Source Bulletin Day 1 Goald Coast Congress
Here is another true story from a tournament. An experienced player ran into a newcomer heading for the restrooms. As they entered their separate stalls, the newcomer was heard to say, “Whew! I am so glad to be somewhere where I know what I’m doing.”
On the subject of knowing what you’re doing, have you discussed how your partnership handles two-suited hands in competition? The discussion should include how you use these conventions and how you cope with them.
There are many conventions for describing two-suited hands. The two you will likely encounter and use are the Michaels cue-bid and the Unusual No-Trump.
The Michaels cue-bid, named for its creator Mike Michaels, can be used over an opening of a minor or a major. Over a minor, the cue-bid indicates possession of both major suits, at least five cards in each. If you are ever tempted to make a Michaels cue-bid with 5-4 in the majors, don’t tell anyone.
The Unusual No-Trump is generally a jump to 2NT over the opening of one of a major. This bid shows the minors – at least five cards in each suit (same admonition as above regarding 5-4). When used over a minor, it shows the lowest unbid suits (e.g., 1 – 2NT shows diamonds and hearts).
Those are the rudiments. What else have you and your partner decided about these bids?
With Michaels, does it show a strong hand, weak hand or something in between? Most experienced players employ Michaels with hands that are relatively weak and those that are strong. With the in-betweens, they start with 1 and introduce hearts later if appropriate.
With the first, you have described your hand, so partner makes the final decision, which brings up another point. Have you and partner discussed how to respond to a Michaels cue-bid? Generally, when there is a fit, as responder you should bid as much as you feel your hand is worth immediately. No messing around. Some players use a bid of 3 by advancer (partner of the cue-bidder) to show a hand worth a limit raise in hearts, 3 to show the same in spades. You should discuss how to proceed when advancer has a good hand.
With the second example hand, you just want partner to make a preference. You plan to show your strength by bidding game in whichever suit he prefers.
When your opponent starts with a major, you will end up at the three level on all but one occasion – when the opening is 1 and advancer can bid 2 over the 2 cuebid. That means you will usually have a slightly better hand (in high-card points or shape) when the opening is a major, and especially when your side is vulnerable. You and partner should decide on the worst hand either of you can hold to bid Michaels over a major at unfavourable vulnerability.
With Unusual 2NT, your discussions should probably revolve around what to do when the opponents spring the convention on you.
If partner opens 1 and your right-hand opponent bids 2NT for the minors, what does 3 show? What about 4? What if you jump to 4 or 4 or what if you bid 4NT?
When the opponents roll out the Unusual 2NT, most experienced players employ a convention known as Unusual over Unusual.
There are various permutations, including this scheme: After 1Major – 2NT, 3 shows a limit raise or better in partner’s suit, 3 shows a good hand with the fourth suit (e.g., hearts if partner opened 1), Three of the Other Major is natural and non-forcing and a raise of partner’s major is simply competitive, usually not a very good hand.
You may prefer a different method for coping with this pesky convention. What’s really important is that you and your partner are playing the same thing.