Two-Suited Overcalls

Lesson Notes

Two-Suited Overcalls

The advantage of intervening with a two-suited hand is that partner is likely to have a fit with at least one of the suits. If partner has a fit with both suits, the partnership may even make a game on very few high-card values.  Most modern partnerships have some agreement on how to enter the auction with two-suited hands; two five-card or longer suits.

Michaels Cuebids
This is the most popular convention for two-suited hands, and shows either a weak hand (8 - 11) or a strong hand (17+). e.g. you hold this hand, and your right hand opponent opens 1♦:
♠ Q J 10 7 5
♥ K Q 10 9 5
♦ 7
♣ 86
If you bid spades, you may never get a chance to show your hearts because the bidding might become too high. Playing Michaels, you actually bid opener's suit, 2♦.
By agreement, this shows both majors. So, 1♣/♦ (2♣/♦) is Michaels. With a good fit for one or both suits, partner can compete to the three level, or even game. Without a good fit, pick the longer major.
If the opponents open a major 1♠ or 1♥, an overcall of that suit - 1♥/♠ (2♥/♠ overcall) shows the other major, and one minor. 

Responding to Michaels (1♣/♦, then an overcall of 2♣/♦ = both majors)

  • A preference to 2♥ or 2♠ shows no interest in game

  • A jump to 3♥ or 3♠ is pre-emptive (probably four trumps)

  • A jump to 4♥ or 4♠ is to play. It could be weak or strong

Responding to Michaels after 1♥/♠ is opened.
 When partner uses Michaels over a major suit, it shows at least five cards in the other major and an unidentified minor. The responses are similar to those after a minor suit cue bid, with the exception that 2NT now asks for partner’s minor suit.
What does West call on the following hands?
North             East                South             West
1♠                    2♠                    pass                 3♥

Bid 3♥. East has hearts and a minor. West doesn’t know which minor, but doesn’t care. West knows there’s an eight-card fit in East’s major. With no interest in game, West bids the suit at the cheapest level.

♦ K75
♣ J973
Bid 2NT. Without a fit for the known major suit, West bids 2NT to find out which minor suit East holds. West hopes it’s clubs, but intends to pass whichever suit East bids.

The Unusual Notrump (1♥/♥ is opened and the overcaller bids 2NT)
It is rare that an overcaller would bid 2NT to show a balanced 20-21 points when the opponents open the bidding, so 2NT is used to describe two-suited hands. So, a jump to 2NT over an opening bid of one-of-a-suit shows at least five cards in each of the two lower-ranking unbid suits. (Over Major openings, it shows the minors, over 1♣ it shows diamonds and hearts, and over 1♦ it shows hearts and clubs, i.e. the lower unbid suits).

Here are some examples after East opens the bidding 1♥, and North-South are non-vulnerable:
♠ 4
♥ 3
♦ Q J 9 8 4
♣ K 10 9 8 6 3  

Bid 2NT. Shows a weak, distributional hand. It is a competitive bid, suggesting a possible sacrifice against the opponent’s contract. Here South doesn’t have enough to overcall 2♣, and an overcall of 1♦ might get the partnership to the wrong suit. A jump 2NT asks partner to choose between clubs and diamonds, the two lower-ranking unbid suits.

♠ 3
♥ -
♦ A Q J 8 7 3
♣ A K J 8 5 2

Bid 2NT. The unusual notrump can also be used with a very strong hand where  you plan to bid again. Once partner bids a minor, South intends to raise to game. If the opponents get in the way, South will double or show a strong hand.

Responding to the Unusual Notrump

  • A simple preference to one of partner’s suit shows no interest in game

  • A jump in one of the suits is weak and pre-emptive

  • A jump to the game level could be weak or strong.

  • 3NT is to play, and so is a new suit bid naturally

Test your knowledge

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