Quick summary

"My overcall says I've got two 5-card suits".

2NT (unusual !): I've got 2 good minor suits, or the missing minor + a random Major (call enemy's suit to enquire which one)

2 of the enemy's suit: I've got 2 good Major suits, or the missing Major + a random minor (call 2NT to ask me which one) 

Your rebid clarifies if weak or strong (8-15HCP).

Response: It's forcing unless there's an intervening bid: choose best of the two, jumping to encourage; bid opener's suit to force to game; or 3NT if strong and stopped in the other 2 suits.


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Example Deal

«  0171  »

2-suited Overcalls

Unusual No Trump and the Michael's Cue Bids

If the opponents have opened the bidding, it can be difficult to bid effectively when you have length in two suits. And yet such hands have enormous potential if your partner has a fit in one (or both) of your two suits.

Here is a way of telling your partner about this 2-suited opportunity, by using two otherwise almost totally meaningless bids:

  • an overcall of 2NT is called the Unusual No Trump, and is basically looking for minors;
  • an overcall in opponent's suit is called a Michael's cue bid, and is basically looking for Majors.

The bids can also be used to tell your partner when you have 2 long suits where one is a Major the other a minor.

The two systems work in much the same way. You need about 8-15 points (similar strength to a normal overcall) and two good suits containing honours.

These bids are forcing, and therefore they can also be used on strong two-suited hands. If the overcaller has more strength than the normal level, he can show this in his next bid, after his partner has responded.

Both of these bids can be used as destructive devices, as they take away bidding space from the enemy.     

Major Michael ! (bids the enemy's suit)

Hey, I've got two 5-card Majors. Which do you think is best ?

Well, at least that's what it means when the overcall was after a minor, e.g. 1diamond-2diamond. (If the overcall was after a Major, then it guarantees 5-cards in the other Major, and an unspecified minor).

A bid of two of the suit which the enemy has just bid is called a "Michael's Cue Bid", promising at least 8HCP and two five-card suits including at least one unbid Major, or two Majors when the enemy bid a minor. E.g.

  • either 1club-2club or 1diamond-2diamond promises both five hearts and five spades;
  • 1heart-2heart promises five spades, and either five clubs or five diamonds;
  • 1spade-2spade promises five hearts, and either five clubs or five diamonds.

If the Michael's bidder has a strong hand (up to 15 HCP), the Michael's bidder can show the strength by re-bidding an agreed suit at a higher level.

Responding to a Michael's cue bid

Responder to the cue bid should bid on the assumption that partner has minimum strength.

  • you have to respond, unless there's an intervening bid;
  • without a good fit for either of partner's suits, bid the one you like best (or dislike the least);
  • with a good fit, make a single or double jump in the suit, depending on your strength;
  • with an even better hand, you can force to game by bidding the enemy's suit;
  • NT? With a strong hand, and good stoppers in the 2 suits your partner hasn't promised, especially the enemy's suit, you can bid 3NT. It must be 3, not 2, because 2NT has a special meaning. . ...
  • a reply of 2NT is forcing and asks which minor is held, after bids promising only one Major (i.e.1spade-2spade-pass, or 1heart-2heart-pass);
  • a bid in a suit not promised by partner is natural and non-forcing, based on a very long suit. Overcaller will generally pass.

Michael's cue bid, example 1

West opens 1diamond and North overcalls 2diamond (Michael's cue bid) showing 2 good Major suits. East passes, what should South bid with these 3 hands?

Hand 1
S J 9  

South should bid 2heart, the cheaper of the two suits. (If East had doubled the 2diamond overcall, South should pass, implying no preference for either suit, in case the overcaller has 6-5 in the majors).

H J 7
D K 7 6 4 3
C K 6 5 2

Hand 2
S A 5  

With a good fit in heart, a useful card in diamond and an Ace, South should bid 3heart hoping for a conversion to game by his partner. 2heart is too weak, since such a bid is forced anyway. A bid of 4heart would also be possible, since we know that partner has a good 5-card Heart suit, and shortage in minors so my weak minor "tails" won't be a problem.

H J 9 6 2
D K 8 7 4
C 8 6 2

Hand 3
S 9 7  

South has more points than in the previous example, but not in the right place. Kings and queens in the opponents suits are not much use when playing in hearts. South should bid a weak 2heart, to show preference.

H J 9 6 3
D K Q 7 2
C K J 6

Michael's cue bid, example 2

The bidding goes like this: West 1heart, North 2heart, East Pass.

So, South knows that his partner has a good spade suit, but does not know which minor suit is held. What should South bid with these hands ?

Hand 4
S 7  

South could bid 2NT, to ask partner to show which minor suit he holds, and talk about his strength. South will pass either 3club or 3diamond, since with only 17HCP guaranteed, things are dodgy. If North jumps to 4 of his minor to show considerable extra strength, then South can bid game in the suit, because now we are talking about up to 26HCP plus lots of distribution points for the shortages in Spades and Hearts.

H 8 7 5 4 2
D A J 7 6
C K J 9

Hand 5
S J 10  

Bid 3NT. In addition to 16 HCP and almost a full set of 10s, South has (1) a good stopper in hearts, (2) great cards in whichever good 5-card minor suit that partner holds (that'll be a nice to play suit) and (3) a strong no trumps position in the other minor suit. South is short in Spades, but he knows North has 5 of them, along with 8-12 HCP (in this case, North can't have more than 12 HCP, as there are only 40 in the pack).

H K J 10 7
D A Q 10
C A J 10 6


The redundant bids you are replacing

When the opponents have opened the bidding, an overcall in the opponent's suit (e.g. 1heart- 2heart) was used to show a hand with enough strength to insist on game. Such hands are rare, and can usually be bid by starting with a (forcing) takeout double.

Similarly, an overcall of 2NT traditionally used to show a balanced hand of 20-22 points, just like an opening bid of 2NT. Unfortunately, when one of the opponents holds opening strength, the chances of you having a strong hand like this are slim. In fact, the opportunity to make this 2NT overcall (showing a balanced 20-22 points) comes up so rarely that it makes sense to use the bid in an unusual way. Hence the name "Unusual 2 NoT trump".


170. 2-suited overcalls (8-15 HCP, 2 good suits)
Openers bid Overcallers bid (8-15 HCP) meaning responder bid responder clarifying bid
The simple and obvious case
heartspade 2NT 2 minors best minor  
clubdiamond 2 of same suit 2 Majors best major  
Mixed majors and minors
heartspade 2 of same suit other Major, + a minor Major, or 2NT 2NT = "clarify which minor"
clubdiamond 2NT other minor, + a Major minor or clubdiamond clubdiamond = "clarify which Major"
Responder (always bidding his preference, if no intervention) assumes minimum from overcaller: jumps if fit is good, bids enemy suit to force game, or 3NT if strong and stopped in the other 2 suits. Responder seeks clarity as above if interested in the 2 unspecified suits.
Overcaller passes if not forced, or bids higher if top end.
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