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Balancing Michaels

A standard Michaels cue-bid occurs immediately after your RHO has opened one of a suit. You might have a pre-emptive hand or you might have a much better hand. But what about a Michaels cue-bid in the balancing (pass-out) seat? You surely wouldn’t use it with a pre-emptive hand, you’d just pass and let them play one of their suit. What then should a Balancing Michaels bid show?

Just as a jump-shift in the pass-out seat shows sound opening values and a good suit, logically a Michaels cue-bid in the balancing seat should also show sound opening values but with a two-suiter.

There are three unbid suits but the cue-bid only shows two. Which two suits should it show? I recommend that after a minor suit opening, a Balancing Michaels cue-bid should show both majors. After a major suit opening, Balancing Michaels should usually show both minors - but it also could be a strong major-minor 2-suiter. In some partnerships there might be different choices as to which suits Balancing Michaels should show as well as different responses, but here’s how our version works:

Basic Structure:

1 or 1-p-p: 2 or 2 = 5-5+ in the majors with a sound opener or better with two decent suits.

Responses:

  • 2 of a major = To play
  • 2NT = Natural and invitational
  • 2 after 1-p-p-2 or 3 after 1 p p-2 = Natural, to play
  • Cue bid = Slam interest with an unknown fit; asks for more info.
  • Jump to 3 of a major = Invitational with a fit
  • 3NT = Natural and to play, denying a major fit
  • 4NT = Blackwood (best to use Six-key Roman Key-Card)

1 or 1-P-P: 2 or 2 = A 5-5+ two-suiter, almost always the minors, with at least opening values. If used with a major-minor two-suiter, you need a very strong hand.

Responses: In general, all bids of a new suit are meant as pass or correct.

  • 2NT = Artificial, invitational+ values, asks strength/shape
    • 3 = Minimum opening hand with both minors
    • 3 = Strong opening hand with both minors
    • 3 = Shows the unbid major and clubs
    • 3 = Shows the unbid major and diamonds
    • 4 = Shows clubs & the other major, very strong
    • 4 = Shows diamonds & the other major, very strong
  • 3NT = Natural and to play (rarely bid)


Corollaries:

A. With a 5-5 major-minor two-suiter without strength to force to the 3-level, just overcall the major.
B. 1X(any suit)-p-p-2NT = Shows a balanced hand with around 20 HCP (not takeout for the minors).

The responses shown above to 2NT after a major-suit Michaels cue-bid allow the partnership to play in 3 or 3 when the cue-bidder has minimum opening values and the minors and also allows the cue-bidder to show a strong minor two-suiter and still be able to play 3NT if his partner wants to. When the cue-bidder has a strong major-minor 2-suiter, this structure usually allows him to show which minor he has at the 3-level at or below his major suit – allowing the partnership to sign off in three of his major 75% of the time (rarely done) but always able to play 3NT. With a really big major-minor 2-suiter, over 2NT the cue-bidder just jumps to four of his minor – just like Leaping Michaels over a weak 2/2 opening.

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