Basic Convention. Stayman
Finding an 8-card Major match and getting to game
A coded method of replying to a 1NT opening that allows the two of you to find an 8-card Major match, and a potential game bid, even though neither player usually has a 5-card Major. (Playing for game in a 44-Major is usually easier than in NT).
Stayman also allows you to find a NT game if one is there.
Tell your partner that you (responder) have at least one 4-card Major and 11+ points by bidding a coded 2. You have therefore told your partner that 23 HCP points are guaranteed, 25 possible, and you are fishing for a game. You want him to tell you which 4-card Majors he has.
(If the bid really was because you wanted to bid clubs, rebid 3 next round.)
Opener then rebids: 2 if he has no 4-card Majors; 2 Spades if he has just a Single 4-card Major in ; and 2 if he has either two 4-card Majors or a single one in . (Remember: SS: Single for Spades).
Responder: You can now see any 8-card Major match if there is one, and select it, or the best if there are 2 of them. To choose how many tricks to bid for, calculate the guaranteed HCP strength of the combined hand. (Support this calculation with the “9-7-18 losing trick count” method). Seeing 25 HCPs, put into game (4). Seeing 23+, put into 3 to invite opener to decide on game: if opener has 14 points, he raises to game (1) .
On the other hand, if responder sees there is no 8-card Major match, then he reverts to NT, at the right level: 3NT if he can guarantee 25 HCPs, 2NT to invite opener to to raise if he has a maximum 14 HCPs (2) .
The responder's rebid is as follows:
- Opener bid a suit I like. Pass or raise that suit.
- Opener response was not what I wanted. Convert to 2 or 3NT, or jump-bid own strong suit.
Other uses of Stayman
- When you like anything except clubs, and therefore can deal with any response from opener, typically by passing assuming you are weakish.
- When you have a 6-card minor, as a means of achieving a minor suit transfer or takeout (you do need a 6-card minor because you'll end up at the 3-level).
- When you have 5-4 or 6-5 in the Majors. Don't use transfers, because you might miss a major match in your other long card Major suit. After a 2 reply, bid 2 of your longer Major if you are weak, or 3 if game is on.
- Again, when you have others patterns in the Major such as 5-5, 6-6. After a 2 denial, rebid 3 to show the extra length in both Majors, asking partner to choose their longer suit, hopefully 3-card. Don't use the 3 bid if you use that bid for a transfer to the minors.
- After a 2NT opening, with suitably reduced HCP requirement (4 instead of 11).
Stayman after the enemy intervenes
If there is an intervening “double” or other bid after your partner's NT opening, then Stayman and transfers are cancelled, and your bid becomes natural.
However, if they overcalled you can use use Lebensohl, or if they overcalled in a Major, you can also
- bid their suit if you have enough for game and the other 4-card Major. For example
- 1NT 2 3
Case (1), a cue bid of the enemy's suit, means I have enough for game and a 4-card Spade suit. You are asking your partner for a 8-card Major match in Spades, or NT if not possible. It's unlikely you'd be seeking a fit in Hearts, with the enemy having 5 of them in one hand. If you had a 5-card Spade suit, you could simply bid 2.
If the enemy intervene after your Stayman 2, the opener should bid as planned if possible. If not, he can wait for you the Stayman bidder to bid again. If you or your partner double their interference, it's for penalties. For example:
- 1NT pass 2 2 X
- 1NT pass 2 2 2
- 1NT pass 2 2 pass pass X
- 1NT pass 2 2 3
- In case (1), opener is saying he has a 4-card suit in the overcalled Hearts. Responder can pass or switch to spades or NT.
- In case (2), opener is saying he has a 4-card suit in the other Major, Spades. Again, responder can pass or switch.
- In case (3), opener has no 4-card Major, but responder has a 5-card in the overcalled Major.
- In case (4), opener has to have high HCP (14) to assert a 3-level bid, since he has potentially committed the partnership to a game in 3NT.
When not to use Stayman
When you are very strong.
If you have a 4441 or 4450 distribution, when you (responder) just pass. You don't want to end up in No Trumps with this kind of shape.
If you and partner play Transfers, don't use Stayman if you have a single 5+ card Major - use Transfers instead. They are better too whn you have just one suit.
- If you don't use Transfers, then you can achieve almost the same effect with Stayman, but it makes things a bit more complicated, as follows: If the opener had “denied” having a 4-card Major, by bidding 2, you (responder) at this point can rebid with 2 or 2 with 5-cards in either of these. This might point the opener to an 8-card match which he could bid to game, or invite to game. Another way of doing this is to rebid 3 asking for a 3-card Major.
- Beginners can use weakness takeout or bid 3 of the suit, depending on strength.
(1) Leaving the bidding at opener's 2M, or switching to 2 of the higher Major has a special meaning for more advanced players. So don't leave it at the 2 level unless you understand what that means - namely a weakness takeout, or, if you switch to 2 of the other major, a weakness takeout with flexibility, implying a 5-4 holding.