M J Bridge

Theory and Conventions



Five-card Stayman

When playing that all balanced hands in the 12 to 14 point range (including those with a decent five-card major) are opened with a bid of 1NT, then you may well fear the possibility of finishing in a no trump contract when there is a significantly superior major suit contract available based on a 5-3 fit.

The obvious (though not the only) solution is to modify your Stayman enquiry so as to request opener to respond in a five-card major if he has one.  You probably already do something similar when facing a 2NT opener.

On the next three pages I offer three possible variations on the theme, but please read the observations lower down this page before committing yourself to any one of them.

2 is five-card Stayman promising invitational values

2 is five-card Stayman, not promising invitational values

3 is five-card Stayman

5-3-3-2 hands

Note that when you chose to open 5-3-3-2 hands with a five-card major in the range with 1NT you made a conscious decision.

It will have added a little to the definition of you hand (balanced or not) when bidding to game-level or higher, and it might have made it just that little bit easier to show a six-card holding in the major suit, but in return you will not infrequently find yourself playing a part-score in 1NT rather than in a superior two of the major.

At imps scoring (usually teams) this will be neither here nor there.

At match-pointed pairs you might find yourself with a poor score on a number of boards as a result.

This matter was discussed in the section on the opening bid.

For now I shall just repeat that those who play most of their bridge at match-pointed pairs should at least consider preferring to open one of the major if the suit is of any sort of reasonable quality.  Clearly the argument for playing 5-card Stayman will be correspondingly weakened.

Four-card Stayman need not be exclusive

Even if you choose to include those hands with a good five-card major and to retain four-card Stayman you will still be able to show your five-card suit on the majority of game-going hands.

The mechanisms are linked from the page on 5-3-3-2 hands under the opening bid.

Garbage Stayman

If you adopt ‘2 promises invitational values’ you will clearly lose your garbage Stayman sequences.

How important this is to you in the form of bridge which you play most often is up to you to decide.

5-4 in the majors

At an improvers’ level you will probably have a system for showing hands of invitational or game-going values which are 5-4 in the majors by way of a method starting with a a bid of 2 (4-card Stayman).

If you choose either of the 2 versions of five-card Stayman it is likely that these sequences will be lost.

Be certain to ensure that you put a suitable method in place at the same time as you change your Stayman bid.

Increasingly popular recently is the use of 3 as five-card Stayman, to be played alongside 2 as a more traditional form of four-card Stayman.

Recommended, provided that you can afford to dispense with any other meaning which might have been allocated to this bid.

Opener’s first bid

Opener’s rebid

This page last revised 16th Oct 2019

Intermediate and above

Context  -  Partner opened 1NT - RHO passed - intermediate and beyond - available bids - Stayman variations.