by Paul Lavings Bridge Books & Supplies
The Smolen Convention was invented by US expert Mike Smolen (1940-1992). It is an accepted part of nearly every expert’s system, and was adopted as the consensus choice in Bridge World Standard 2001, with 80% approving.
The starting point is that with 5-4 in the majors and game forcing values, the responder to 1NT goes via Stayman.
If opener replies 2, no major, then responder jumps in the four card major:
|1NT||2|| K 9 8 7 5
A Q 7 5
The 3 here is Smolen, showing fi ve spades and four hearts. Now if the partnership has a 5-3 spade fi t and finishes in 4 the strong hand will be declarer.
A secondary advantage is that the following sequences are not required as forcing and are invitational:
This covers those inbetween 8 or 9 HCP hands which previously you would have to treat as either weak, 0-7 HCP, or Game Forcing, 10+ HCP. Now you don’t have to choose between underbidding or overbidding.
You might also be 6-4 in the majors:
|3NT||4 = 6 spades, 4 hearts, slam interest|
|4 = 6 spades, 4 hearts, no slam interest|
Smolen can also be used with 5-5 in the majors:
|2||4 = 5-5 majors, slam interest|
|4 = 5-5 majors, no slam interest|
You can also play Simple Stayman and Smolen after a 2NT opening (instead of Puppet Stayman) or overcall or 2 : 2, 2NT to good effect.
The arrival of Smolen has caused many other areas of 1NT to be reviewed. Expert practice after a minor suit transfer is now quite different:
|1NT||2* transfer to clubs|
|2NT= non super-accept|
|3 = super-accept|
The super-accept is now the opposite, the next step is the negative, and bidding the suit is the super-accept. This way the strong hand plays the contract if the final contract is fi ve of a minor, or slam in a minor. No longer does responder transfer to a minor and then bid a major with fi ve+ -minor and four-major. Now if you transfer to a minor and then bid another suit, the second suit is a shortage:
|2NT**||3*** **non super-accept ***singleton or void heart, slam interest|
This is expert standard practice nowadays – but there would be a sizable community who still play it as natural. Probably 90% of partnerships are yet to upgrade. Opener is now able to judge their holding in responder’s shortage and make a sensibly informed decision. With a four-card major and a longer minor responder now goes via Stayman:
|2||3/3 Responder has (presumably) a four-card major and the minor|
Suit bid at the three level
|2||3/3 Responder has (presumably) four spades and the minor suit
Bid at the three-level, probably 5+ but responder could have only four of the minor:
as well as:
How about jumps when the response to Stayman is a major:
|2||3 = Unspecified splinter|
|4 = Quantitative heart raise, gives the room for partner to bid 4 to say:|
|“maybe”, I am not minimum or 4 = Key Card, agreeing hearts|
Smolen offers greater accuracy, and should be up there on your system card.