Michaels Cuebids & Unusual Notrump Overcalls
After an opponent opens, it's often difficult to describe a hand with
two long suits. The auction may get too high (or end too soon) for you
to show both, or you may not have the strength to safely bid either
suit. Consider these problems if RHO opens:
(A) RHO opens 1C or 1D and you hold: KQ964 KQ872 52 7
(B) RHO opens 1H or 1S and you hold: 765 Void K10765 QJ1093
(C) RHO opens 1C or 1S and you hold: 4 KJ872 AJ10754 5
With (A), you would overcall 1S and hope to bid hearts later.
With (B) and (C), it may be dangerous to bid at all, especially
at the 2-level. Both hands have good playing strength, but neither can
be described with a standard overcall, which tends to show a one-suited
hand with more high-card points.
The Michaels Cuebid and Unusual Notrump are conventions
that let you show two suits with one bid. The convention you use depends
on which suit the opponent opens and which suits you have.
This is a direct cuebid of the opponent's opened suit (1C by RHO, 2C by
you) to show 5+-card length in two other suits. One of your suits is always
a major, but the exact two you promise depend on the opening bid:
The Michaels Cuebid replaces the Goren-style Strong Cuebid. If you have
a very strong hand, you must start with a takeout double.
Over a minor-suit opening, a Michaels Cuebid (1C-2C or 1D-2D) shows
Over a major-suit opening, a Michaels Cuebid (1H-2H or 1S-2S) shows
OTHER major and an unspecified minor.
This convention is a direct jump to 2NT over an opponent's opening
bid (1H by RHO, 2NT by you) to show the two lower-ranking unbid suits.
You should have at least 5 cards in each suit for this bid. One of your
suits is always a minor, but the exact two you promise depend on the opening
In the example hands above, Hand (A) is perfect for a Michaels
Cuebid. With (B), an Unusual 2NT shows both suits without promising
great high-card strength. And with (C), your overcall depends on
which suit the opponent opened -- over 1S, you would bid 2S Michaels to
show the other major and a minor; over 1C, you would use the Unusual 2NT
to show the two lower unbid suits.
Over a 1C opening, 2NT shows diamonds and hearts.
Over a 1D opening, 2NT shows clubs and hearts.
Over a 1H or 1S opening, 2NT shows both minors.
The strength you promise for these overcalls is about 7+ pts., but suit
quality and playing strength are more important than high-card points.
Michaels Cuebids and Unusual Notrump overcalls are usually preemptive in
nature -- they show good suits and distributional values, but don't necessarily
promise the high-card strength of a regular overcall. They can, however,
be used with stronger hands where you want to force partner to choose one
of your suits. Over an opponent's 1D opener, for example, you can bid 2D
Michaels with AKQ98 KQJ92 K5 7,
and then jump to game in the major partner bids.
Some players prefer to make a simple major-suit overcall with hands
with intermediate strength (10-15 pts.). They use the Michaels cuebid only
for hands that are weak (5-9 pts.) or very strong (good enough to jump
to game once partner shows his preference).
In general, though, the best rule is to just use your judgment. Decide
if you want to emphasize one suit (usually a major) with a simple overcall,
or if you want to bring two suits into the picture immediately with a Michaels
Cuebid or Unusual Notrump. For example:
Over a 1D opener, it's probably best to overcall 1H with 8 AQ976 53 KQ1043.
You could use the Unusual 2NT, but this would force partner to bid at the
3-level, which may be too high.
If there's great disparity in the strength of your two suits, it may be
better to overcall one of them instead. Over 1H by RHO, if you have KQJ98 A J10654 43,
a 1S overcall is a better description than a Michaels Cuebid.
These conventions are most commonly used in direct seat over an opponent's
opening bid, but can apply in other types of auctions, too. If an opening
bid is passed around to you, you can balance with a Michaels Cuebid or
Unusual 2NT. For example, after 1C by LHO-Pass-Pass, 2C by you would
be Michaels, showing both majors. After 1H-Pass-Pass, a bid of 2NT
is Unusual, showing both minors.
You can also play that any "unusual" notrump overcall (even if it's
not a jump) is the Unusual Notrump. For example, after 1H by LHO-Pass-2H,
by you shows both minors (similarly, 1H-Pass-2H-3H is Michaels, showing
spades and a minor).
Notrump overcalls at higher levels also convey this meaning: 1D by LHO-Pass-3D-3NT
by you shows clubs and hearts. 1S-Pass-4S-4NT shows both minors.
The higher the level, the stronger and more distributional your hand should
be for your bid.
Use your judgment
Like all bids, these overcalls give information to both your partner
the opponents. If you don't buy the contract, your bid may work against
you because it gives declarer an almost perfect picture of your distribution.
For this reason, you should only use these bids when your hand meets all
the requirements for suit length and playing strength.
Be careful if your high-card strength is outside your suits. With a
hand like K A6 J9853 Q7632
, your suits are too weak for a 2NT overcall.
Vulnerability should also affect your decision. Since partner is often
forced to bid at the 3-level (sometimes with only 2-card support), a vulnerable
Michaels or Unusual 2NT should promise more playing strength-- AQJ97 KQ1082 42 4
or Void KQ1084 65 A98732
Remember that partner's Michaels Cuebid or 2NT overcall is artificial.
If your RHO passes, you cannot pass. For all Unusual 2NT
overcalls and most Michaels Cuebids, you'll know the exact two suits partner
holds, so bid your longer one. You should almost always bid one of partner's
don't be tempted to suggest any other suit as trumps
unless you have great length and strength in it.
The level of your bid depends on your strength and trump
support. With a weak-to-intermediate hand, bid at the lowest level available.
With a stronger hand, you can jump in one of partner's suits to invite
game or jump directly to game.
If RHO makes an intervening bid, you should compete if you have some
strength and support for one of partner's suits. Partner is promising 5-5
in his suits, so any 3-card holding is good support.
If you're not vulnerable and you have a weak hand with strong support,
you may want to sacrifice. Suppose LHO opens 1H, partner overcalls 2H (spades
and a minor), and you hold J964 5 A872 J874
. You know the opponents can make at least 4H, so if you're not vulnerable,
you should sacrifice right away by jumping to 4S. With your long trumps
and singleton (and filler in whatever partner's minor is), a spade contract
should make at least 8 or 9 (and maybe 10) tricks.
Finding partner's unknown suit
The one case where you won't know partner's exact two suits is when he
makes a Michaels Cuebid over a 1H or 1S opening (showing the other major
and an unspecified minor). Since you know his major, you can bid it if
you have 3+-card (or 2-card) support. If you can't support his major but
have at least 3-card length in both minors, you'll want to
play in his minor suit. To ask partner which minor he holds -- and tell
him that's your preferred trump suit -- bid 2NT. Partner
will bid his long minor and you can then pass, raise or sacrifice.