Most players today use Michaels cue bids. There are two schools of thought on what they should show, and I am on record as having an opinion. It will show up shortly.
Use the Michaels bid to show a minimum hand or a strong hand.
Use Michaels on any hand that meets your minimum requirements.
An acceptable minimum hand is a nice eight points with five-five in the majors. Some players might do it with a lot less but to me, bidding with garbage just sets your partner up for a fall. If you bid Michaels with drek and partner bids aggressively and goes down 500, he will remember. I think that always having something that your partner can count on gives you a good foundation.
But this is all history. The intent of this article is to show you how to respond to Michaels.
This issue will discuss what to bid when your partner bids Michaels and the next player passes.
1♣ 2♣ P ?
Your partner has (he says he has) five-five in the majors. Here are a few hands with comments to give you an idea of what your bids mean.
2♥ or 2♠
These bids deny any interest in going on. Your partner must be aware that you might have no values and might have only two cards in the suit. Many partners get excited when you ‘bid’ one of the majors and they assume you really like that suit. They talk themselves into making all kinds of overbids which lead to bad results.
Here are a few hands that are suited to bidding two of a major. In these hands, the opening bid was 1♣ and partner bid 2♣.
♠ 8 7 4
♥ 7 4
♦ A J 7 5
♣ K J 4 3
Bid 2♠. As hands go, this one is not bad. It has three spades, it has a ruffing value in hearts, it has the ♦A, a sure value. And it has the ♣K J, cards that probably won’t be worth much. What you should not do here is bid 2NT, trying to play in a notrump contract. As a rule, if you belong in notrump, it will be because you have a huge hand and think that 3NT is a good contract. Playing in 2NT or even suggesting it is a losing option.
♠ J 9
♥ 5 2
♦ Q J 8 7 4
♣ Q 8 7 4
With this treasure, the right bid is 2♥. The reason for 2♥ and not 2♠ is that your partner will always have equal or longer hearts. If he had six spades and five hearts he would bid spades first. With five spades and six hearts, he would use Michaels.
♥ 8 3
♦ K J 9 8 7 6 4
♣ 7 4 3
If you play 2♦ is natural, this hand would qualify. Some players play that 2♦ has a special meaning so you need to discuss with partner if he is one of them.
Some judgment is needed when responding to Michaels. Not all high-card points are equally good.
♠ J 7 4
♥ Q 3
♦ K Q 9
♣ K J 7 6 3
Finally, a hand with some substance. Is it a good hand or not? Point count says it is worth 12 high-card points. A more reserved opinion says that it has a value that might actually be as low as four points.
Here are two possible layouts.
|♠ J 7 4||♠ A Q 5 3 2|
|♥ Q 3||♥ K 9 6 5|
|♦ K Q 9||♦ 7 4|
|♣ K J 7 6 3||♣ 9|
In this layout, you have to lose three aces and by the time you set up the hearts, you will surely have to lose at least one spade. If spades divide four-one and if hearts are four-two, even a 2♠ contract might be too much of a goal. At least West’s ♦ K Q are helping a little.
|♠ J 7 4||♠ A K 8 5 2|
|♥ Q 3||♥ K J 8 7 5|
|♦ K Q 9||♦ 2|
|♣ K J 7 6 3||♣ 8 4|
In this layout, East has a fair but not great Michaels hand. Sadly, on this occasion he has one diamond and two clubs. That means you are at risk of losing two clubs along with an assortment of other losers. And, there is a handling charge that arises whenever one (or both) major does not divide well.
These two hands show one of the more important rules when responding to a Michaels bid when you have bad or just fair hands.
The number of trumps you have is important.
Two is bad. You probably have a misfit.
Three is nice, but seldom special. At least you have eight of them.
Four is terrific. Take it from me. A fourth trump is a very big deal. You can take some liberties when you have four of them.
The next issue on this topic will show a scientific treatment that will help with many of your good or invitational hands with three cards in one of the majors.