Tellico Village Duplicate Bridge Club

Tellico is a member of Knoxville Bridge Association


The Stayman Convention

The Stayman Convention is an artificial response of 2 Clubs to an opening bid of 1 NT. It is used to ask whether opener has a four-card major suit. With a four-card or longer major suit, opener bids it at the 2 level. Without a four-card major suit, opener artifically rebids 2 Diamonds.

In yesterday’s  Standard bidding...when responder uses Stayman after opener’s notrump bid...he usually had 8-9 HCPs and at least one four-card major...except when he holds a specific hand.   That exceptional , specific hand is one which contains a 5 card major and only 8-9 pts.  Standard bidding does not allow  responder to show a 5 card major and invitational points immediately...(1NT...2H  shows  0-7 pts)  and  (1 NT...3H shows 10+ pts) Therefore responder must invite game by showing the 8-9 points with the Stayman bid...then show possession of a five-card major  suit by freely bidding the suit himself at the 2 level. 

The ACBL Convention card offers Modern bidders a choice of  Forcing  or Non-forcing Stayman... 

FORCING STAYMAN....bidders promise 8+pts and also promise to keep the bidding open to 2NT or 3 of a suit...even if at he minimum point level. 

NON-FORCING STAYMAN... bidders do not promise any HCPs...The non-forcing Stayman bidder can pass any rebid opener may make...if,  in their estimation, the final contract will be improved. 

If,  on the other hand, responder  does continue with a second bid, he then promises 8+ pts. and also promises to keep the bidding open to 2 NT or 3 of a suit...  If responder chooses to pass...this pass infers that a 7 card or longer fit has been found and that the new contract has more promise than 1 NT. 

Magic Stayman   or  Drop-Dead Stayman

 are colorful  names given to this variation of the convention...When  responder intends to  pass  any rebid made by opener...the use of Stayman may be done with no values at  all.  The classic hand pattern  this action is 4-4-5-0  distribution.  If opener does show a major suit, a much better contract will have been reached.  If on the other hand, opener rebids 2 diamonds... responder can pass knowing that a diamond fit is likely...If opener’s shape happens to be 3-3-2-5...the gamble may or may not pay off.   However,  remember that Standard bidders  with five diamonds and 0 pts will still be placing the contract in 2 diamonds...and the strong  1NT hand will even be exposed!  If  responder chooses to stretch  the envelope and make this bid with a 4-4-4-1 or even a 4-3 (3-4) 5-1 hand pattern...he takes a much greater risk, but may well improve the contract... “Do you feel lucky?” 

One of my very favorite bridge quotes is ... “There are no great bridge players, only great partnerships.”  Whenever a new (or old)  partnership begins to grow and adds more is imperative to have clear understandings about not only the meanings of conventions...but also about the continuations of the bidding...  Partners must discuss their understandings to ensure that the same continuations are played.  They should also discuss if these continuations are still in effect if the opponents should  intervene in the bidding.  Following are some Stayman questions that  partnerships should answer and then settle upon their own agreements.


Does the 2C response promise possession of a four card major?  (I suggest your answer be yes!) 

How does opener respond if they hold both major suits?   Stayman, wrote the convention at a time when four card majors were the style..therefore he recommended that Spades be bid first.  Dorothy Truscott in Bid Better, Play Better,  advises that opener bid the better quality suit...The modern trend is to bid four-card suit “Up the line”... therefore a 2 S response denies a heart suit, but a 2 H  response does not deny a spade suit.  You and your partner must decide... 

What does opener rebid when they do not hold a four card major suit?  Stayman...40 years ago, had opener rebid 2D with a minimum hand and 2 NT with a maximum hand.  Almost no modern players follow this practice today!  Today,  it is almost universal to rebid 2D on all hands which lack a four card major.  It is mandatory to rebid  2D if “Non-Forcing Stayman” is played by the partnership... 


Puppet stayman differs from 5-card stayman in that after the 3 Club forcing request for a 5 card Major suit...a 3D response from the opener says they did not have a 5 card suit but they did have a 4 card does not say anything about the quality of the suit...the rest of the system is still in force... 


In beginning  bridge classes, novices are taught to open 1 NT regardless of the fact that their hand may contain a 5 card Major.  Trying to explain the difference in evaluating "good" and "bad" suits and hands confuses new players and then of course the rebid presents an even more difficult problem!  Even established partnerships may even have some similar problems with these difficult situations.  Puppet Stayman solves many of the problems that arise, but often times even when the partnership discovers their "fit" the suit turns out to be of such poor quality that a 3NT contract might have faired better.  5 Card Stayman solves these problems! 

With hands of game going quality...10+ the responder will make a bid of 3C...               

                Opener's Rebids:    3NT=No 5 Card Major  &   No 4 Card Major
                                            3H/S=5 Card (or very good quality) 4 Card Major
                                            3D=I have a 4 Card Major...but it is very poor               

After discovering that the opener's suit is of poor quality, the responder is in a better position to evaluate where to place the game.  If the responder chooses to play in the Major instead of 3 NT...they will bid the Major that they DO NOT have...allowing the opener to then bid either the correct major or 3NT.  (Sort of a partial plagiarism of the Smolen convention, which still allows the 1N opening hand to remain as declarer.) 

If the responder has both Majors and wants to place the contract in the opener's suit...they bid either 4C or 4D...these bids could have any meaning the partnership might choose to assign. 

(Perhaps the difference might be specifying individual suit quality?)

(4C shows Better Hearts than Spades vs 4D shows Better Spades than Hearts)