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Conventions: Extended Smolen

Source: Aussie Youth Bridge Bulletin

The Smolen Convention show 5-4 Majors with game-forcing values opposite a 1NT opening:

1NT 2c (Simple Stayman)
 2d 3h 4h5s, game force
3s 4s5h, game force

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

Both 4h and 4s look like they are to play, and because they bypass 3NT, they should therefore imply a six-card major. Since responder went via 2c Stayman, this must imply that responder is 6-4 in the majors. In other words, 4h shows 6h4s and 4s shows 6s4h.

Similarly, 4c and 4d can be used as a delayed Texas transfer, also showing 6-4 in the majors. That is, 4c shows 6h4s and 4d shows 6s4h (the lower minor suit shows the longer lower major suit). Since there is an overlap between 4c/4d and 4h/4s you can now split your ranges.

1NT 2c (Simple Stayman)
 2d 3h 4h5s, game force
3s 4s5h, game force
4c 6h4s slam try
4d 6s4h slam try
4h To play
4s To play

It is correct for the slam try hands to be put within the 4c/4d bids, because 4c and 4d both allow space for opener to make a ‘noise’ to suggest a bit of interest (e.g. the 4c bid allows opener to bid 4d).

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 2c 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.


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