Modifying Puppet Stayman
At MP’s, I find that playing 3NT is slightly better than playing in the 2NT opener’s major with a 5-3 fit provided that the major is concealed. For one thing, you have to make one more trick in the major. For another, it is surprising how often the opening lead is the concealed major, in which case they are stacked against you and you will do much better in 3NT. Finally, if opener has no losers in responder’s short suit then the ruffing value is negated. If your experience concurs with mine, I propose the following version of Puppet Stayman:
- It guarantees at least one four card major.
- If opener has a four or five card major, he bids 3♦ over 3♣ and the auction proceeds as in regular Puppet.
- Without a four or five card major, opener bids:
- 3♥ with a minimum,
- 3♠ with a maximum and a three card spade suit,
- 3NT with a maximum and a doubleton spade.
- Responder continues as follows:
- After 2NT – 3♣ – 3♥ or 3♠ or 3NT, or after 2NT – 3♣ – 3♦ – 3 of a major – 3NT:
- 4♣ is a slam try with clubs and a major (note, after 2NT – 3♣ – 3♠ this could be clubs with five spades).
- 4♦ is a transfer to hearts.
- 4♥ is a transfer to spades (with one exception, see iii).
- 4♠ is a slam try with diamonds and a major (note, after 2NT – 3♣ – 3♠ this could be diamonds with five ♠’s
- 2NT – 3♣ – 3♥ – 3♠ shows five spades and four hearts (this is not checkback with only a four card spade suit since responder has already guaranteed four spades).
- 2NT – 3♣ – 3♦ – 3♥ – 3NT – 4♥ is a weak 4-4 in the majors with a short minor. I also advocate this treatment playing regular Puppet.
Let’s explore the features of this approach.
- It allows responder to play in spades whenever he has five spades and four hearts and opener has three spades and fewer than four hearts. This won’t be possible in regular Puppet if opener bids 3NT over 3♣, but in modified Puppet responder merely bids 3♠ over 3♥ or transfers to 4♠ if opener bids 3♠.
- Knowing whether opener has a minimum or maximum has obvious advantages.
- Opener’s five card major, if he has one, remains concealed.
- The advantage of auction iii with a weak hand is that it gives responder a chance to pass if opener bids 3♠ over 3♥. With a better hand, as in regular Puppet responder would merely bid 4♦ over 3♦ to show 4-4 in the majors. Note – if opener doesn’t have spades then responder will be declarer rather than opener, but the lead is likely to be responder’s short suit so this disadvantage is minimized.