Seven Notrump

In which some people who play bridge blog about it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Stayman versus transfers

Hi. Pardon me if I don't introduce myself right now, except to say that Matos has an inflated opinion of my bridge skill.

At yesterday's game, hosted with pie and dips by the abundantly gracious Felicity, there was a discussion of the relative merits of the Stayman convention versus straight transfer bidding in response to a 1NT opening. I left in the middle of the discussion, actually, so let me know if I missed some important conclusion.

With straight transfers, responder simply names the suit under the one he/she favors, allowing the opener, who presumably has a stronger hand, to play the contract.

Stayman as I learned it, in combination with transfers, goes like this: In response to a 1NT opening, 2D shows five hearts, 2H shows five spades, 2S shows a five-card minor and no four-card major, and 2NT shows a balanced hand. (Any of these bids can be made at the 3-level instead, which promises maybe 12 points and is forcing to game.) A 2C response is Stayman, showing at least one four-card major suit.

Responses by opener to 2C are: 2D in the absence of a four-card major; 2H with four hearts (may also have four spades); 2S with four spades (implies less than four hearts).

In yesterday's play (we agreed to use Stayman at the outset) there were two hands where responder (me) passed 1NT because he had fewer than 8 high-card points, despite a nice long suit. If we were playing straight transfers I would have indicated that suit and in one case we could have bid and made 4S.

So what's the advantage of Stayman? It's weighted toward finding a major fit, whereas plain transfers generally wind up in responder's longest suit, whatever it may be. That can be a good or bad thing, I think. We ought to have a duplicate tournament to duke out the long-term results of the two conventions. What do you think?


  At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 12:22:00 AM, Blogger Lisa B. said:

I believe the theory behind Stayman is that a partnership with a 4-4 major fit plays better in the suit contract than in NT because the doubletons will provide ruffing ability and produce tricks.

When you use Stayman, the partner describes precisely that partner has 4 of the major and no more, whereas a transfer system without Stayman indicates a suit preference without communicating length.

You can still also use the transfer to show extreme length in spades or hearts (6 or more) with fewer than 8 high card points. The partner then passes, leaving the contract at a low level in the suit. Had we used this exception together with Stayman and transfers yesterday, perhaps those "missed" spade contracts would have been found.

Using Stayman and transfer, you can also show diamonds and clubs -- if you must -- but it gets expensive and is more than a little gaudy. You should still have 8 HCP for this.

To show extreme length in clubs (6 or 7), you can bid 2C in response to 1NT, and rebid 3C to show that the club bids are "sincere" rather than Stayman indicating 4 of a major.

To show extreme diamonds (6 or 7), bid 2C after the 1NT opener, and pass if the opener bids 2D under Stayman. However, opener may then bid 2H or 2S, and partner must go to 3D to show diamonds (also, as in the club scenario, jerking around opener who just thought a 4-4 major fit had been found).

Not only does it get expensive to show off in clubs and diamonds, but it's not nice to toy with your partner like that unless you have a very clear understanding. It also gives a lot of information to the opponent, which can be painful if opener and partner are both missing a stopper in the same suit. If you do have the points, the hand will probably play well in NT, where you can cash in the diamonds and clubs more discreetly.


  At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 2:50:00 PM, Blogger Paul said:

You can still also use the transfer to show extreme length in spades or hearts (6 or more) with fewer than 8 high card points. The partner then passes, leaving the contract at a low level in the suit.

I like that flexibility. But who's to say opener will pass?

  At Tuesday, June 27, 2006 9:01:00 PM, Blogger Lisa B. said:

Opener can't pass. "Transfer bid" here refers to the weak hand's artificial 2D (to show hearts) or 2H (showing spades) after 1NT, which forces the opener to bid the "true" long suit and allows the stronger closed hand to play.


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