Stayman with weak and invitational hands

The Stayman Convention is one of the most important conventions in bridge. It is used to look for a major-suit trump fit after partner opens 1NT .

This convention was named after Sam Stayman, one of the USA’s leading players in the 1940s and 1950s. The convention was invented by his partner, George Rapee. In 1945 Stayman wrote it up in Bridge World magazine and the convention was named after the writer, not the inventor. It is regarded as a part of all systems so it is the one convention you do not need to alert.

After partner opens 1NT, you respond 2♣ to ask the opener if they have a four-card major. The opener replies 2 with no four-card major, 2 with four cards in hearts and 2♠ with four cards in spades.

After the Stayman Convention the opener never replies 2NT or a higher bid. With no four-card major the correct reply is 2.

Example: Your hand is ♠AK3 J93 72 ♣AKJ82. After you open 1NT, partner responds 2♣, the Stayman Convention. Your correct reply is 2 to show no four-card major.

The Stayman Convention can be used with any strength hand. You may have 0 points and you may have 20 points. After your first bid is the Stayman convention, your second bid will show your strength. You show either a weak hand of 0 to 7 points, an invitational hand of 8 or 9 points, or a game-going hand of 10 or more points.

  • With a weak hand of 0 to 7 points you can choose to use the Stayman Convention if you have a shortage in clubs or you have a very weak hand. You usually then just pass partner’s reply.

Example: Partner opens 1NT and your hand is ♠876 Q1075 Q932 ♣J9. With a shortage in clubs, this hand is perfect for the Stayman Convention.

After you bid 2♣, partner replies 2. You now pass and reach the only making contract.

Stayman with weak hands is often called ‘rubbish Stayman’. A great idea but you need to know your partner is aware that you can have very weak hands to use the Stayman Convention.

  • After partner opens 1NT showing 15 to 17 points, you invite partner for a game contract when you have 8 or 9 points. There are two ways to show invitational strength of 8 or 9 points:
  1. The most common invitation is to bid 2NT. You show any hand with 8 or 9 points and no sure trump fit. Your hand may be balanced or unbalanced.

Example: Partner opens 1NT and your hand is ♠Q63 K742 A932 ♣95. After you respond 2♣, the Stayman Convention, partner replies 2♠ showing four cards in spades. Your second bid is 2NT.

  1. The other invitational response after the Stayman Convention is a raise of the suit shown by the opener or responder to the three level. A raise shows a certain trump fit in the suit.

If partner has shown a four-card major in reply to your Stayman response, you show four cards in the suit as well. Remember to add in shortage points so don’t raise to the three level if you have sufficient strength for a game contract.

Example: Partner opens 1NT and you hand is ♠63 K742 AJ93 ♣952. After you respond 2♣, the Stayman Convention, partner replies 2 showing four cards in hearts. You now bid 3.

© 2022 John Roberts