Discovering nuances of the Stayman

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In 1945 a famous bridge player named Sam Stayman published an article in The Bridge World about a new convention he and his partner were using to determine whether the team should be playing in No Trump or in a major suit, hearts or spades.

While the idea was actually his partner’s, George Rapee, the convention was forevermore called Stayman because Sam was the first one to get it published.

When partner opens 1NT and you hold a minimum of eight HCP and one or more four-card major suits, bid 2C to ask opener if he has one or more four-card major suits. If opener does not have a four-card major he bids 2D, which says, “Sorry, partner, I don’t have a four-card major.”

Why is this important?

When a team holds eight or nine cards in a major suit, the contract is better played in three or four of a suit instead of in NT. If you are holding seven or fewer points, pass.

Always bid your four-card majors “up the line;” thus, a 2H reply by opener doesn’t deny a four-card spade suit in addition to his four-card heart suit, but a 2S reply does deny holding four hearts.

Note: Responder is in charge of placing the contract in the right suit and the right level. Why? You know partner has a balanced hand and 15-18 HCP but opener doesn’t know your hand.

Since it takes 25-26 HCP to make game in NT and 26-27 in a major suit, do the following; with eight to nine HCP bid 2NT if partner bids 2D or the “wrong” major or invite partner to game by bidding three of the agreed-upon suit. Holding 10 or more points bid 3NT or four of the agreed-upon suit.

There is one special case where it’s OK to use Stayman with fewer than eight points. Let’s say you have really a poor hand with shortness in clubs, something like 4-4-4-1 distribution or 4-4-3-2. As responder you bid 2C to partner’s opening NT, then PASS whatever opener bids, hoping to get the partnership to a low-level suit contract and out of NT.

This is called “Garbage Stayman;” another contribution by reknowned teacher and expert Marty Bergen.

If you haven’t read Bergen’s Points Schmoints and More Points Schmoints, go to your nearest bookstore and order them.


Monday: Ida Pack and Boots Jennings, Nancy West and Sharon Cox. In the evening game Roy and Guy Martin finished first, ahead of Lorette and Clark Ogle, and John Lusco and Mac LaCasse.

Thursday: Winners were Jo Weatherly and Charlotte Lusco, ahead of Roy Martin and Brian Jones, Judy and Don Hasseld, John Lusco and Mac LaCasse, Judy Chase and Mel Dupuis, John Griffith and Jill Salmon.

Friday: We had nine tables this evening. Finishing first were John Lusco and Mac LaCasse with a 66.4 percent game, followed by Helen Thrasher and Diane Heath, Arlene Owens and Ann Dyer, Aileen and Odis Hill, Jerrie Friar and Mel Dupuis, Judy Chase and Bernie Liberman, Janet Johnson and Barbara Dawson, Eddie McDanal and Joyce Salem.

Saturday: Liz and Tom Milko finished first (we got Tom off the golf course) ahead of Jerrie Friar and James Lawrence, Jo Weatherly and Charlotte Lusco, John Lusco and Mac LaCasse, Sharon and Layton Cox, John Griffith and Jill Salmon.


The nine indicates either the top of nothing or two higher, in this case the top of nothing. At our table we received a low club (never lead from an ace!) and made five.

At trick two ruff a heart low on the board (2), then a club ruff in hand (3) followed by another heart ruff (4) and another club ruff in hand (5), followed luckily by a third heart ruff (6).

Lose the king of diamonds to East’s ace, who now must either lead a spade to your A-K-Q or a diamond from his J-9-7 to your Q-10-8 on the board (7). Either way, you’re on the board and can cash the top diamond (8), followed by the A-K-Q of trumps (9, 10, 11).

John Randall and his wife Linda run the Shelby COunty Brige Club. For more information, call