THE SMOLEN CONVENTION
Let’s say your partner opens 1NT (say 15-17 HCP, but the
range does not matter) and you hold:
What do you do?
With 5-4 in the majors and a weak hand, it is common to bid 2Stayman, then bid 2 if partner responds 2(no major). This allows you to find a potential 4-4 (sometimes 5-4!) heart fit before you commit to the spades. This may wrong-side the contract but, with such a weak hand, it is more important to find the better part-score.
Let me give you a better hand this time, enough strength for game:
You will have found your heart fit, but it will be played by the wrong side. If the 1NT opener had been declaring the hand, hisK would be protected from the opening lead. The problem would be the same if you had five hearts instead.
Say you hold:Partner opens 1NT (15-17). What’s your plan?
Transferring to hearts via 2, followed by a 2rebid would be a common route taken by many players.
But if opener has:
Again, the 4contract would be better if it had been declared by the 1NT opener to protect his K from the opening lead. In my first example, I mentioned that “right-siding” the contract wasn’t much of an issue – however, this only applies for part-score contracts. When it comes to game contracts, it can now mean the difference between +620 and -100. The solution, of course, is to adopt the Smolen convention – an extension to Simple Stayman. With 5-4 in the majors and enough points for game, you start by bidding 2 (Stayman):
• If partner responds 2-Major, you raise to game.
• If partner responds 2(no major), you now jump to your four-card major at the 3-level to say that you have five-cards in the other major.
The reason why you jump to your four-card major suit is so you can right-side the contract if a 5-3 fit exists in the other major (i.e. you can’t have a fit in your four-card major because of the 2response).
Playing Smolen frees up the sequences of:
What can you use them for? One suggestion might be that you can use the former auction to show 5 hearts + 4 spades and an invitational hand (i.e. a hand type that you could not have shown previously), and the latter auction to show 5+ spades + 5+ hearts and a game forcing hand.
Note that if the strength of your 1NT is weaker (say, 12-14 HCP or weaker), then you may want to jump to your five-card major to allow responder (usually the stronger hand) to declare.
Smolen is a simple and a very effective convention, and is played amongst the top-level players. Of course, like any other convention, you will need to discuss it with your partner, and be able to remember it!!
Andy’s Conventions Rule #1:
Be able to remember it, otherwise it is not worth it!
to be continued…