In a recent post (“Smolen, Schmolen”) I discussed alternative ways to show 5-4 in the majors with a game forcing hand when partner opens 1NT. I concluded that a treatment named “Smolen” probably accomplishes this most efficiently without getting the hand wrong sided. Briefly, Responder uses Stayman and when opener bids 2 diamonds, Responder now jumps in the 4 card major. Opener with 3 card support for the opposite 5 card major bids 4 of that major and with 2 card support bids 3NT.
As usual, just when you think you have thought of everything, you get one of the 635 billion possible bridge hands that you never thought about. With my hand I did not open 1NT; I opened 2 NT with 20-21 hcps. My hand will follow later.
Jxxx, Jxxxx, Axx, x.
You are Responder, how do you find the best contract? There is not enough bidding room for traditional Smolen, so you have to be more creative than that.
Now you know that the moment you transfer, partner will bid 3 hearts and when you bid 3NT he will pass with 2 card support. Worse yet, he will come down with a 4 card spade suit. That is just the way life goes! That crash you hear was you falling to the bottom! So, now having a second chance you are going to use Stayman, but Opener bid 3 diamonds. If you now bid 3NT, you are going to hear that crashing noise again. Opener had had 3 spades and 3 hearts and you did not find the 8 card major suit fit.
Is there a solution? Of course, or I wouldn’t be posting this. After 3 diamonds, responder must bid 3 spades (the 4 card major). What could this be other than 5 hearts and 4 spades? Now with a 3 card heart suit, opener will bid 4 hearts. Why is responder’s 3 spade bid forcing? Because Responder would not have bid 3 clubs (Stayman) without game going values. Did you think this was garbage Stayman? Also notice that we have the contract right sided. A major concern when Opener has 20-21 hcps.
My actual hand was:
AKx, KQx, KOxxx, Kx.
Playing 3NT you find that RHO has not only the Ace of hearts, but also the QJx of clubs. Now don’t you wish you were in 4 hearts? At 4 hearts you lose a heart, spade and club for 620.
My hand could have been:
AKxx, KQ, KQxxx, Kx
Repeating responder’s hand for convenience:
Jxxx, Jxxxx, Axx, x.
Now if you try to transfer to hearts, you are going to bury your 8 card spade fit. Again RHO holds the key cards that beats 3NT, but 4 spades is high probability game. You will find it by using Stayman and you don’t have to worry about continuations.
So now we know how to deal with one more of those 635 billion hands? When partner opens 2NT and you have a game going hand and 5-4 in the majors, use Stayman, and if partner bids 3 diamonds, now bid your 4 card major. The treatment is based on Smolen principles, but you don’t jump in your 4 card major. That whoosh you hear is your high speed elevator going to the top. You will get a good result on these hands if bid them correctly, as most opponents probably will not find the optimum contract. If it works, tell them where you got it.