After an opponent opens, it's often difficult to describe a hand with two long suits. The auction may get too high (or end too soon) for you to show both, or you may not have the strength to safely bid either suit. Consider these problems if RHO opens:
(A) RHO opens 1C or 1D and you hold: KQ964 KQ872 52 7
(B) RHO opens 1H or 1S and you hold: 765 Void K10765 QJ1093
(C) RHO opens 1C or 1S and you hold: 4 KJ872 AJ10754 5
With (A), you would overcall 1S and hope to bid hearts later. With (B) and (C), it may be dangerous to bid at all, especially at the 2-level. Both hands have good playing strength, but neither can be described with a standard overcall, which tends to show a one-suited hand with more high-card points.
The Michaels Cuebid and Unusual Notrump are conventions that let you show two suits with one bid. The convention you use depends on which suit the opponent opens and which suits you have.
Some players prefer to make a simple major-suit overcall with hands with intermediate strength (10-15 pts.). They use the Michaels cuebid only for hands that are weak (5-9 pts.) or very strong (good enough to jump to game once partner shows his preference).
In general, though, the best rule is to just use your judgment. Decide if you want to emphasize one suit (usually a major) with a simple overcall, or if you want to bring two suits into the picture immediately with a Michaels Cuebid or Unusual Notrump. For example:
You can also play that any "unusual" notrump overcall (even if it's not a jump) is the Unusual Notrump. For example, after 1H by LHO-Pass-2H, 2NT by you shows both minors (similarly, 1H-Pass-2H-3H is Michaels, showing spades and a minor).
Notrump overcalls at higher levels also convey this meaning: 1D by LHO-Pass-3D-3NT by you shows clubs and hearts. 1S-Pass-4S-4NT shows both minors. The higher the level, the stronger and more distributional your hand should be for your bid.
Be careful if your high-card strength is outside your suits. With a hand like K A6 J9853 Q7632 , your suits are too weak for a 2NT overcall.
Vulnerability should also affect your decision. Since partner is often forced to bid at the 3-level (sometimes with only 2-card support), a vulnerable Michaels or Unusual 2NT should promise more playing strength-- AQJ97 KQ1082 42 4 or Void KQ1084 65 A98732 .
The level of your bid depends on your strength and trump support. With a weak-to-intermediate hand, bid at the lowest level available. With a stronger hand, you can jump in one of partner's suits to invite game or jump directly to game.
If RHO makes an intervening bid, you should compete if you have some strength and support for one of partner's suits. Partner is promising 5-5 in his suits, so any 3-card holding is good support.
If you're not vulnerable and you have a weak hand with strong support, you may want to sacrifice. Suppose LHO opens 1H, partner overcalls 2H (spades and a minor), and you hold J964 5 A872 J874 . You know the opponents can make at least 4H, so if you're not vulnerable, you should sacrifice right away by jumping to 4S. With your long trumps and singleton (and filler in whatever partner's minor is), a spade contract should make at least 8 or 9 (and maybe 10) tricks.
The one case where you won't know partner's exact two suits is when he
makes a Michaels Cuebid over a 1H or 1S opening (showing the other major
and an unspecified minor). Since you know his major, you can bid it if
you have 3+-card (or 2-card) support. If you can't support his major but
have at least 3-card length in both minors, you'll want to
play in his minor suit. To ask partner which minor he holds -- and tell
him that's your preferred trump suit -- bid 2NT. Partner
will bid his long minor and you can then pass, raise or sacrifice.
© Karen Walker