This conventional method was devised and developed by Mr. Michael Michaels, (aka Mike Michaels), of Miami Beach, Florida, United States. The concept incorporates the use of a cuebid in the suit of the opponent, who has opened the auction, to show a two-suited hand. The cuebid is employed most often in the immediate seat following a suit opening by an opponent.
Note: Any contribution of any photographs of Mr. Michael Michaels would be greatly appreciated and credited.
Less frequently is the concept employed in the Fourth Seat after two passes, although this can be an agreement by the partnership. The idea is to show a two-suited holding, which is too weak for a takeout double. The point count range can differ among partnerships since some partnerships limit the high card point between 7-10 points while other partnerships have adopted the expanded 6-11 point range.
Over a Minor suit the point count should be between 5 high card points and 11 high card points by favorable vulnerability. By unfavorable vulnerability, the minimum high card points should be somewhat higher and stronger in honors. Length of the suits should be, by favorable vulnerability, at least 5-4. Some partnerships have adopted this concept also for 4-6 distribution, whereby the 6-card suit is a Minor suit when a Minor suit is indicated.
By unfavorable vulnerability, length should be a minimum distribution of 5-5 and the strength greater. It is important to realize that two-suited holdings are powerful and provide additional tricks through ruffing. As mentioned, the accepted point count should be between 5 high card points and 11 high card points, although the strength is again a matter of the partnership agreement.
A Cuebid of a Minor Suit Promises Both Major Suits
Guidelines and Concept Principles
1. If the left hand opponent bids an immediate cuebid of the Minor suit of the opener, then the left hand opponent has at least 5-4 by favorable vulnerability or at least 5-5 by unfavorable vulnerability distribution in both Majors, and also the suggested 5 to 11 plus high card points. Do not cuebid with less than the required strength.
2. The high card points become relatively unimportant owing to the distribution of the hand.
3. The eventual contract will be achieved through length, not strength.
4. The partner of the left hand opponent knows the distribution and suits of his partner, but not yet the strength, because the left hand opponent may be intending further action depending on strength.
5. Important: even if partner has nothing, the bidding auction has been disrupted.
6. West may, (in the above two examples), if he has no immediate fit, have a difficult time finding one because of the consumed bidding space.
What is the Cuebid if you have a Two-Suited hand and they are not Hearts and Spades?
The concept of the Michaels Cuebid is extended to overcall a Major suit opening as in the same manner:
With a cuebid of an opening bid in Spades, then South can inform partner (advancer) a two-suited distribution in Hearts and an unspecified Minor suit. The parameters for a cuebid of a Major are identical to a cuebid of a Minor suit regarding length and values in relation to the state of vulnerability.
Note: If North, (the advancer), wishes to discover the unspecified Minor suit, then the bidding is: Asking for the unspecified Minor suit.
Note: Substitute 1 – 2, and the Minor suit inquiry of 2 NT remains the same.
Responses by the Advancer
If the partner of the opener passes, then the advancer has the opportunity to continue the auction without hinderance. If the partner of the opener competes, then the advancer must determine whether or not the bid of the partner interferes with the partnership agreement, and also whether or not the partnership can continue to play systems on.
With the bid of 2 Spades, North is informing partner that he has 0-9 points and at least a 3-card support. This is generally the range for the advancer to respond without jumping. Remember that South has made a forcing bid, and this forcing bid remains active especially since the partner of the opener has passed. In this manner, North can inform his partner also of his strength within a certain pre-agreed range.
With the jump bid to 4 Hearts, North is informing partner that he has at least 10 plus points and 3-card plus support. Again, North has the opportunity to inform his partner of his strength. Since North knows where most of the other values lie, then North can successfully finesse East.
Michaels Cuebid in the Passout Seat
As mentioned above this conventional defense method to an opening suit bid by an opponent may also be employed in Fourth Seat.
Note: the Fourth Seat must be defined as the fourth player in rotation beginning with the opponent, who actually opens the auction. For example, in the following examples, the player in Fourth Seat is designated correctly and according to the definition of the guidelines.
Note: The following guidelines pertaining to the usage of a cuebid in the passout seat are not rigid rules or commands, but rather disciplined recommendations, which should be viewed as being sufficiently flexible to bend every now and then under certain circumstances. Therefore, although the guideline is presented in such a manner as to be inflexible on the surface, such guidelines are not written in stone, and the individual player is called upon to decide to make a judgment call.
Each player of the partnership must be in agreement as to what Fourth Seat constitutes and how Fourth Seat is defined. This understanidng is rather important owing to the fact that bids employed in the Michaels Cuebid conventional method may also, perhaps ambiguously, be construed as cuebids of opponent’s suit, which force partner to bid but do not show a two-suited holding.
The following guidelines, suggestions, and recommendations constitute the foundation of any partnership agreement, which includes Michaels Cuebid as being a Michaels Cuebid in any of the above diagrammed bidding sequences, whatever suit, in Fourth Seat.
Note: Barring any such previous partnership agreement, then Michaels Cuebid is not Michaels Cuebid in such bidding sequences.
Requirements and Parameters
1. The auction must have been opened by the opposing side.
2. The player in the Second Seat may not have bid a suit or doubled. The player, however, may have passed at first opportunity.
3. The suit bid by the opposing side must be a natural bid. For example, if the suit bid of the opponent is an artificial 1 Precision opening bid, then Michaels Cuebid does not apply.
4. The Michaels Cuebidder has not previously passed. This guideline is loosely handled and becomes a judgment call by the player based normally on the values held and the quality of the two-suited holding. A second major reason for cuebidding is that the auction will be passed out on the one level if no action is taken.
Explanations of Michaels Cuebids in Fourth Seat
Only the bidding sequences are provided. Illustrative examples are not presented since the action is self-explanatory and all continuances are normally a matter of partnership agreement. The examples of the bidding sequences are not all-inclusive, and the partnership must discuss any bidding sequence not shown.
As mentioned in the guidelines above the nature and distributional shape of the two-suited holding is based on the presence of working values in the two suits and also on the state of vulnerability.
- The player in Fourth Seat promises a strong two-suited holding in both Major suits. Per partnership agreement any cuebid of the opponent’s suit following two passes shows strong working values in the two-suits held by the player.
- The player in Fourth Seat, although a passed hand, promises a two-suited holding according to the guidelines of a Michaels Cuebid, or Hearts and an unspecified Minor suit.
- A Precision Club opening bid.
- This is not a Michaels Cuebid since the opening is explained as a Precision Club opening bid, which is always an artificial bid.
- The player in Fourth Seat, although a passed hand, describes a weak two-suited holding. The object of the re-opening action is not to allow the contract to be played on the one level if there is a competitive chance.
- The range is per partnership agreement.
- A transfer bid to Spades as explained upon inquiry.
- Following a No Trump opening bid and a transfer bid by the opposing side, the cuebid of the responder’s real Major suit promises a weak to moderate two-suited holding. The player in Fourth Seat shows Hearts and an unspecified Minor suit. Rare, but theoretically possible.
- In order to distinguish between a weak two-suited holding and a strong two-suited holding, and to eliminate all ambiguity, the player in Fourth Seat jumps to show strong working values in two suits. For this bidding sequence to be valid also for an opening of 1 Club by the opposing side, then the 1 Club opening bid must be a natural opening bid.
As a general guideline the player, who is a passed hand, shows in Fourth Seat a weaker holding, but not scattered values, than when the player has not previously passed. In order for such bidding sequences to be employed by the partnership there must be a solid understanding between the two players as to what constitutes a Michaels Cuebid and when such a cuebidding action does not constitute a Michaels Cuebid.
Michaels Cuebid is often used, by partnership agreement, in less obvious situations, which becomes a very useful, if not an obstructive bidding tool. Michaels Cuebid, when used properly, can also be just an effective obstructive bid.
The examples are as follows:
East South Meaning
2 The meaning of this opening bid is explained as a Weak Two bid.
3 Michaels Cuebid per partnership agreement showing Hearts and an unspecified Minor suit.
The same holds true if the Weak Two Bid is 2 Hearts, showing Spades and an unspecified Minor suit, or 2 Diamonds, showing both Major suits.
Preemptive Bids on the Three Level
East South Meaning
3 Preemptive bid on the three level.
4 Michaels Cuebid, per partnership agreement, showing Hearts and an unspecified Minor suit. 4 No Trump asks for the Minor suit if the partner of the preemptor passes.
Note: The partnership must decide in advance whether or not, in this particular case a response of 4 No Trump by the advancer is indeed asking for the unspecified Minor suit, or whether the 4 No Trump bid is Ace-asking. The same holds true if the preemptive bid is 3 Hearts. By both Minor suits the advancer knows both suits and can take a preference on the four level. The Michaels Cuebidder must have the corresponding strength in distribution to take the bidding to the four level.
Note: The Michaels Cuebid can also be applied in the pass-out seat or balancing seat in the same manner with the same definition. Michaels Cuebid does not have to be a direct overcall.
Preemptive Bids on the Four Level
By a preemptive bid of 4 (Spades / Hearts / Diamonds), it may prove to be unwise to instigate a Michaels Cuebid on the five level, unless the player has himself such a freakish two-suited distribution with void(s) and additional strength. The cuebidder must be prepared to play in slam.
Note: Normally, by a strong, artificial 2-Club opening, the Michaels Cuebid is not used. However, if the partnership wishes to add this understanding as part of the partnership Agreement, there is no rule which states that a partnership must exclude this feature.
Note: Each partner should understand completely which suits are stipulated, if necessary. An attempt at game can be undertaken, when both the distribution and strength strongly indicate game. Please remember that the partner is forced to respond, even with zero points.
For more advanced bridge players, there are several things to pay attention to, if there is a different bidding auction with interference.
The first feature of Michaels Cuebid, which must be observed, is the fact that if your side has already bid, then Michaels Cuebid does not apply. Take the following example:
South West North
1 1 2
Does the cuebid of North signify a Michaels Cuebid and that his holding is 5 Hearts and 5 Diamonds, the two unbid suits. The answer is that it is not. The Michaels Cuebid does not apply if your side has already opened the bidding auction. Any other similar auction is treated in the same manner.
Since one of the requirements of the Michaels Cuebid is that a 5-5 distribution should be the normal holding when vulnerable, South assumes that with his stronger strength that showing both Majors would be the better bid than simply 1 Spade or a takeout double. It is important to remember that this above-described deal actually occurred and is used only as an illustration.
West, also holding opening point count opposite his partner, who opened the auction, knows that their combined strength is sufficient for a game contract. However, West does not feel secure bidding No Trump owing to his weakness in the Spade suit. Without the intervening bid, West would simply have responded 1 Diamond, or up the line. But after the Michaels Cuebid by South, West suddenly had another option and that is to double for penalty. The general and accepted guideline is that once a Michaels Cuebid is doubled, then it is for penalty, even at the two level. This guideline must be part of the partnership agreement, however, since the general guideline is that a double for penalty normally occurs on the three level or higher.
West, as in the above example, doubles to inform his partner, East, to 1. double the Escape bid by North if he can, and 2. to Pass the Escape bid by North otherwise back to West. This partnership agreement is the most important thing to remember if the double is to become applicable on the two level for penalty.
The reason, mainly, for the penalty double is that East/West could possibly make game for a total of 600 (plus) points, but if North/South can be set by 3 tricks, doubled and vulnerable, the result would equal 800 points, a result that would be much better than making game.
In the above example, one possibility for North is to pass and allow South to bid his better suit. This (informative) pass, by partnership agreement, must be understood by both partners as having equal or nearly equal support for both indicated Major suits, as in the above example. This pass does not show any interest and/or any preference, but forces the other partner to choose his better and/or stronger suit. The partner may not pass, unless rescued or hindered by the opponents through the act of additional bidding.
The second possibility for North is to bid a suit.
In the case that North passes, then East passes the call back to West, who will double any suit bid by South. South if forced to bid his better Major suit and West doubles for penalty any suit South names, according to the partnership agreement. The example above shows both possibilities.
Since Michaels Cuebid is so closely related to the Unusual No Trump conventional method, this same principle of doubling for penalty is applied using the same guidelines as described above. It is, however, most important to remember that any double by partner of an interfering Michaels Cuebid and/or Unusual No Trump bid is a suggestion only. It is not mandatory that partner doubles for penalty since bidding and making game could result in a better score. The partner must use his judgment and experience. If the final contract is by the opponents in a doubled partscore contract, it is also recommended that the lead be trump, so as to diminish the ruffing power of the declarer.
For modifications to the Michaels Cuebid convention, many have been suggested, and two versions are presented below, which are in included in our Glossary:
Tops and Bottoms – The cuebid shows exactly four cards in the highest (top) unbid suit and five or more cards in the lowest (bottom) unbid suit. This information is in a .pdf file format and has been provided by Marcia West, 2010, President of Fifth Chair Foundation, and to whom we are indebted for this contribution.
Bottoms and Bottoms – This cuebid over a Minor suit opening by an opponents shows the two lowest (bottom) suits. This information is in a .pdf file format and has been provided by Marcia West, 2010, President of Fifth Chair Foundation, and to whom we are indebted for this contribution.
Equal Conversion – When using Tops and Bottoms, a corollary is a treatment called Equal Level Conversion. It is used when the opponent opens a Major suit and you have Diamonds and the other Major suit. This information is in a .pdf file format and has been provided by Marcia West, 2010, President of Fifth Chair Foundation, and to whom we are indebted for this contribution.
International Modified Versions
In The Netherlands, a particular modification has attained a certain popularity. Over an opponent’s Minor opening a cuebid shows the other Minor and an unspecified Major suit, and 2 No Trump shows both Major suits. Over an opponent’s Major suit a cuebid shows the other Major and an unspecified Minor suit in combination with the Unusual No Trump conventional method. This approach allows all three two-suiters in the three unbid suits to be shown. A major disadvantage of this approach compared to standard Michaels Cuebid is that after a Minor suit opening by an opponent, the player is unable to introduce a two-suiter in the Major suits at the two-level.
A variant, sometimes referred to as Upper Cuebid (Über-Cuebid or Ober-Cuebid or obiges Cuebid), is popular in Germany. When employing this treatment a cuebid shows the highest unbid suit and a second unspecified suit of lower rank. Employed together with the Unusual No Trump conventional method to indicate the lowest of the two unbid suits, this approach allows all two-suiters in the three unbid suits to be shown. The major disadvantage of this variant compared to Michaels Cuebid is that following a Minor suit opening by an opponent the player is unable to communicate with one single bid a two-suited holding in the Major suits.
Note: Additional information as to these modified versions and variants is not available.