At matchpoints, with only them vulnerable, I dealt and opened a strong (16 point) 1NT. Partner bid a 2 heart transfer (to spades) with the following: ♠ AT843 ♡ AQ87 ♢ Q5 ♣ Q7.

I duly made the forced two spade bid, and partner raised to four. We went down one despite our combined 30 high card points because I only had two spades.

Partner admitted, "I guess we should have been in 3NT. Should he have bid 2 clubs, (Stayman) on his first turn?

I would have denied with two diamonds, and he could then have bid two spades, showing five. I would have denied three with 2NT, and he could have bid 3NT.

1 Answer 1


You have discovered the problem that the Smolen convention was invented to solve. If you agree to play Smolen, after the auction starts 1NT-2C-2D, a bid of three of a major shows 4 cards in that major, 5 in the other, and game-forcing values.

In the linked article, Larry Cohen claims that in standard bidding (that is, without Smolen agreed), a jump to three of a major after 1NT-2C-2D shows a game forcing hand with 5 cards in the major. Hopefully partner will be able to work that out at the table, as this auction is rarely discussed by pairs that don't play Smolen.

Your suggested auction does not work; 2S is not a forcing bid in standard bidding.

  • With his actual hand, I believe partner should just go to 3NT on 14 points. But if you weaken his hand by replacing the AQ of hearts with JT (giving him 9 hcps), I would, in his shoes, bid 2S (non-forcing) to show five spades and let opener decide whether or not to go on. As opener, I would pass with only two spades but go on with 16 points, three spades, and the 5-3 fit.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 13 at 16:03
  • 9 points with 5-4 length in two suits is a game force across from a strong 1NT opener. If you have Smolen on your card I see no reason to forego exploration for a major with the given hand. You'd look pretty silly if you found partner with KJx KJx AKxxx Jx or similar, and had to lose 5 club tricks off the top in 3NT when 4S has chances of overtricks.
    – ruds
    Commented May 14 at 18:49

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