1NT - Stayman - Part 2


Game-Going 5-4 and 4-5 Hands


Suppose that we are 5-4 in the majors with game-going values.  How do we investigate the best game?  For example, we hold:







The straightforward approach is to use Stayman, and, if Opener rebids 2, we jump to 3♠.  Partner will usually bid 4♠ if he has 3 of the suit, otherwise he will try 3NT.  See a slight defect to this method?  Yes, if we end up in 4♠ it will be played from the wrong side, normally we would prefer for the 1NT opener to be Declarer.  Thatís why Smolen was invented.  Follow the link to this convention if you like, but simply put, Smolen works as follows:

            When Partner opens 1NT, and we are 5-4 in the majors with game values, we bid Stayman,

            and, if Partner rebids 2, then we bid 3 of our four-card, allowing Partner to play in 4 of

            the major.


Thereís a corollary to the above.  If we use Stayman for the good 5-4 and 4-5 hands, then what does this auction mean?

            1NT     2

            2♠        3

The transfer shows 5 Spades, and the 3 bid presumably does not show a 4-card suit (thatís a Stayman auction) so it makes sense for 3 here to be a 5-card suit.  Itís not the only interpretation for the bid, but we think that itís a sensible one.


Invitational 5-4 and 4-5 Hands


Two cases to consider.  First, letís suppose that we hold this hand:







Here, the prescribed procedure is to bid Stayman, and, if Partner rebids 2, we rebid 2♠.  This specific sequence shows this narrowly defined hand type Ö 5-4 in the majors, invitational values.







Same hand, but with the majors reversed.  This is not a Stayman hand at all Ö transfer to Hearts then bid 2♠ Ö showing specifically 4-5 in the majors and invitational values.


Weak 4-4 and 5-4 and 4-5 Hands


These hands are more difficult to get right, often there is some guesswork or luck involved.  Here are some sample hands opposite an opening 1NT:


J753                         This one looks like an excellent candidate for Garbage Stayman.

9765                         We really donít fancy our chances in 1NT, so why not try to

76                             improve matters in 2 of a major.  About half the time Opener will

T87                          will oblige us by having a 4-card major, the rest of the time weíll

                                    bid 2 over 2, planning to play in a 4-3 fit in Openerís major.

                                    Of course, once in a while, Opener will be 2-2-4-5 for his 1NT

                                    opening, and weíll be in a 4-2 fit, but such is life!


This is the so-called Garbage Stayman.  Responder bids Stayman out of the desire to escape from 1NT, rather than initiating a constructive auction.


J753                         Again we use Stayman, and again we have garbage, but our plan

9765                         here is not to invoke Garbage Stayman.  No, weíll pass whatever

76543                       Opener rebids, even if it is 2.  And, if we were 4-4-4-1, we

                                would bid the hand the same way Ö yes, we might find Opener

                                    with 3-3-2-5, and be in another 4-2 fit, but thatís a chance that we

                                    are willing to take.


87653                       What a miserable hand!  There is no guaranteed method for

9765                         playing this in your better major fit.  You can transfer to Spades

76                             if you like, but thatís a wild guess, you might miss a 4-4 Heart

T6                            fit.  Then again, you could go the Garbage Stayman route, and

                                    end up in the 4-3 Heart fit instead of the 5-3 Spade fit.  We did

                                    say that these hands are impossible to get right all of the time,

                                    didnít we?


JT986                       Now we have a bit of stuffing in our 5-card suit, and our choice

9765                         would be to transfer to Spades, giving up on Hearts.  Even if it is a

76                             5-2 fit those Spade fillers will be worth some tricks.



KJ54                        Here, the situation is slightly different.  Partner has 15-17, we have

Q532                        6 HCPís, so thereís no reason to tremble at the prospect of playing

T96                           1NT.  The issue here is whether to gamble on Stayman, hoping for

T4                            a better major suit contract (hopefully 4-4, but sometimes 4-3

                                    works fine, too).  Our own preference is to try Stayman, but we

                                    would not take issue with those who pass and let Partner play 1NT.


Roman Key Card Blackwood


How do you play this auction?


            1NT     2♣

            2        4♣


Our suggestion here is that you play this as Roman Key Card in Hearts.


For examples of Stayman from actual play, please follow this link to the Archives

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