five pieces in the other major as well as in an undisclosed minor. In that case, the advancer can ask the cue-bidder for his minor by bidding no trump.

The first issue is to determine how much strength is required for a Michaels cue bid. Michael Lawrence recently devoted ten (!) of his monthly Bridge Bulletin columns to the subject of responding to a Michaels cue bid. He recommended that the overcaller have at least eight high-card points. I prefer to think in terms of losers. The requirement of a seven-loser hand is roughly equivalent to that of an overcall (in the direct seat) of a strong 1NT opener. In one of the quizzes Michael Lawrence provides three sample hands: the one that he rated as a minimum had seven losers; the medium hand contained six losers; the strong hand had five. Important note: advancer should not use LTC if he lacks three-card support or better for one of the majors.

Another alternative is to evaluate the hand in terms of “dummy points,” which are described here. After all, in most cases the overcaller will end up as dummy. Thirteen dummy points might be a good number. Important note: advancer can only use declarer points if he has three-card support or better for one of the majors. If there is no fit, overcaller must also reevaluate his hand.

At favorable vulnerability these requirements can all be shaded down a little.

Many teams use the “Mini-Maxi” style for bidding Michaels and the Unusual No Trump. They employ Michaels for the minimum and strong hands, but they bid the suits separately with the in-between hands. The rest of this discussion, however, assumes that Michaels is used for all 5-5 or better hands with seven or few losers.

Few teams have spent much time discussing what the various possible advances mean when the original bid was in a minor. Michael Lawrence’s recommendations seem very sensible to me. In the auction (1) 2 (P) the bids by the advancer are as follows:
  • 2: No support for either major but lots of diamonds. This is not forcing.
  • Two of a major: weak hand with a preference. This could be as few as two pieces.
  • 2NT: Asks overcaller to describe his strength. The assumption is that advancer has an invitational hand (eight losers) with three-piece support, but he might have more:
    • 2: seven or more losers.
    • 2: six losers.
    • 2: five or fewer losers.
  • 3; (opponent’s minor): Asks overcaller to bid 3NT with a stopper. If none, bid 3 with seven losers, 3 with six losers, or 3 with five or fewer.
  • 3: No support for either major but lots of diamonds.
  • Three of a major: Invitational, but it guarantees four pieces.
  • Four of a major: Also guarantees four pieces; partner can go on with a big hand.
If the suit bid is diamonds, the responses are similar:
  • Two of a major: same as above.
  • 2NT: Same as above.
  • 3: No support for either major. This is to play.
  • 3; (opponent’s minor): Asks overcaller to bid 3NT with a stopper. If none, bid 3 with six or more losers, or 3 with five or fewer.
  • Three of a major: Same as above.
  • Four of a major: Same as above.
If the responder bids, things get a little complicated. However, a few important principle should be emphasized:
  • If the responder doubles, redouble asks partner to pick a major.
  • If advancer can bid 2NT (i.e., responder’s bid was 2; or lower), the meaning of the 2NT bid is the same, and the responses by the overcaller are the same.
  • All bids of major suits are merely competitive. Overcaller should proceed with extreme caution.

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