The cuebid takes many forms in bridge. To many players, the various cue-bids are essential to survival in the competitive bidding arena.
One of the most popular and easiest to use is the Michaels cuebid, named for its inventor, Mike Michaels.
In the old days, if someone opened one of a suit and the next player bid two of the same suit — as in 1 ♣ — 2 ♣ — that showed a very strong hand and directed partner to pick his best suit. It was more or less a takeout double on steroids.
Hands that qualified for the super-strong takeout were few and far between, however, so Michaels devised a better use for the direct cuebid. Here they are:
Over one of a minor, the bid of the same minor shows at least five cards in each major in a hand that is either somewhat weak or very strong. When the hand is very strong, the Michaels bidder is just waiting to see which major his partner likes better so that he can make a strong game invitation or a raise to game in that suit.
Over one of a major, a bid of the same major shows at least five cards in the other major and at least five cards in either minor. When advancer doesn't fit partner's major, he bids 3 ♣ to tell partner, “Pass if this is your minor suit — or correct to diamonds.”
The Michaels cuebid is a handy convention that comes up more often than you might think, and it's great when you uncover that big trump fit. You can blow the opponents out of the water by jacking up the bidding in a hurry. It's not so great when you don't have a good fit in one of the Michaels bidder's two suits. Furthermore, if the other side ends up playing the contract, the information provided by the cuebid will help declarer play as though she can see all the cards.
Still, few duplicate players would consider playing without Michaels. For more discussion of this convention, see Chapter 15.
Another vital use for the cuebid in competition occurs when the other side opens the bidding and your side overcalls. You will always raise your partner's overcall when possible, but it's best, considering how light the overcaller might be, not to have to make a jump raise to show a raise with a bit extra.
That's where the cuebid comes in. Consider this auction (you are South):
Now suppose you hold this hand:
You will certainly raise partner's overcall, but if you bid just 2 ♠, partner will pass with this hand:
As you can see, game is almost certain, but North will never make a move toward game over a simple raise, which could be based on as little as 6 HCP.
Of course, if you have to jump to 3 ♠ to show your good support — akin to a limit raise of an opening bid — you might catch your partner with this hand:
A 1 ♠ overcall is perfectly reasonable with that hand, but the partnership is now too high.
You can avoid this kind of problem when you have a limit-raise type of hand (or better) by cuebidding to show it. If your partner thinks game might be in the offing over a limit raise, she can make a game try in one of her suits. If she signs off to show no game interest opposite a limit raise, you have succeeded in staying at a safe level.
Getting to No-trump
You have seen the cuebid in use when partner makes a takeout double and you have a good hand. You show it by bidding the opener's suit.
When you and your partner have found a big fit in a minor and figure you have enough for game, you usually prefer to play in 3NT, which scores better in a duplicate game and also requires two fewer tricks than 5 ♣ or 5 ♦.
One way to get there is to use the cuebid to ask partner for a stopper in opener's suit.
Here is a typical auction (you are South):
The first cuebid (yours) says you have a fine hand in support of clubs. Partner makes a second cuebid to say, “If you can stop hearts, we can probably take nine tricks in 3NT.”
Your hand might be:
Partner could have something like:
You will make 3NT with ease on the combined hands.