Clarifications From Today’s Lesson

Hi all.  I want to clarify a few items from today’s lesson.  The potential for confusion was a bit higher today than usual because there were some treatments with alternatives.  Furthermore, the choice in one area influences the choice in other areas.

In all of the discussion below we assume your partner opens 1NT (15-17 HCP balanced).

Responder Hands with 5-4 in the Majors and 0-7 HCP or 8-9 HCP

The first item to clear up are the meanings of the auctions 1NT – 2C – 2D – 2H/2S.  There are two reasonable ways of treating these sequences.  If there’s a standard meaning this sequence shows that responder has 8-9 HCP, 5 cards in the bid major, and 4 cards in the other major.  However a large population play that as a sign-off with 5 in the bid major and 4 in the other major.  That’s my personal preference.  If you were there you heard that Jennifer Christman does it the other way in several partnerships.  If I were playing with a random stranger I would take this sequence as invitational.  With the 0-7 HCP hand, 5-4 in the majors I would transfer to the 5 card suit and stop.  You need to discuss this with your regular partner.  Either way of doing it works, but you need to agree.

If you choose to play the sequence above as a sign-off you need to figure out how to bid the hands with 8-9 HCP and the same distribution.  In that case you transfer to the 5 card suit and you bid the 4 card suit.  With 5 hearts and 4 spades you get this nice auction:  1NT – 2D – 2H – 2S.  The opener can choose a game or part score contract.  With 5 spades and 4 hearts it’s a bit messier:  1NT – 2H – 2S – 3H has a wider range in distribution (does it show 4 hearts or 5?) and HCP (can opener stop in a dime at the 3 level?).  One tool that can help with this is the use of 3H and 3S responses to 1NT to show 5-5 in the majors.

  • 1NT – 3H shows 5-5 majors, invitational values
  • 1NT – 3S shows 5-5 majors, game forcing values

Now the sequence 1NT – 2H – 2S – 3H should show 5 spades, 4 hearts, and invitational values.  Opener can pass, but usually won’t.

Responder Hands with 5-4 in the Majors and 10+ HCP

This is another area where you have a choice.  The standard way to bid this (see ACBL Standard American Yellow Card, for example) is to start with Stayman and jump in the 5 card major after a 2D answer.  For example:  1NT – 2C – 2D – 3H shows 5 hearts, 4 spades, and 10+ HCP.  It’s forcing to game.  This does have the disadvantage that responder becomes the declarer if you play in the major.  A common alternative, adopted nearly universally by experienced players is a convention called Smolen.  Instead of jumping in the 5 card major you jump in the other major. Looking at the same auction:  1NT – 2C – 2D – 3H responder shows 5 spades, 4 hearts and game forcing values.

It doesn’t matter whether you play it as standard or Smolen; it doesn’t really affect the rest of the system.  In the opinion of most Smolen has an advantage, but if the memory strain is too much you don’t have to do it.

“You can’t bid Stayman with less than 8 HCP”

As I think I mentioned near the end, this is a simplification.  The really saying should be something like “You can’t bid Stayman and then rebid 2NT with fewer than 8 HCP.”  You can use Stayman with weaker hands to try to find a 2 level suit contract using Garbage Stayman:  Weak hands short in clubs.  Example xxxx xxxx xxxx x.  You bid 2C and pass your partner’s response.

If I confused you in any other way then send me a note.  I’ll correct it here and in the next lesson.