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Better than Michaels.

Prompted by a Poll posted by Danny Sprung I feel obliged to offer a solution, not just to his problem, but to some others as well.

The question Danny posed was, "How do you bid over 1S-2S?"

This scheme employs 2NT and 3C similarly in a variety of situations. It is an integral part of Jorj Club and its variations.

The Standard opening bid of 2NT is an ugly place to begin the bidding of a good hand. 3C as an opening bid, a wjo, or a reply to 1NT, whatever its meaning, has some merits, but I suggest that the following offers a more productive use.

For some, 2NT to show a strong balanced hand is something they are stuck with. This scheme is only partially available to them. It is most valuable, I believe, as an alternative to Michaels.

Both bids show 5+5+ two-suiters. The 2NT bid shows 5+5+ with diamonds and a major or both majors, 3C shows clubs and a major. The strength range depends upon the context.

1. As opening bids. Both show hands of minimum opening bid strength, for me, 10-14 points. The corollary that a minimum opening bid in one-of a major, will not contain 5+cards in a minor can be useful. There is no particular need for an opening bid to show both minors. They can be shown naturally, via an opening bid of 1D, with little difficulty. Space considerations make it much easier to establish an unknown five-card major than a minor.

2. As jump overcalls*, or as simple overcalls when one-of-a-major is raised to two. When the suit overcalled is one of the possible suits, the bids become, very usefully and unlike Michaels, specific two-suiters. The need to show the minor two-suiter immediately is now increased and it is shown via the cue-bid of the opponent’s major.

3. In response to 1NT. These bids show the same two-suiters but in the 6-9 point range. These hands will always offer a good play for nine tricks in one or other of the suits, and very often game in a major. We can get the best of all worlds.

The much played Michaels convention has one huge flaw. Following a beginning such as 1S-(2S) Michaels, the likely thing you hear next is 4S. Lacking a heart fit, or even with one, the all important thing about your combined hands is your minor suit fit, and you have no idea. The playing strength, and defensive strength, of your hand can vary hugely according to whether or not you support your partner’s minor. It is too late to find out. This scheme solves that problem.

In reply to 1NT, promising two-suiters in the 6-9 point range are not catered for in Standard bidding. Essentially we must transfer to a major and pass, or treat the hand as game-going. Using this scheme, we can investigate game and subside in three-of-our better fit if the news is bad, With four-card support for a major in responder’s hand, we will always bid game.

When 1NT opener hears the 2NT reply, he can choose between bidding 3D, 3H or 3S, correctable, or to make the game forcing reply, 3C, asking responder to describe. 3D from opener shows both majors, 3H or 3S shows that suit and diamonds. The strong reply to 3C is 3D, others correctable.

As jump overcalls.

Over 1C, the scheme above is unchanged. Over 1D, 2NT now shows both majors. Over the strong reply, or when the next hand bids, double from advancer, asks overcaller to identify his major, when unknown, or when known, to bid 1st step to show low shortage, 2nd step 1-1, 3rd step high singleton, 4th step high void, when it is.

When the bid is made over a major, both suits are known. Overcaller’s duty over the strong reply, or double, is to identify the shortage, as above. In the situation that Danny posed, how to get into the bidding after 1S-2S, the scheme is simplicity itself. Double is take-out of spades, 2NT shows hearts and diamonds, 3C shows hearts and clubs, 3D , 3H and 4C are single-suiters.

(Bidding generally is dramatically improved if take-out doubles are only ever made on take-out shapes, balanced, three-suiter or 1345 etc. A little discretion is allowed holding a 4225. With shapely hands, bid first double later.)

I direct readers to that Post, primarily, to see the multiplicity and complexity of the schemes proposed, inviting trouble. The scheme proposed here will not be forgotten because it is part of the everyday use of the system.

A useful extension.

Do you have methods when partner doubles a major and it is raised?

Very often you will have some values but not enough to underwrite game. If you are going to compete, you must be sure that you play your part-score in the best fit. You cannot, and should not, expect partner to double 1S, only when he holds four hearts. There are just too many good hands that leave you without a bid if you follow this austere doctrine.

The suggestion is to play 2NT, here, as asking doubler to bid 4+card suits from the bottom up. As long as both partners appreciate that this use of the 2NT bid does not promise another bid, game should be reached whenever it is there. If, for example, the 2NT bidder corrects doubler’s 3C or 3D to 3NT, doubler can infer that he is facing a game-going hand with a stopper and four hearts.

This scheme is usefully applied, as well, in responding to double, in the situation mooted by Danny. 



There are other schemes to show specific two-suited overcalls, the best known is Ghestem. Well-read readers will be familiar these and see similarities. This scheme, I submit, is simpler and more generally useful. Because the bids are used similarly in other situations, remembering is less likely to be a problem. The strong reply to each bid is a convenient one, 3C to 2NT, 3D to 3C and 2NT to the cue-bid. As well, 2NT always shows diamonds, and clubs always shows clubs, the cue-bid always shows the minors.

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