Can The Michaels Cuebid be Improved?

by Marilyn Hemenway
Published in the September, 2008, issue of the Bridge Bulletin
Most of you are probably familiar with the convention known as a Michaels cuebid.   It was invented by Mike Michaels many years ago and allows you to show a two-suited hand (usually with 5-5 distribution) after an opponent opens the bidding.  The concept is to use a cuebid of the opponent's suit to show two other suits, and thus describe your hand with one bid.  The hand often doesn't qualify as a takeout double, and the point count range can be on the weak side.  In the past, the range of the Michaels cuebid was limited to about 7-10 high-card points.  Over the years, however, it has become acceptable to have almost any range for this bid.

The convention works like this.
Over an opponent's 1 or 1 opener, a direct cuebid shows both major suits, normally 5-5.  Over a a major-suit opening the direct cuebid shows the other major and one unknown minor, again usually with at least 5-5 distribution.  At favorable vulnerability, some partnerships have relaxed the suit length requirement so that the Michaels cuebid can be used with 5-4 or 6-4 hands with the longer suit being a minor.  But at unfavorable vulnerability, most stick to the minimum distribution of 5-5 with reasonable strength.

It is this ambiguity that makes necessary a better way of responding to partner's Michael's cuebid.  If you prefer to play that your Michael's cuebid can have a wide range, it is necessary to have a method for your partner to find out how weak or strong you are.  Here's how you can do that.


    South West North East
    1 2 Pass ?
After a Michael's cuebid over a major, an auction such as this example, the responder would use this scheme:
    2     is to play and is non-invitational;

    3     asks the Michaels bidder to pass if his suit is clubs or to correct to diamonds if that is his second suit;

    3, 4 or 5     shows diamonds and are not correctable;

    4 or 5    show clubs and are not correctable;

    3NT     is to play.

    2NT     asks whether the Michaels bidder is minimum or maximum.

Let's use this sample auction.

South West North East
1 2 Pass 2NT
Pass ?

You bid 2, a Michael's cuebid showing hearts and a minor, and partner inquires with 2NT.
These are your suggested rebids:
    3     shows clubs (and hearts) and a minimum;

    3     shows diamonds (and hearts) and a minimum;

    3   shows clubs (and hearts) and a maximum;

    3    show diamonds (and hearts) and a maximum.

In response to Michael's over a minor, for example:

South West North East
1 2 Pass ?
These are the responses:

    2 is to play and is not invitational;

    2 is to play and is not invitational;

    2NT asks for major suit length and strength.

In this case, rebids to 2NT by the Michaels bidder are as follows:

    3     shows minimum values with longer hearts;

    3     shows minimum values with longer spades;

    3     shows minimun values with 5-5 in the majors;

    3     shows maximum values with longer hearts;

    3NT   shows maximum values with longer spades;

    4     shows maximum strength with equal length and club shortness;

    4     shows maximum strength with equal length and diamond shortness.

There's some memory work involved but don't knock it until you've tried it!