Unusual vs. Unusual

Unusual vs. Unusual is a convention for handling two-suited interference bids, such as Michaels or Unusual 2NT. This may include cases where one suit is unknown. It is also our “General Defense To Two-Suited Bids”, to be used over opponents two-suited bids for which we have not agreed on something else.

Be aware that when an opponent makes a two-suited overcall, if we do have a fit, the trump break may be poor. Length in your partner’s suit is important. Be conservative with only an eight-card fit. The same factors face your opponents, so your eagerness to defend should be correspondingly higher. Pass rather than do something marginal.

What we present here is called the “lower-lower” version of Unusual vs. Unusual. The other version fixes the lowest available cue bid as showing support.

Two Suits Are Known

Some of the bids that show two specific suits are Unusual 2N, and Michaels Cue Bid of a minor suit.

If they make an overcall that shows two specific suits, there are two possible cue bids available, and two other suits.

Call the two suits implied by their bid “their suits” and the other two “our suits”. Among their two suits, the one which would be cheapest to bid next is called the “lower” suit and the other one the “higher” suit. Usually but not always the “lower” is the lower-ranked suit.

We set up a correspondence between the implied cue bids and our two suits:

  • A cue bid of the “lower” of their suits shows length in the lower of our two suits. Remember, lower means cheapest to bid here, not rank.
  • A cue bid of the “higher” of their suits shows length in the higher of our two suits.

Responder’s bids are:

  • A double shows you have a penalty double of at least one of their suits, and another bid. Typically this is 10+ HCP. Assuming advancer bids, partner should usually pass to give you the option of making a penalty double.
  • Bidding notrump shows stoppers in BOTH their suits.
  • A simple raise of partner shows trump support and 7-10 support points. This is the kind of hand where would have made a simple raise if there had been no interference.
  • The implied cue bid corresponding to partner’s suit is a limit raise or better.
  • A raise to game in partner’s suit shows long trumps, and good playing strength with less than limit raise values (usually a singleton somewhere).
  • A jump cue-bid is a splinter, slam try in partner’s suit.
  • A free bid of our other suit is competitive and non-forcing. Typically this hand might look like a weak-two opener in the other suit, 7-10 points.
  • The cue bid corresponding to our other suit shows 5+ cards and at invitational values.

Pass if you cannot make one of these bids.

Second Suit Is Unknown

Some of the bids that show one specific suit and an unknown second suit are a Michaels Cue Bid of a major suit, and certain defenses to 1N openers such as 1N (2♥) showing hearts and a minor suit.

  • A bid of their known suit is a limit raise or better in partner’s suit. For example, after 1♥ - (2♥(Michaels)), 2♠ is a limit raise or better in hearts.

  • A jump cue-bid is a splinter and a slam try. For example, after 1♥ - (2♥(Michaels)), 3♠! shows spade shortness and is a slam try in hearts.

  • Bidding notrump would show stoppers in the bid suit and in possible unknown suits.

  • All other bids are not forcing. For example, after a Michaels bid in hearts, 3♣ would be a preemptive hand in clubs.

  • With values but no clear action, a double will let the opponents tell you where they have their best fit. With this information you can choose a rebid to describe your hand. Opener will usually pass but with a solely offensive hand such as a solid one-suiter or strong two-suiter, may bid to show this.

    The meaning of the responder’s rebids after an initial double and pass by opener over advancer’s bid are:

    • Double is for penalty
    • Pass suggests a tolerance for defending.
    • New suit is 5+ cards, game forcing.
    • 3N is game strength with a stopper in the suit the opponents have chosen.
    • Delayed cuebid of overcaller’s originally known suit is Western cue, forcing to game and denying a stopper in the suit opponent’s have chosen and asking partner to bid 3N if he holds one.

Pass if you cannot make one of these bids.

Other Two-Suited Competitive Bids

There are many systems of two-suited competitive bids. Here are a few of them.

Sandwich 1N

After (1x) - P - (1y), a double is for takeout and shows the other two suits; the suits are at least 5-4 and you have an opening hand.

The Sandwich 1N convention is a bid of 1N rather than double, showing the other two suits but less than an opening hand:

(1x) - P - (1y) - 1N!(other two suits, less than opener)

Extended Michaels

Extended Michaels changes the meaning of the Michaels cue bid over a minor, promising spades and another suit (which could be hearts, but no longer definitely is hearts).

Note that 2♣ over the opponents 1♣ is not alerted (in general, cue bids are not alerted) but must be alerted if their 1♣ was announced as “could be short” and your cue bid is not natural. I recommend always playing the cue bid as Michaels. You can bid 3♣ if you really mean clubs.

As before, 2N asks for the other suit. However, it is also possible to bid the cheapest of the possible other suits as “pass or correct”. Therefore, 2N can be reserved to show constructive values, or to start game tries, using “pass or correct” with weak hands.

Here’s an example. (1♦) 2♦ shows spades and either hearts or clubs. So:

  • (1♦) 2♦ - 2♥ I do not like spades. I have 3 hearts. If hearts isn’t your other suit, bid your minor.
  • (1♦) 2♦ - 2N!(Asks for the other suit, constructive)

Asking for the other suit with 2N and then going back to spades is a game try:

  • (1♣) 2♣ - 2N - 3♦ - 3♠ is a game try in spades.

“Super” pass and correct bids can be made if a fit is certain and the hand is weak, as preemptive:

  • (1♣) 2♣ - 3♦!(support for diamonds and hearts, weak)

Using Extended Michaels and U2NT together, we cover all the bases:

RHO     You       Bid
1♣      ♦&♥     2N (two lowest unbid)
1♣      ♦&♠     2♣ (spades and another)
1♣      ♥&♠     2♣ (spades and another)

1♦      ♣&♥     2N (two lowest unbid)
1♦      ♣&♠     2♦ (spades and another)
1♦      ♥&♠     2♦ (spades and another)

1♥      ♣&♦     2N (two lowest unbid)
1♥      ♣&♠     2♥ (spades and another)
1♥      ♦&♠     2♥ (spades and another)

1♠      ♣&♦     2N (two lowest unbid)
1♠      ♣&♥     2♠ (hearts and another)
1♠      ♦&♥     2♠ (hearts and another)

Top and Bottom Cue Bid

Top and Bottom is another replacement for Michael’s Cue Bid. The cue bid shows the highest and lowest unbid suits. For example, 1♥ - (2♥) shows spades and clubs. Knowing both suits right away can be helpful, but you can’t use it as often.

However, most users of Top and Bottom use it as part of a constellation of conventions following Hardy:

  • Using the cue bid when the lower suit is at least 5+ cards, and the upper suit 4+ cards, or equal length but substantially weaker. Otherwise one overcalls the upper suit of 5+ cards.
  • Adding “Bottom and Bottom”: (1♦) - 3♣! shows 5+ clubs, 4+ hearts, and (1♣) - 2♦! shows 5+ diamonds and 4+ hearts. Hardy later changed his approach so that (1♣) - 2♥! shows this hand. Others suggest 2N!.
  • Adding Equal Level Conversion takeout doubles. If one doubles and then rebids at the same level as the response, it does not show extras. This allows takeout doubles that are 4-5 in the top unbid suits.

After a Top and Bottom Cue Bid, if advancer bids his own suit it is a self-sufficient suit with a desire to play there. If after advancer bids, bidding or raising the upper suit shows a strong hand.

There are still more approaches out there.

Special Doubles

These three special doubles have their own area on your convention card. Be sure to mark it appropriately. You have to decide at what level the double stops being conventional and turns to penalty. The usual agreement is conventional through 2♠.

Support Doubles and Redoubles

Some times opponents interfere after the responder has shown a new suit, and the opener does not know if this is a four-card or five-card suit. Support Doubles give us a way to show exactly 3 card support. If RHO makes a takeout double, we can use Redouble for the same purpose. For example:

  • 1♦ (P) 1♥ (1♠) X! Shows 3 hearts exactly.
  • 1♣ (P) 1♠ (2♦) X! Shows 3 spades exactly.
  • 1♣ (P) 1♠ (X) XX! Shows 3 spades exactly.

With four or more in partner’s suit, opener raises.

Note

Only the opener can make a support double. When you first start to play support doubles, you will see them behind every tree. Realizing that only the opener makes this bid helped me sort them out.

Responsive Doubles

When partner makes a takeout double of an opener and RHO raises his partner, a double shows scattered values with at least 6 points and interest in locating a fit.

  • If the opponents are bidding a minor suit, a responsive double asks partner to pick a major suit. We know partner has at least 4-3 in the majors so with equally good majors ourselves we want partner to choose.
  • If the opponents are bidding a major suit, a responsive double requests partner to choose a minor suit, because if we had the other major we would bid it as partner has promised it with his takeout double.

Warning

If the opponents bid two different suits, a double is not a responsive double. The opponents have to have raised.

Examples

  • (1♠) X (2♠) X! Has both minors, partner to choose.
  • (1♦) X (2♦) X! Has both majors, partner to choose.

Maximal Doubles

If interventor overcalls our major, partner makes a simple raise, and the advancer raises his partner, the opener has a dilemma if their suit is one below our suit. For example, 1♠ - (2♥) - 2♠ - (3♥) -? or 1♥ - (2♦) - 2♥ - (3♦) - ?.

If opener now bids 3M, is he inviting or just competing? A “maximal double” means that we agree opener doubles to show the invitational hand, while just bidding the suit to compete.

Note that if we cue-bid here there is no room to stop in 3M. If their suit was not the one just under ours (or “the maximal suit”) we’d have room to bid the suit below ours as a convention to invite. There is some controversy on this point. Partners should agree if the double is a maximal double, hence a limit raise or better in that case, or is penalty. I personally like to keep it uniform and have the double be the invite, not the mysterious other suit.