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Weekly updates from Kit Jackson offering hints and tips for the modern Bridge player. Enjoy!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Stayman With a Weak Hand – 11 March 2010

There seems to be an idea floating about that you need a certain number of points to respond with Stayman (or Transfers) to an opening 1NT by partner. I do not wish to denigrate any other
teachers/mentors you may have had but believe me – this is not true.

Let’s say partner opens 1NT (will they never stop bidding?) and you hold this collection:


There is no game, so you should you pass? No you’ll be much better playing with a trump suit. You could of course bid 2D, transfer to hearts, but why back one horse in a race when you can back two? Weak hands like this with 5-4 in the major suits are fine for Stayman. You bid 2C and if partner has either four hearts or four spades you will reach a playable spot. Partner bids either of these two suits and you just pass. Partner of course may not have read the script and lacking a 4-card major bids a wooden 2D. Don’t they always? Still, no big problem, we just bid 2H anyway. We are no worse off than if we had transferred to hearts in the first place, but along the way we had a look for a spade fit. Partner just passes 2H and that’s where we play.

What about this? This is real garbage:


Surely you can’t let partner suffer in 1NT. If you do PASS, about 999 times out of 1,000 Left Hand Opponent (LHO) will bid something. LHO may bid a suit, but much more likely will double. Partner will mostly pass (though they could bid a 5 carder on their own) RHO passes and then what? Which suit do you rescue to? You surely can’t PASS. How much easier it would have been if you'd bid 2C BEFORE LHO had chance to say anything.

Apart from paving the way for a safer contract for yourselves you now seriously muddy the water for LHO. Opponents of course may not know you’re bidding Garbage Stayman; it sounds the same as ordinary Stayman (doh, that’s because it is!). But after 1NT PASS - 2C - PASS 2H PASS PASS what does LHO’s double mean? Have the opponents discussed it? Is it penalty or Take-out? RHO might bid 3D and run into a mis-fit. Seriously good news.

The moral is that even though you may have zero points, it will sometimes be incumbent upon you to bid. Just because you don’t have many HCP doesn’t relieve you of your partnership duties. One of those duties is to think; and keep thinking how you can manoeuvre yourselves into the best, or even more probably, the least worst option for your side.

Using Stayman with weak hands comes with a warning thoough. Be very careful: in reply to Stayman partner will bid one of 3 options : 2D, 2H, 2S, depending on their hand. If any of these responses could cause embarassment then save Stayman for another day.


Yes, you have a nice 4-card suit but what happens if instead of hearts partner bids 2S? Oops, all you can do is suddenly remember a vital engagement in Rotherham.

Opener Stays Calm!

The corollary of all this bidding Stayman with a weak hand is that the 1NT trump bidder must not get over-excited just because partner bids.

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