Mike's Advice


Responding to a Michaels cue bid (RHO passes) when you have a good hand but only a three-card major.

Occasionally your partner will bid Michaels and after a pass by RHO, you have to deal with a good hand worth a game try. Unfortunately, you only have a three-card major to offer.
What might you bid? Here is a typical hand.
♠ A J 4   Q 4   Q 8 6 5 3   ♣ A 7 3
1♣   2♣   P   ?
Have no doubt about this. You have a nice hand. If you bid just 2♠ you are giving up on many game contracts. You might say that partner should raise 2♠ if he has a good hand but since your 2♠ bid could be made on a hand without those two aces, a further bid by partner could get you too high.
Here is a suggestion. In the previous article, I noted that looking for 3NT is a rare event. It is useful to give up the natural meaning of 2NT, using it instead as a game try.
On this hand you would bid 2NT, which tells partner that you have an invitational hand with a three card holding in one of the majors.
Partner bids this way. My usual reminder is that the point ranges are only approximate, judgment being the biggest deal here.
3♣   I have a minimum Michaels hand (8-11 working high card points).
3   I have a good Michaels hand (12-13 working high card points).
3   I have an excellent Michaels hand (14+ working high card points).
3♠   I have an excellent Michaels hand with just four spades and five hearts. (Forget this one if you prefer. I won’t discuss it beyond mentioning this possible treatment.)
Here is how you would bid with that hand from above.
♠ A J 4   Q 4   Q 8 6 5 3   ♣ A 7 3
If partner bids 3♣, showing a minimum hand with 5-5 in the majors, you would bid 3♠. Your partner will mostly pass this, the exception being if he has a super minimum hand that includes quality points with extra shape. Some judgment is required here, a statement that is true of almost every bid you make in this game.
If your partner bids 3 he is showing a useful hand and that is enough for you to bid game. You would bid 4♠, which should have a good play.
If your partner bids 3, showing a very good 5-5, the auction, by agreement, should be forcing to game. You would bid 4♠ with the hand above.
If your partner bids 3, showing a maximum hand, you can, if you have a hand with slam interest, bid 3♠, which would be a slam try in spades, or you could bid 4♣ or 4, cue bids, showing slam interest in hearts.
Note that if you do jump to four of a major after partner’s 3 bid, you are not totally signing off. You did promise some values when you bid 2NT so your partner is entitled to bid again if he has a monster.
The good news is that you won’t have these sequences come up much other than to help you bid or not bid a game.
Note that these examples all include three card support. This is important because on hands where you start with 2NT, your partner will know what kind of hand you have.
The difference between your having three trumps and four trumps is huge, repeating a common theme. It will help your partner judge his hand better.
Mind you. Once in awhile, you will have a huge hand with four card support which is obliged to bid 2NT first. Your partner will expect you to have three cards in one of the majors but his response to 2NT should help you decide what to do.
An aside:
Many players use support doubles.
1♣   P   1   1♠
Using support doubles, you can double to show three hearts and can bid 2 to show four. Letting partner know how many trumps you have makes his life a bit easier. The same principle holds true when you respond to a Michaels bid.
Here is a reminder that you need to be aware of. When your LHO opens and your partner bids Michaels, you will be involved in game bidding but almost never in slam bidding. They have opening values so your chances of having a slam are minimal. There are some discussions in these Michaels articles that make reference to bidding slams but you have to be very sure of yourself before you go looking for one. Accurate game bidding is usually the best you can hope for.
Next article. How do you respond to a Michaels bid when you have four trumps and game interest?

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