Puppet and Smolen Over 2NT Opening

A friend of mine, who knew that I was a system geek, asked me if I had a method for the 2NT-3 inquiry to locate all major-suit fits, 4-4 or 5-3. He emphasized that opener might have a 5-card major and responder might have 4-5 or 5-4 majors. I gave it a try and was pleased with the result. If you have also thought about this, please share it with us.

First, when responder bids 3, he must have at least one 4-card major. Opener's first-round responses are as follows:

3 = no 4-card majors

3 = 4+ hearts, no 4 spades

3 = 4 spades exactly, no 4 hearts

4 = both majors

The responses from 3 to 3 look very similar to those in regular Stayman. So memorization is minimal. 3NT (5 spades) is an extension from 3 (4 spades only). And it is safe for opener to bid above 3NT to show both majors, since responder promises at least one.

The highest three bids, 3, 3NT, and 4, are self-explanatory and need no follow-ups. If there is an 8-card major-suit fit, responder can just bid it; if not, he would bid or pass 3NT. Over 4, responder may want to show the fit via transfers: 4 = hearts; 4 =spades, so that 2NT opener can declare the hand. You can do the same for 3NT, but some players may want to reserve 4 for a spade slam try, as in the case when opener rebids 3.

Over opener 3 (4+ hearts, no 4 spades), if responder has no interest in hearts at all, i.e. less than 3 hearts, he could just bid 3NT to play. If he has 3 hearts and wants to know if opener has 5, he would bid 3 to inquire. Over which, opener bids 3NT when he has only 4; and bids at 4-level to show 5. (I'll leave it to you to decide what he should bid exactly.)

Over opener's 3 (no 4-card majors), responder continues exactly as Smolen: 3 = 5-4; 3 = 4-5; and 3NT is to play.

The title of this article has Puppet in it, which is a bit mis-leading. Our 3 does not lead to opener's 3 most of time. I borrow it only because the method can show opener's 5-card major.