Dan Romm

Playing Puppet Stayman

What should be the meaning of 2NT – 3♣ – 3 – 3 – 3NT – 4 ?

I propose that it be a weak hand with 4-4 in the majors and a singleton or void in one of the minors. Why? Let’s suppose you hold xxxx, QJxx, x, J10xx and partner opens 2NT showing 20-21 HCP. What do you bid?

You can pass, but you will certainly be in an inferior spot if partner has a 4 or 5-card major. Furthermore, even if he doesn’t he is likely to hold four cards opposite your singleton so that 3NT, although still an underdog to make, should have a reasonable chance.

You can bid 3♣. If partner bids 3NT then again you have a reasonable chance to make as explained above. If he bids anything else you are delighted that you chose to bid 3♣. If he bids 3 of a major you should raise to game in your 5-4 fit. The critical case for purposes of this article is when partner bids 3 . In standard puppet you would bid 4 and let partner choose. But, if you bid 3 then you will be able to stop in 3♠ if partner has four (this will happen about 2/3 of the times that he bids 3 since it includes the hands where he has both majors). In this case, 3♠ is quite likely to be the best spot, esp. at match points since you will beat all the pairs that play 2NT, tie all those who are able to stop at 3♠, and only lose to those few who get to 4♠ and are lucky enough to make. If partner bids 3NT over 3 then you will still have to play in 4 (which you can do using my suggested meaning of your 4 bid), as will all the other puppet players. The only difference is that the weak hand will be declarer, but this a small price to pay since the lead is likely to be your singleton in which case there is little or no disadvantage.

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