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When Samuel Stayman invented “Stayman Convention” (ca. 1945 – different than “Puppet Stayman”), he would not be thinking that his convention becomes a household name in almost every Bridge player in the planet. For example, it becomes so popular that in Australia, the player is not necessary to alert 2 bid after 1NT opening because literally everybody uses it.And with such popularity, it is only normal that a few variants come up trying to maximise the usefulness.
Samuel Stayman

Samuel Stayman (1909-1993), WBF Grand Master

So, “Puppet Stayman” is one of those major variations that are better than the original convention. Not only it can found out if the opener has 4-cards in Major suit, but also, it can differentiate it from a 5-cards one. To illustrate one of its function considers an example hand below:

T43 KQT32 QJ3 A3

with 13-HCP 3532 opener open 1. After that, with only 8-points and 3-cards support, the responder can just do a “simple raise” bid to 2.Here is the responder hand:

Q42 986 A9752 Q3

So, now imagine you have additional King that so the hand has 16-HCP and need to open 1NT:

KT3 KQT32 QJ3 A3

In this example, usually, without “Puppet Stayman” convention, even though partner has the same exact hand and point, with the hand above, it is unlikely you can play a Heart contract, i.e: 2, 3, even 4. Do try it with the “normal” Stayman convention!

1NT – 2 = Puppet Stayman

So, with 2 as “Puppet Stayman”, the responder needs to be:
  • Have at least 8-HCP (an invitational hand)
  • The responder’s hand is generally a balanced hand (nothing special). Similar to the classic 1NT-2NT balance invite hand. With good 1-suiter, good 2-suiter or 3-suiter: do not use Puppet Stayman.
Notes:
  • Check with your local Bridge authority whether “Puppet Stayman” is alertable [!]
  • All the bid and logic of this convention is also applicable for 2NT Strong Sequence

Opener’s Re-Bid:

1NT2(Puppet Stayman)
?
2:No 5-cards in Major, but I have one or two 4-cards in Major
2:I have 5-cards Heart
2:I have 5-cards Spade
2NT:No 5-cards major nor 4-card major

That’s it. The opener has no any other bid.

Subsequent Bid

After opener rebid 2

Now the responder needs to show what 4-cards Major that the responder has, in “transfer manner”. Meaning, bid the major that the responder did NOT have.

This is important to maintain that the stronger hand will be the one who plays. And if the responder did not have any 4-card major, just bid naturally.

1NT2(Puppet Stayman)
2??(No 5-cards in Major, but opener has one or two 4-cards in Major)
2:I have 4-cards Spade (bid what you do NOT have). If fit, opener then bid the major. If not, bid 2NT.
2:I have 4-cards Heart (bid what you do NOT have). If fit, opener then bid the major. If not, bid 2NT.
2NT:No 4-cards major, Invite – balance
3:No, 4 card M – natural 4+ card  Basically saying “If you have the other minor(), bid 3NT” – Opener now can bid 3NT or bid 4-cards Major that the opener has. (**)
3:No, 4 card M – Natural 4+ card . Basically saying “If you have the other minor (), bid 3NT” –  Opener now can bid 3NT (if has <span class=”d7C”>♣</span>) or bid 4-cards Major that the opener has.(**)
3NT:

Sign off

(**) with this naturally flowing bid, your partnership can avoid 3NT with one of the minor perhaps in only 2-2 fit. So, although the point are enough for the game, if there is no fit, can stop in level-3 or level-4 to play a 4-3 fit in Major – rather than a sure defeat in 3NT.

After opener rebid 2-Major

Once the opener bid 2 or 2, the responder should know what to do. Literally the responder now, already know 11 out of 13 cards in opener’s hand, i.e: 5 in major and 2 each in each other suit. What else you need to know?

So, all jump bid are “auto-fit” – opener need to assume that the responder is fit with the major the opener has. And as usual, a level above splinter is the Exclusion key card asking.

All NT bid and non-jump bid are natural 4+cards and showing no support in the major. 

1NT2(Puppet Stayman)
2?(Opener has 5-cards Heart)
2:Natural, 4+cards
2NT:Invite balance (no fit)
3:Natural, 4+cards (no fit)
3:Natural, 4+cards (no fit)
3:Invite to 4
3:Auto-fit. Splinter
3NT:Sign off
4:Auto-fit. Splinter
4:Auto-fit. Splinter
4:Sign off
4:Auto-fit. Exclusion key card in
4NT:Auto-fit. RKC in
5:Auto-fit. Exclusion key card in
5:Auto-fit. Exclusion key card in
1NT2(Puppet Stayman)
2?(Opener has 5-cards Spade)
2NT:Invite balance (no fit)
3:Natural, 4+cards (no fit)
3:Natural, 4+cards (no fit)
3:Natural, 4+cards (no fit)
3:Invite to 4
3NT:Sign off
4:Auto-fit. Splinter
4:Auto-fit. Splinter
4:Auto-fit. Splinter
4:Sign Off
4NT:Auto-fit. RKC in
5:Auto-fit. Exclusion key card in
5:Auto-fit. Exclusion key card in
5:Auto-fit. Exclusion key card in

After Opener rebid 2NT

If the opener re-bid 2NT, then by default, the opener has
  • At least a 3-2 in the Major suit
  • At least a 4-3 in the minor suit.
So, in a way, responder (and opponents!) know of at least 12 cards of opener’s hand.Using this knowledge, the responder should be able to decide the final contract. 4NT = Quantitative. 4= Gerber.

Defensive Bidding for Puppet Stayman

  • Upon opponent’s double: all system on (i.e ignore the Double)
  • Upon opponent’s 2 overcall:
    • If the 2 is artificial: e.g.: show one single suiter, show majors suit, etc) then double is a “replacement bid” (as if you bid that 2). In other words, Puppet Stayman is still on
    • If the 2 is natural: e.g: contains Club (Club and higher suit), natural C, etc, then Lebensohl sequence applies. Cannot use Stayman.
  • If opponent bid higher than 2: also you cannot use Puppet Stayman anymore.

Competitive Bidding for Puppet Stayman

If the opponent is using this convention, after 2 Stayman by the opponent:
  • Use DOUBLE as “lead-directing double” (have Clubs)
  • Other overcall is natural
  • All other convention that disturbs opponent 1NT opening is no longer active.
[Puppet Stayman Convention]