By Prof. Tony Campbell

VIRTUALLY every club player uses the Stayman convention to ask partner if they have a four card major after partner has opened with one no trump.

Typically, this is used when you have eleven or more points, and are looking for game in either a major or no trumps. But there are hands when Stayman is very useful even when you are weak. Such a hand turned up at Penarth Bridge Club late last year before we had to shut down because of Covid.

The Auction

North opened a conventional weak no trump with twelve points. Now what should her partner, South, bid? Several players as South simply bid two diamonds telling partner to transfer to two hearts. However, a few more astute Souths bid two clubs, Stayman, asking partner if she had a four card major, as it was possible she had four spades. If she responded two diamonds, denying four hearts or spades, South could escape by biding two hearts, which North should pass. However, here South got lucky as North had four cards in spades, so she bid two spades, which South passed. This bidding sequence also put West in a quandary. All he could do was double two clubs, telling his partner he had a good club suit. But after North’s two spade bid neither East or West wanted to risk bidding three clubs as they were vulnerable, and it might cost them at 200, or even 500, for a bottom if they were doubled.

The play

East led the queen of clubs, which won. A second club was ruffed in dummy. North looked carefully at the hand and could see that she might be able to discard her losing diamonds on dummy’s last two hearts. But first she needed to draw trumps. So, she led a small spade from dummy and took the spade finesse with the queen, which lost to East’s King. East was now in a dilemma. North must have at least twelve points for her opening bid.

She had no club honours, so she must have two of the top three honours in diamonds. Nevertheless, there wasn’t much option but to play the five of diamonds, a MUD lead (Middle, Up, Down). West saw no hope but to win with the ace and return another diamond, which declarer won with the king. She then drew the last two trumps with dummies jack and then her ace of spades.

She followed this with the jack of hearts, which East won with the ace. It was now all over, as North had the rest of the tricks. She won the next diamond played by East with the queen, and started to cash the hearts, first with her ten and then the king and queen, in dummy, discarding one losing diamond. She followed this with the eight that was now established, discarding her second losing diamond. So, North made nine tricks – losing just the king of spades, the three aces of hearts, diamonds and clubs, for a score of 140.

Well bid and played. Now let’s see what happens to two hearts for those using the transfer bid of two diamonds by South instead of Stayman. East started with the queen of clubs that West wisely overtook with the ace and played a spade. North played low and East won the trick with his king. He then played another spade which dummy won with his jack. But now North was going to lose an extra trick. He led a heart from dummy, and declarer’s jack was overtaken by East’s ace. East then returned his third spade which West ruffed. West then played the jack of diamonds that declarer won with his king.

He then drew the last two trumps held by East, ending up in dummy. He now had to be very careful. He must play a diamond, as he knows West must hold the ace. If he plays the jack of spades instead, he is trapped in hand, and has to lead away for the queen of diamonds, as he has no more entries to dummy. One down, with East/West winning six tricks - the king of spades, the ace of hearts, a ruff of a spade, two diamonds and one club.

One no trump would have been a disaster, as after East’s initial lead of the queen of clubs at trick one East/West win the first six tricks with West’s clubs, followed by the king and spades and two aces, for a loss of 300 by North/South. Interestingly, without the two club Stayman bid East/West might find their good contract of three clubs, which makes if they are left in it.

What have we learnt?

1. Stayman can be very useful if you have five/four in the majors, even if you don’t have many points.

2. A four-four fit in one the majors is often better than a five-three fit in the other major, as the five card suit offers the chance to discard losers from declarer’s hand.

Club news

We have now had two Zooms with an improvers group, after the email from a regular Penarth Times reader. She asked if I could help her group develop their bridge skills. We discuss opening bids, responses, leads, and how to play a hand as declarer.

Let me know if you would like to join us. It is a lot of fun. Peter Sampson’s ladder competition continues to be a success, continuing for 28 weeks with 24 competing pairs. Current leaders are Angela and Rod Hudson, followed by Peter Millar and Mick Green, with Angela Hudson and Carolyn Matthews in third place, and Peter Sampson and Ann Simpson fourth

Further information

If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me, Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up!