Partner opens 1NT.

With a 4 carder Spade and a 5 carder Heart, what do you do?
And with a 5 carder Spade and a 4 carder Heart?

Specifically, should you use Stayman, Jacoby Transfers, or some other convention?


2 Answers 2


The most common answer to this problem is called Smolen, which applies when you have game-forcing values. In Smolen, you start with Stayman. If partner shows a 4-card major, proceed as normal with that suit as trumps. If partner denies a major, you bid your 4-card major at the three level. Opener now chooses a strain.

With less than game-forcing values, your choices really depend on what other bids mean in your system, but the following is usually workable:

  • With 5 spades, 4 hearts, and invitational values, bid Stayman and rebid 2S after opener's 2D.
  • With 5 hearts, 4 spades, and invitational values, transfer to hearts and rebid 2S after partner accepts the transfer.
  • With 5-4 and less than invitational values, consider using "Crawling Stayman." This is a rebid of 2H after 1NT-2C-2D, and it shows a weak hand with the majors. Opener passes or corrects.
  • It is important to note that while common, neither of these methods is standard. One cannot play them without prior agreement and significant discussion with partner on the relevant inferences and sequences. Aug 10, 2015 at 18:39

As ruds points out in his answer, the expert treatment here holding game-forcing or better values is to play Smolen Transfers. In this case the auction has gone:

1NT  pass 2C  pass
2D   pass  ?

and (with * indicating the alertable transfer calls):
- 2H shows game-invitational (only) values with exactly 4 spades and 5+ hearts;
- 2S shows game-invitational (only) values with exactly 4 hearts and 5+ spades;
- 2NT 9 points, invitational in NT;
- 3C game forcing, 5+ (usually 6) clubs, no 4-card major;
- 3D game-forcing, 5+ (usually 6) diamonds, no 4-card major;
- 3H * game-forcing, with exactly 4 hearts and 5+ spades;
- 3S * game-forcing, with exactly 4 spades and 5+ hearts;
- 3NT to play

With less than game-invitational values you have fewer choices, and tougher decisions:

Holding 22 distribution in the minors and a weak 5-card major it is probably best to pass and just play 1NT. If the opponents come in they may get a nasty shock from the unfavourable distribution waiting them in the majors.

With 31 or 40 distribution (either way) in the minors or a strong 5-card major you should simply transfer into your 5-card major and pass partner's rebid.

With a bust three-suited hand, short in clubs, it is possible to play Garbage Stayman and simply pass partner's response to 2C. Unless playing Matchpoints I would not recommend this without 5 diamonds and 4-3 or 3-4 in the majors.

It is possible to play Crawling Stayman over partner's 2D response, but this will cost you precision in game-invitational auctions; it is strictly a Matchpoints convention, where part-score auctions are of increased importance.

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