My family didn't really go on hikes. My father's idea of a hike is a long walk from the couch to the kitchen.
My wife's family likes to go on hikes which are nice little mile or so walks usually around a lake or other flat area. When Larry Cohen invited me and my wife (and our dog, Yeti) on a hike in Park City, I thought we could handle it. Six hours later, I decided I wouldn't go on a "hike" without clarification first.
When you and your partner agree to play a convention, it's not enough to say "Blackwood" or "Stayman". You need to know what each of you think those terms mean.
Stayman is perhaps the most important convention we play. It's also one of the first most players learn. But saying, "we play Stayman" isn't enough. There are a lot of auctions that involve Stayman and require discussion or further learning. Below is a complete guide to Stayman and it's followups. You don't have to learn all of it and I marked parts that I think are only for more advanced players with an asterisk. Here's the most important basic thought: once you use Stayman, a new suit on the 3-level is game forcing. New suits on the 2-level require agreement. Raise if partner bid the suit you wanted them to bid.
Okay, now we're going to get into the deep stuff, below. You've been warned.
First, let's talk about a surprise Stayman hand*. You hold:
Partner opens 1NT. You might already have your pass card out. Wait one second. This is a Stayman hand! Won't you be happier playing in 2, 2 or even 2 than playing in 1NT? Yes. So bid 2 and pass partner's response. This might fail occasionally (partner sometimes has five or six decent clubs), but will improve the contract a majority of the time. Your partner needs to understand that you might do this and not double if the opponents compete.
That's the one wrinkle to responder's first bid. Let's go back to opener. Opener's ONLY responses to Stayman are 2, 2 or 2. I see too many 2NT bids or jumps with a 5-card suit. See that hand above? Remember partner might have that before you get too excited.
We arrive at responder's rebid. We're at this point in the auction: 1NT--2--P--2/2/2--P--?
Let's discuss responder's choices after each of opener's bids.
After 2 by Opener
What does 2* by the responder mean? It used to be invitational with five hearts and four spades. Now, many players use it as "crawling" or "garbage" Stayman, showing a weak hand with both majors. Discuss with your partner. What about 2*? This could be invitational with spades and hearts. Experts like to use this sequence to show an unbalanced invite with JUST 5 spades, e.g.
2NT-Natural and invitational
3/3: Natural and game forcing. You would do this with four of a major and a 5+-card minor typically.
3/3: This is sometimes used as the convention "Smolen". It should shows 5 of one major and four of the other and is game forcing. Whether it shows five-of-the-bid-suit or not is a matter for discussion.
3NT--We know that one
4NT--Quantitative, invitational to slam if partner likes their hand.
I'm skipping 4/4/4/4 even though you might use them as delayed Texas or some other thing. You don't need to have all of these mean anything and I recommend skipping them until we have the other auctions down.
After 2 By Opener
Alright let's go back and keep moving with Stayman. Now our auction starts 1NT--P--2--P--2--P--?.
2*--This could be that unbalanced spade invite I discussed after opener's 2 response. Need agreement. Some play it's just invitational with 4 spades, which might be useful if you play 4-way transfers. If you don't play them (or have never heard of them) then don't worry. You don't have to make this bid.
2NT-- Natural invite, DENIES four hearts.
3/3--Natural, forcing AND shows 4 spades, not four hearts. With hearts, you raise.
3-- Invitational to game in hearts
3-- Our most underused bid. This is NOT natural. It can't be, partner will know you had spades with your next bid of clubs/diamonds/notrump! This is how you show a great hand with support for hearts. Having this tool available makes life so much easier.
3NT-- Shows game going values and four spades, not four hearts. With four hearts and game going values, bid 4!
4/4*-- Need agreement. Splinter would be my guess without agreement. Some experts play these as either slam tries or even keycard.
4-- Yup, let's play 4.
4NT-- QUANTITATIVE! You can set trumps by bidding 3 first. Notice how nice this will be for us with a hand like:
After 2 By Opener
Lastly, the auction 1NT--P--2--P--2
We'll play everything the same as over 2. The exception, of course, is that now 3 sets spades as trump and 3 is natural and invitational.
Alright! We've probably added some complications to your knowledge of Stayman. I tried to mark where I don't think you need to spend too much time. A few takeaways:
-New suits on the 3-level are always some kind of forcing bid
-If partner responds with a major, the way to show a raise and slam interest is to bid 3 of the other major.
-Notice how I didn't include any Gerber options? Good! You shouldn't care so much about aces. Quantitative invites are much more useful as partner may have enough aces for slam, but a bad hand meaning slam is unplayable. If partner has a good hand, that likely includes whatever aces you'll need.
We didn't deal with interference here. There are various methods to play, but I recommend learning this material first.