Basic Convention. Stayman after 1NT opening
Finding a 4-4 8-card Major fit, 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 fit, and a potential game contract if one's there to be had. It's used when you have a minimum of one 4-card Major (or Major shapes of 44, 54, 55, 64, in fact any other than the quite common single 5- or 6-card Major - for which it's better to use Transfers).
It comes up a lot, and many people use it! So it's well worth learning. (And playing for game in a 44-Major fit is often easier than playing for a game in NT).
Tell your partner that you (responder) have at least one 4-card Major and 11+ points by bidding a coded 2. You've therefore told your partner that 23 HCP points are guaranteed, 25 possible, and you're fishing for a game. You want him to tell you which 4-card Majors he might have, in case a Major fit and a contract can be found where both of you have 4 cards in the same Major.
(If your 2 bid really was because you wanted to bid clubs, you can re-bid 3 next round.)
Opener then re-bids:
- 2 Diamonds, to Deny any 4-card Majors;
- 2 Spades , if he has just a Single 4-card Major in ;
- and 2, if he has either: both 4-card Majors, or a just one in .
- (Remember... D for Diamonds to Deny any 4-card Major; S for a Single one, in Spades).
Responder's second bid, after a non-Diamond re-bid from opener:
If you can now see an 8-card Major fit, select it, by raising the bidding in that Major;
- 4/ if you can guarantee 25 points, including shortages
- 3/ to invite opener to raise if he has a maximum 14 HCPs
- but if you can't see an assured 8-card Major fit, then revert to NT, at the right level;
- 3NT if you can guarantee 25 HCPs
- 2NT to invite opener to raise if she has a maximum 14HCPs.
If, after opener's re-bid of 2, responder doesn't see an 8-card fit, and thus reverts to NT, opener can then bid next round, if the opener has 4 cards in both Majors since by inference there must be an 8 card Major fit, given that responder promised at least one 4-card Major in his first 2 Stayman bid.
OK, we've chosen between NT or a Major. Can we get to game?
To choose how many tricks to bid for, as Opener or Responder, calculate the guaranteed HCP strength of the combined hands, but this time, on top of opener having guaranteed at least 12 HCP and responder having promised you at least 11 HCP, you should include points for shortages if you now have an 8-card trump fit.
Whether in a Major or in NT, one trick less than game is now biddable and likely to succede, but game is not yet assured, unless you have 2 points more than you have reliably promised to your reliable partner. (Some people support this calculation with the “9-7-18 losing trick count” method). Seeing 25 points, put into game. Seeing 23+, put into one less than game to invite partner to decide on game,
After bidding with a 2 Stayman response to Opener's INT, the Responder's thinking and re-bid is as follows:
- if the 1NT Opener's re-bid was a Major suit that I like, then raise that suit to 3 or 4;
- if Opener's response was not what I wanted, I'll convert back to NT, either 2 to 3 of them;
- if 1NT Opener's re-bid of 2 is opposite my 4-card Spades suit, we need to keep exploring;
- if the response was 'weird' then I might try to understand the extra and more advanced uses of Stayman! (see below)
More advanced Stayman
Early stage Stayman learners might be better to stop reading now! (Let your brain absorb the above, and get some practice and make some mistakes).
Other uses of 2 Stayman
- When you like anything except clubs, and therefore can cope with any response from opener - typically by passing, assuming you're weak-ish, eg. Axxx QJxx Jxxx x
- When you have a 6-card minor, appropriate for a minor suit transfer or takeout. (You do need a 6-card minor because you'll end up at the 3-level). This use of Stayman releases the bid of 2 as a response to 1NT, which can be jolly useful.
- When you have 5-4 or 6-5 in the Majors. (Don't use transfers, because you might miss a major fit in your other long card Major suit). If you get a 2 reply, bid 2 of your longer Major if you're weak, or 3 if game is on.
- Again, when you have two equally long suits in the Majors, such as 5-5, 6-6. But this time after a 2 denial, rebid 3 to show the extra length in both Majors, asking partner to choose their longer suit, since yours are of equal length. It will be at least a 3-carder.
- After a strong 2NT opening. But you won't need 11HCP to bid, 4 will do, since your partner is 8 HCP stronger than after a 1NT opening. You'll need to bid at the 3 level, and because of the limited space remaining for exploration of suit vs. NT, another system has evolved, for use after a 2NT opening, called 'Puppet Stayman'.
- Puppet Stayman after 2NT is a 3 response after partners 2NT opening. "I've got 3+HCP and 3 or 4 cards in a Major". Opener will bid any 5-card Major, or bid 3D if he has any 4-card Major. Failing either he'll bid 3NT. Responder will then rebid accordingly and any 5-3 or 4-4 8-card Major fit will usually be found. Don't use 'Puppet after 2NT' with a 5-card Major - use Transfers.
- Checkback Stayman(sometimes called Delayed Stayman), a 2 response after partner's suit opening, your Major response and his NT re-bid (which showed a balanced hand with 15-17HCP). With 10+ points, bid if your 1st bid Major was a 5-carder (he already knows it had 4), or if the unbid one is a 4-carder. Partner will then bid your Major with 3-card support, the unbid one with 4-card support, or Deny with Diamonds if he's got neither. Don't use Checkback if your Majors are 55 or better - just keep describing your hand conventionally.
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 by most partnerships (uless you've pre-agreed otherwise!), and your bid becomes natural.
However, if the enemy overcalled you can use Lebensohl (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
Note: this Cue bid of the enemy's suit, means I have enough for game and a 4-card Spade suit. You are asking your partner if he's got 4 to make up an 8-card Major fit in , and to switch to 3NT if not. (It's unlikely you'd be seeking a fit in , with the enemy having 5 good ones of them in one hand! Note that if you had a five-card Spade suit in this situation (where transfers have been cancelled due to enemy interference!) you could simply bid 2.
If the enemy intervene after your Stayman 2, the opener should re-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're very strong. With 19+ you should go straight to Slam exploration
- If you and partner use Transfers, don't use Stayman if you have a single 5+ card Major - use Transfers. Transfers are better when you have (just one) 5-card Major suit, and have many benefits in themselves
(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.