By Prof Tony Campbell

LAST week we saw the importance of using the Stayman convention when your partner opens one no trump, so that you can find a 4/4 fit in a major suit. As promised, this week here is a hand that turned up a few months ago where the opener had a lot of points, 22 in fact with a five card spade suit. So was three no trumps or four spades the best contract to end up in? To discover this, a convention called puppet Stayman is required.

The Auction

North’s opening of two no trumps showed 21-22 points. South has five points, so wants to end up in game. Many players with South’s hand and no four card major would simply bid three no trumps, as holding five points the two hands between them must have 25 or 26 points. But what if North has five spades or five hearts? A 5/3 spade fit means four spades is a better contract than three no trumps. In order to find this you need to use a modification of the convention that normally seeks out 4/4 fits in a major. This is puppet Stayman. The word “puppet” is bizarre, but originates from terminology used in the magazine Bridge World, where a puppet instructs partner to make the cheapest bid possible. The convention is reported to have appeared in articles published by Bridge World in 1977-1978. The US player Neil Silverman is credited with the concept, but it was refined by another US expert player Kit Woolsey. There are now many permutations. If North holds five cards in a major, as here, game in a major is likely to be safer than three no trumps. This is where puppet Stayman fits in. After an opening by partner of two no trumps, if you have a three card major you should now bid three clubs. The opener with a five card major bids it, and you convert to four. A complication is when the opener has a four card major. In this case he responds with the artificial “puppet” bid of three diamonds. Partner again confuses everyone by bidding the major he does not have, and then the opener decides between three no trumps or four of a major. If the two no trump opener has neither a four nor a five card major he bids three no trumps in response to his partner’s three club bid.

The play

East led the ace and then five of diamonds, hoping for a diamond ruff in his partner’s hand. Declarer won the second diamond with the king and played a small spade, which was won by East’s ace. He returned another diamond, which was won by North’s king, who played another spade, won by West’s king. A club from West was then won by North’s ace, who drew the last trump, and claimed the rest of the tricks, making the contract of four spades – three spades, three hearts, two diamonds and two clubs, for a top. Players who did not use puppet Stayman ended up in three no trumps. A small club lead from East was won by North’s ace, who then played a small spade, won by East’s ace. Another club removed declarer’s last club stop, winning it with the king. West then won the next spade with his king, and played the queen and then the ten of clubs, followed by a small diamond to East’s ace, East/West winning five tricks - two spades, one diamond and two clubs leaving three no trumps one off,

What have we learnt?

1. It is vital to play puppet Stayman after an opening of two no trumps as a five/three major fit is likely to be better that three no trumps.

2. Puppet Stayman is quite complicated if the opener does not have a five card major, but well worth it, and superior to simple Stayman that only asks for four card majors.

Further information

I wonder what you did during the long lockdown. I spent a lot of my time writing a scientific mystery novel I have been meaning to write for thirty years. Its title is Mirror Image – what Darwin missed. It is available at Griffin Books, Penarth, and also online at The story is set in the stunning scenery of Anglesey. The hero, surprise-surprise, is a brilliant biochemist and a keen bridge player. There is a whole chapter based at the local bridge club, with an amazing, even crazy, hand I am sure you will enjoy. In spite of many shops, restaurants and pubs opening, sadly there is little chance of bridge clubs resuming in the near future. Penarth and other Wales’ clubs have many members over 60. We are the high risk group, and must be protected. Professor Brian Morgan, of Cardiff Metropolitan University, and I are setting up a Wales COVID communication group between the business, education, science and arts sectors to help find creative solutions to the restrictions the SARS-Cov2 coronavirus has imposed on us. See If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is very good and may be open again for new registrations. BBO is still open for registrations. Contact for information. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.