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A better Smolen

Smolen is typically used after a 1NT or 2NT opening by a partner who has 5 cards in one major and 4 cards in the other major. After an initial Stayman inquiry is answered by no major, a bid of a major suit at the 3 level shows 4 cards in that major and 5 cards in the other major. Consequently, should a 5-3 fit in the other major exist, the strong hand becomes declarer. An improvement can be made to this method.

Bridge players have many different ways to deal with 5-5 majors game forcing hands after a 1NT or 2NT opening. I recommend starting with Stayman. If the NT bidder bids a major, raise to game or show show slam interest as your hand dictates. Since you have a 9 card fit when partner responds a major, hands that might have been of marginal slam interest when you had an 8 card fit may become legitimate slam tries. So what happens when you Stayman and partner responds diamonds opposite your 5-5 majors? Bid 3 hearts!. This shows 5 spades plus 4 (OR 5) hearts. Continuations are as follows:

The NT opener bids 3S with all hands containing 3 hearts and 2S and 3NT with all hands that are 2-2 in the majors. A cue bid at the 4 level shows a slam suitable hand with 3 spades and a bid of 4 spades shows a poor hand for spades.

Partner of the NT opener bids 3NT over 3S when he has the typical Smolen hand with only 4 hearts. With 5 hearts, he knows that a 5-3 fit exists and moreover, that partner has a doubleton spade. He may bid 4 hearts with no slam interest and his shortness with slam interest.

Based on my experience, this treatment has little downside and a number of advantages:

1) The NT bidder becomes declarer in more major suit fits than he would using transfers.

2) Responder immediately knows about a 9 card fit which may change a good hand to a slam-invite

3) When a 5-3 fit in hearts exists, responder can show shortness and slam interest below game.

4) With a 5-5 invitational hand in the majors, responder can transfer to spades and bid hearts.

Some players use a transfer to 2H followed by 2S as invitational in the majors. This may allow stopping in 2 spades on occasion, but there are fantastically better uses for the sequence 1NT-2D-2H-2S. If enough players care, I will follow up with some of those uses.

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