Source: ACBL, NABC Bulletins
Our priorities at bridge are to play in the majors first, notrump second and the minor suits last. The Stayman convention is designed to discover 4-4 major suit fits when partner opens 1NT.
As South you hold: K J 4 2 A 7 2 9 8 4 3 9 8.
North opens 1NT (15-17). Now what?
You have enough high-card points to invite game, and you have a four-card major. Your doubleton in clubs may provide opportunities for partner to take some ruffs in your hand, but only if you have a 4-4 spade fit. The way to find out is to bid 2. That is a conventional bid – it has nothing to do with clubs and everything to do with finding out if partner has a four-card major. His responses:
2 = no four-card major.
2 = four-card heart suit (maybe four spades).
2-card spade suit, but not four hearts.
Some partnerships agree that opener’s rebid of 2NT denies a four-card major and shows that the top of the 1NT range. This is not recommended. Just bid 2 to say no four-card major. Partner may need the bidding space that remains at the two level to further describe his hand.
Let’s say that North now bids 2. If you hold the example hand, what should you bid next?
Bid 2. That tells partner you have a raise to 2NT with a four-card spade suit. If North has a minimum 1NT opener and four spades, you can stop at the two level. 2NT by you would send the same message (you wouldn’t have used Stayman without one major and you don’t like hearts), but if partner has four spades and a minimum, you will end up at the three level. When game is not in the picture, stay as low as you can.
Here’s another hand to consider: K J 10 5 Q J 5 3 2 J 7 4 6.
Partner, North, opens the bidding 1NT, and you bid 2 to check on his major-suit holdings. Predictably, partner bids 2 (no major). Now what?
If you bid 2, you are showing the hand you hold: five hearts, four spades (you would simply have transferred to hearts without four spades) and 8 or 9 HCP. More on transfers can be found in another article in this series.
Partner now has the option of passing 2, raising to 4 with three-card support and a maximum or bidding 2NT with a doubleton heart and a minimum 1NT.
Finally, let’s look at a hand that represents the exception to the rule that you should always have at least 8 HCP to use Stayman.
Say you hold Q 8 7 2 J 9 7 3 9 7 6 5 7
or even Q 8 7 2 J 9 7 3 9 7 6 5 2 –
Partner opens 1NT. What is your plan? Bid Stayman, planning to pass whatever partner bids, including 2 (you know partner will not bid clubs). Wherever you land is almost certainly going to be better than 1NT with your weak hand as dummy. On a good day, partner will bid a major or have a good holding in diamonds.