Simple Stayman with 5-4 in the Majors & Game Force

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Partner opens 1NT and you have 5-4 or 4-5 in the majors with enough values for game. How do you treat such hands?

By Ana Roth
On 21 January, 2016 At 17:39

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Andy Hung
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Source: www.qldbridge.com  by Andy Hung        

Partner opens 1NT and you have 5-4 or 4-5 in the majors with enough values for game. How do you treat such hands? One possible solution is to transfer to the 5-card Major suit and bid your other Major suit. The problem with this however is that responder might end up as the declarer with the 1NT opener’s hand on the table.

For example, if the auction goes 1NT-2;2-2 and a 4-4 spade fit exists, responder will be the one declaring the contract. Rightsiding the contract may not be an issue for you, but it is certainly an issue that you shouldn’t ignore.

So is there a better method? Well, if you play Simple Stayman, then the solution is quite simple. When responder has enough for game and holds 5-4 in the Major, you should simply go via 2 Simple Stayman.

If partner responds 2-Major, you’re happy as you can raise to 4-Major. And if partner responds 2 saying no 4- card Major, you can now jump to your 4-card Major at the 3-level, to say that you have 5-cards in the other¬- Major, and enough values for game.

1NT 2
2 3 Showing 4 and 5, Game-force
3 Showing 4 and 5, Game-force

The reason why you jump to your 4-card Major is so you can right-side the contract if a 5-3 fit exists in the other Major. Since opener has already denied a 4-card major with the 2 response, you can safely jump to your 4-card Major knowing that you won’t have a 4-4 fit in that suit. This solution is also known as Smolen, a convention that is frequently used as an extension of Simple Stayman.

Playing Smolen frees up the sequences of 1NT-2;2-2 and 1NT-2 ; 2-3. What can you use them for? Whatever you and your partner want, but one suggestion might be that you can use the former auction to show 54 and an invitational hand, and the latter auction to show 5+ and 5+ and a game-forcing hand.

Extended Smolen

In the discussion above we looked at how to show 5-4 Majors with game-forcing values opposite a 1NT opening. This was via three of a major Smolen bids, as shown in the table below:

1NT 2 Showing Simple Stayman
2 2 = No major
3 Showing 4 and 5, Game-force
3 Showing 4 and 5, Game-force

We can now extend this even further. Instead of 3 or 3 Smolen, what does it mean if responder jumps to 4, 4, 4, or 4?

Both 4 and 4 look like they are to play, and because they bypass 3NT, they should therefore imply a six card major. Since responder went via 2 Stayman, this must imply that responder is 6-4 in the majors. In other words, 4 shows 6 and 4 and 4 shows 6 and 4.

Similarly, 4 and 4 can be used as a delayed Texas transfer, also showing 6-4 in the majors. That is, 4 shows 64 and 4 shows 6 and 4 (the lower minor suit shows the longer lower major suit). Since there is an overlap between 4/4 and 4/4, you can now split your ranges.

1NT 2 Showing Simple Stayman
2 2 = No major
3 Showing 4 and 5, Game-force
3 Showing 4 and 5, Game-force
4 Showing 6 and 4, Slam try
4 Showing 6 and 4, Slam try
4 Showing 6 and 4, to play
4 Showing 6 and 4, to play

It is correct for the slam try hands to be put within the 4/4 bids, because 4 and 4 both allow space for opener to make a ‘noise’ to suggest a bit of interest (e.g. the 4 bid allows opener to bid 4). The above structure can be beneficial as it allows you to locate your 4-4 fit first, before your 6-2 or 6-3 fit, and a 4-4 fit might be able to generate additional trick(s).

However, don’t forget to use your judgement. If your four-card major suit is quite weak, it might be better to play in your six-card suit (i.e. don’t bother with 2 to find that 4-4 fit): a weak 4-4 fit may prove to be difficult to play in when faced with a bad trump break.

Opener’s Continuation Over Smolen

With no fit for responder’s longer major, opener bids 3NT. With a fit and a minimum opener retreats to four of partner’s longer major. Other actions are cuebids agreeing responder’s longer suit.

by Andy Hung

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