L.I.P.S - Low Information Puppet Stayman

January 4, 2001

(borrowed from http://www.enteract.com/~kfeiler/bridge/system/puppet.htm)

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There are two problems with most forms of Stayman: (1) they give away too much information to the opponents, and (2) they assume that the 1NT opener has a normal NT distribution, i.e. no five card major, no six card minor, and not a 5-4-2-2 hand. Using simple Stayman, for instance:

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Kx  S-Axxx  1NT  2C
H-KTxx  H-Qxx  2H  3NT
D-Axx  D-xx  P   
C-KQxx  C-Axxx     

The auction is simple and the contract is correct, but we've unnecessarily informed the opponents that opener has a four card heart suit. Why did we do that? Responder didn't want to know about opener's four hearts, and opener and responder certainly didn't want to help their opponents defend the eventual 3NT contract by telling them about opener's four hearts, but their system forced opener to give responder information he didn't want and to give their opponents information that they were very much interested in knowing. Perhaps this will have no effect at all on the defense; perhaps it will have a dramatic effect when the opening leader has a natural heart lead but leads diamonds instead; most likely it will have a subtle effect, the defenders will be able to count out declarers hand faster and will make better plays and fewer mistakes toward the end of the hand.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Kx  S-Axxx  1NT  2C
H-KJxxx  H-Qxx  2H  3NT
D-Axx  D-xx  P   
C-KQx  C-Axxx     

The auction is the same but the contract is incorrect because responder has no way to find out about opener's five card major.

Both of these criticisms apply to systems involving simple Stayman and Jacoby. Two-Way Stayman and even the form of Puppet Stayman where the initial Stayman response denies a five card major but shows whether or not he has a four carder solve the five card major problem but give away even more information to the opponents. Playing Two-Way Stayman, for instance, some pairs might have this silly auction:

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-QJx  S-Kxx  1NT  2D
H-Ax  H-KJxxx  3C  3H
D-Kxx  D-Axx  3NT  P
C-AQxxx  C-xx      

Here the opponents know Opener's exact distribution before play has even started! And all Responder really wanted to know was whether his partner had three hearts.

This type of bidding persists for two reasons: first, because many of the bad results it causes are obscured by the fact that everyone plays more-or-less the same system, and second, because bad results that are actually caused by giving away too much information are chalked up to good defense by the opponents.

The following system is a form of Puppet Stayman that emphasizes not giving away information.

Initial Responses

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Open     Resp
1NT  ?

    2C  =  Puppet Stayman. Maximum of one 4+ card major. Invitational or better.
    2D  =  Both majors, any strength.
    2HS  =  To play.
    2NT  =  Minor suit signoffs or set-suit slam tries.
    3CD  =  Minor suit consolidation game tries.
    3HS  =  Singleton. Two or fewer cards in the other major.
    3NT  =  To play.
    4CD  =  South African.
    4HS  =  To play.

Most of this writeup is devoted to auctions beginning 1NT-2C, but since the meaning of those auctions depends on the other options that responder has available, we'll begin by discussing the less frequent auctions first.

2D Response

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The unusual bid in this set of responses is the 2D bid showing both majors. These hands are the weak link in most Puppet Stayman systems. Here are some hands to illustrate the problems:

#1       #2       #3
S-xxxx  S-Kxxx  S-KJxx
H-xxxx  H-KJxx  H-KJxx
D-x  D-Qxx  D-x
C-xxxx  C-xx  C-Qxxx

Responder#1 wants to get out of 1NT before the doubling starts but if, using ordinary Puppet Stayman, he bids 1NT-2C, 2D-2H opener may well bid 2NT or even 3NT. Responder#2 can bid 1NT-2C, 2D-2H but if opener bids 2NT he may have to pass without finding out whether opener has 4 hearts. Responder#3 has the problem that even if he finds out that opener has no 4 card major he still doesn't know whether 3NT is the right contract.

The 2D response actually turns these deficiencies of normal Puppet Stayman into strengths and eliminates the 4-4 in the majors problem hands from the 2C auctions.

With a few rare exceptions, opener replies to 2D by bidding his best major, hearts with equal majors.

Open     Resp
1NT  2D

    2H  =  Hearts equal to or longer than spades. At least 3.
    2S  =  Spades longer than hearts.
    2NT  =  2-2-4-5 or 2-2-5-4 distribution.
    3CD  =  6 card suit.
    3HS  =  5 card suit.

After the normal 2HS bid by opener, responder can describe almost any hand containing both majors.

Open     Resp
1NT  2D
2H  ?

    Pass  =  Weak hand with both majors.
    2S  =  5 spades, 4 hearts. Invitational.
    2NT  =  4-4 in the majors. Invitational.
    3C  =  3 suiter short in either minor. Game forcing.
    3D  =  Flat hand slam try.
    3H  =  5 hearts. Invitational.
    3S  =  5 spades, 4 hearts. Game forcing.
    3NT  =  4-4 in the majors. Game values.
    4CD  =  Splinter raise. 5+ card support. Slam try.
    4H  =  5 hearts. Game values.
    4NT  =  Ace asking. Sets partner's major as trump.

The auctions where opener bids 2S are almost the same:

Open     Resp
1NT  2D
2S  ?

    Pass  =  Weak hand with both majors.
    2NT  =  4-4 in the majors. Invitational.
    3C  =  3 suiter short in either minor. Game forcing.
    3D  =  Flat hand slam try.
    3H  =  4-6 in the majors. Invitational.
    3S  =  5 spades. Invitational.
    3NT  =  4-4 in the majors. Game values.
    4CD  =  Splinter raise. 5+ card support. Slam try.
    4H  =  4-6 in the majors. Game values.
    4S  =  5 spades. Game values.
    4NT  =  Ace asking. Sets partner's major as trump.

The fact that opener will bid hearts with equal majors means that a spade bid shows either a 4 card suit or 3-2 in the majors and, in either case, responder doesn't have to worry about missing a 5-3 heart fit if he has 4-5 in the majors. Here are some hands:

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Axx  S-Kxxx  1NT  2D
H-Kx  H-QJxxx  2S  3NT
D-AQxx  D-xx  P   
C-Kxxx  C-Ax     

Opener will convert 3NT to 4S if he has a 4-card suit.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Kx  S-AQxxx  1NT  2D
H-Qxx  H-Kxxx  2H  2S
D-AKxx  D-xx  P   
C-Kxxx  C-xx      

If responder has a slam-going hand he has four lines of continuation:

    3C  =  3 suiter (4441 or 5440). Game forcing.
    3D  =  Flat hand slam try. 4432 distribution.
    4CD  =  Splinter raise. Sets partner's major as trump. Slam try.
    4NT  =  Ace asking. Sets partner's major as trump.

These auctions relate to the three kinds of slam going hands responder might have: a flat hand, a three-suiter, and a big major two-suiter. The last two auctions, 4CD and 4NT, show the big major two-suiter with 5+ card support. They set partner's major as trump. In the other auctions, 3C and 3D, it isn't yet known whether an eight card major suit fit exists and there are still possibilities for minor suit contracts.

If responder shows a 3 suiter by bidding 3C, opener asks for the short suit by bidding 3D. A 3H response shows short clubs and 3S shows short diamonds. This theme of hearts pointing to clubs and spades pointing to diamonds is used in several places in this writeup.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-KQx  S-Axxx  1NT  2D
H-Qx  H-KJxx  2S  3C
D-AQxx  D-Kxxx  3D  3H
C-Axxx  C-x  4D  4S
      6D  P

After the short suit is identified, it's important for opener to let reponder know where the contract is to be played. Here opener identifies diamonds as the spot. Opener's 4S would show a minimum and he can use 4 of the known short suit as a good 4S bid, i.e.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-KQxx  S-Axxx  1NT  2D
H-Qx  H-KJxx  2S  3C
D-AQx  D-Kxxx  3D  3H
C-Axxx  C-x  4C  6S

If responder uses the 3D flat hand slam try, opener rebids his major to show that his original suit was a real 4-carder. 4CD denies a real 4-card major and shows a 5-cd suit. 3NT denies a 4 card major and a 5-cd minor. If opener first bids hearts and then spades he's showing 4-4 in the majors. If he first bids spades and then hearts, it should be taken as a cue bid with real spades.

Open     Resp
1NT  2D
2H  3D

    3H  =  Shows 4 card suit. The suit is now set.
    3S  =  Shows 4-4 in the majors. Hearts or spades are playable.
    3NT  =  Denies holding a 4 card major or a 5-cd minor.
    4CD  =  Denies holding a 4-card major, shows a 5-cd minor.


Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-KQx  S-Axxx  1NT  2D
H-Qx  H-KJxx  2S  3D
D-AQxx  D-KJx  3NT  4NT
C-Axxx  C-Kx  6NT  P

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Qxxx  S-Axxx  1NT  2D
H-KQx  H-AJxx  2S  3D
D-Qxx  D-KJx  3S  3NT
C-AQxx  C-Kx  4C  4H
      4S  P

Responder stuck in a 3NT bid just to make the cue bidding easier. Why not? The 3S bid set the suit.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Qxx  S-Axxx  1NT  2D
H-Kx  H-AJxx  2S  3D
D-AQxxx  D-KJx  4D  4H
C-Axx  C-Kx  5C  5D
      6D  P

Opener's 5-cd minor hit paydirt.

These auctions easily and conveniently take care of hands with both majors and they mean that when responder uses Stayman, he has at most one 4+ card major.

2NT Response

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An interesting aspect to this system is that one of the most common auctions after a 1NT opener, a natural, invitational 2NT, is rarely used. Although not impossible, it's difficult to even construct a hand where you would want to make a natural, invitational raise without first checking to see if opener had a five card major or some off-shape hand. Consider these candidates:

#1       #2
S-Axx  S-Ax
H-xxx  H-xx
D-Qxx  D-Qxxx
C-Kxxx  C-Kxxx

Even with the ruffless Responder-1 hand, a 5-3 spade fit might be preferable to a NT contract, and Responder-2 may as well check to see if his partner opened some hand with 2-2-4-5 or a six card club suit. The point is that there is no charge in terms of information for checking. Many Jacoby variations use 2NT as a conventional bid but they pay an enormous price for that priviledge in terms of having to use ordinary Stayman -- with all the information it gives away -- to make a simple, natural raise. These Puppet Stayman auctions also use a conventional 2NT and 2C followed by 2NT for a natural raise but here, the auction almost always goes 1NT-2C, 2D-2NT, and only a tiny bit of information is given away.

2NT is a minor suit sign-off or a one-suited slam try. This is in combination with 3CD which are minor suit consolidation game tries. After 2NT, opener bids 3C, more-or-less automatically and responder either passes, bids 3D as a sign-off, or shows his one-suiter slam try.

Open     Resp
1NT  2NT
3C  ?

    Pass  =  Club signoff.
    3D  =  Diamond signoff.
    3HS,4CD  =  Sets the suit and requires cue bidding from opener.


Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Axxx  S-xx  1NT  2NT
H-Axxx  H-xxx  3C  3D
D-Kx  D-QJxxxx  P   
C-Axx  C-xx      

The normal 2NT auction.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Ax  S-KQJxxxx  1NT  2NT
H-QJxx  H-Kxx  3C  3S
D-AKxx  D-Void  4D  4S
C-Jxx  C-Qxx  P   

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Ax  S-KQJxxxx  1NT  2NT
H-AQxx  H-Kxx  3C  3S
D-Jxxx  D-Void  4C  4D
C-AJx  C-Qxx  4H  5D
      6S  P

These hands are difficult to bid using just South African. After 1nt-4D; 4S Responder really has no idea whether to continue.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-xxxx  S-Void  1NT  2NT
H-AKxx  H-xx  3C  4C
D-AQx  D-Kxx  4D  4S
C-Kx  C-AQJxxxxx 5H  5S
      7C  P

Or something like that.

3CD Response

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These "consolidation suit" bids are six card, one-loser suits with little or nothing outside. A fitting honor in opener's hand will produce six playing tricks in 3NT. Without that fitting honor, responder's hand will be useless in 3NT and must be played in three of responder's suit.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-JTxx  S-xx  1NT  3C
H-Axxx  H-xx  3NT  P
D-AKx  D-xxx      
C-Ax  C-KQJxxx      

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-AJxx  S-xx  1NT  3C
H-Axxx  H-xx  P   
D-AKx  D-xxx     
C-xx  C-KQJxxx     

3HS Response

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The 3HS response shows at most 1 card in the suit you bid and at most 2 cards in the other major, i.e. it can be anywhere between void-void and 2-1. If opener is heavily stacked in the majors he bids 3NT, else the partnership goes fishing for minor suit contracts. This is the first of three sections that deal with singleton/void major suits. Keep an eye out for ways to show 3-1 or 4-1 in the majors.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-AQx  S-x  1NT  3S
H-KJxx  H-xx  3NT  P
D-Axx  D-KQxxx      
C-Qxx  C-KJxxx      

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Axx  S-x  1NT  3S
H-KJxx  H-xx  4D  5D
D-Axxx  D-KQxxx  P   
C-Ax  C-KJxxx      

How opener should decide whether to bid 3NT or try a minor is not always clear. With double stoppers in the majors 3NT is obvious. With a single stopper consisting of secondary honors (e.g. QJT) it may also be better to bid 3NT since those cards will be worthless in 5CD. Here opener's spade stopper is the ace and he has a minor suit to bid.

2C Response

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Clickable links within this section.

Having discussed the other options responder has after a 1NT opener, what sort of hand does he have to bid 2C? First, he's invitational or better. All the sign-off auctions use other sequences: 1NT-2HS for the majors, 1NT-2NT for the minors, 1NT-2D for both majors, and for both minors...well, ok, so there's no signoff bid showing both minors. Second, because of the 1NT-2D auctions, he has at most one 4+ cd major and he won't show it unless responder specifically asks about it. Third, he doesn't have either a very strong one-suiter or a consoldidation suit one suiter since other auctions handle those hands. So his most usual hand is relatively flat with a 3 to 5 card major that's a good candidate for the final contract. He may also turn up with a hand containing 3-1, 4-1 or 5-1 in the majors where he's worried about playing 3NT -- this extends the idea presented in the 1NT-3HS auctions. Auctions other than these are slam going.

Here are the initial Stayman responses:

Open     Resp
1NT  2C

    2D  =  No 5 card major, no 6 cd minor, and denies 5-4 in the minors.
    2HS  =  5 card major
    2NT  =  2-2-4-5 or 2-2-5-4 distribution. Minimum.
    3CD  =  6 card minor.
    3H  =  2-2-4-5 distribution. Maximum.
    3S  =  2-2-5-4 distribution. Maximum.

Notice that the 2D response says nothing about opener's 4 card majors. It doesn't say that he has one and it doesn't say that he doesn't have one.

Responder continues:

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  ?

    2H  =  Asks about spades. At least 4 spades. Invitational or better.
    2S  =  Asks about hearts. At least 4 hearts. Invitational or better.
    2NT  =  Invitational. Probably no 4 card major.
    3C  =  Minor Suit Puppet Stayman. Game force. Slam interest.
    3D  =  Both minors. Game force. Slam interest.
    3HS  =  Singleton. 3 cards in the other major.
    Games  =  To play.

Notice that 2C doesn't show a 4 card major. It can be a check for 5 card majors, the beginning of a minor suit slam investigation, a check on major suit stoppers, or a 5+ card major. Here are some possible 2C bids:

#1       #2       #3       #4
S-Axx  S-Ax  S-x  S-AQxxx
H-xx  H-Kx  H-KJx  H-xx
D-AQxx  D-Axxxx  D-Qxxxx  D-Axx
C-Qxxx  C-Kxxx  C-Axxx  C-xxx

Responder#1 is looking for a 5-3 spade fit, if opener responds 2D he will bid 3NT. Responder#2 is interested in minor suit slams, if opener bids 2D he will bid 3D (Both Minors). Responder#3 is interested in a 5-3 heart suit fit but he is also worried about the spade suit for 3NT, if opener bids 2D he will bid 3S. Responder#4 wants to determine opener's spade length, he will bid 2H after opener's expected 2D.

When responder asks about a major, opener shows his support for it and whether he is minimum or maximum by step responses:

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  2HS

    2S  =  2 card (spade) support. Minimum.
    2NT  =  After 2H, 3 card spade support.
        After 2S, 2 or 3 card heart support.
    3C  =  2 card support. Maximum.
    3D  =  3 card support. Maximum.
    3 of responder's major  =  4 card support. Minimum.
    3 of the other major  =  4 card support. Maximum.

The first two steps must show minimum hands with less than 4 card support since we might want to pass the hand out at 2NT. The hands with 4 card support are shown at the highest level since we know we will play in the major. Raise-to-3 (of the real suit) and the other major are used instead of steps to make sure that the NTer plays the hands.

Here are opener's continuations after responder asks about spades.

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  2H

    2S  =  2 card support, minimum.
    2NT  =  3 card spade support, minimum.
    3C  =  2 card support. Maximum.
    3D  =  3 card support. Maximum.
    3H  =  4 card support. Maximum.
    3S  =  4 card support. Minimum.

When responder asks about hearts the first two steps are compressed into one in order to stay below the 2NT level.

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  2S

    2NT  =  2 or 3 card support, minimum.
    3C  =  2 card support. Maximum.
    3D  =  3 card support. Maximum.
    3H  =  4 card support. Minimum.
    3S  =  4 card support. Maximum.

How the auction continues depends on whether opener showed a minimum or maximum and whether he showed 4 card support for responder's suit. First, 4-card support for responder's suit sets the suit. Any further new suit bids are cue bids looking for slam. Second, if opener shows a maximum the partnership is forced to game. Responder's 2C was invitational, so the equation is:

Invitational + Maximum = Game.

Three special auctions exist:

  1. Responder can show a singleton or void in the other major.
  2. When opener shows a maximum with 4 card support (3 of the other major), responder can choose who becomes declarer.
  3. The auction 1NT-2C, 2D-2S, 2NT is unclear as to whether opener has 2 or 3 card support, responder can clarify that situation.

What can these auctions mean?

Open     Resp            Open     Resp
1NT  2C  1NT  2C
2D  2H  2D  2S
2S,2NT,3CD  3H  2NT,3CD  3S

Responder first asked about one major and then bid the other. It can't be a cue bid since opener denied 4 card support, and it can't be a suit since responder would have bid 2D with 4-4 in the majors. This bid shows shortness, i.e. 4+ cards in the indicated major and 1- in the other.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Jxx  S-x  1NT  2C
H-Kxx  H-AQxx  2D  2S
D-AQxx  D-Kxxx  2NT  3S
C-KQx  C-Jxxx  4D  5D

Notice that we can now show 2-1, 3-1, or 4-1 in the majors. 2-1 is shown by the direct 3HS bid in the short suit, 3-1 is shown by first asking for a 5-cd major and then jumping to 3HS in the short suit, and 4-1 is shown by auctions like the above.

After opener shows 4-cd support for responder, what should a 3NT bid mean? If opener has shown a minimum hand by raising responder's real suit, it should be taken as a cue bid -- we don't locate 4-4 major suit fits and then sign off in 3nt -- but if opener shows a maximum raise by bidding the other major there is a more important use for the bid, making opener the declarer.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Qxx  S-Axx  1NT  2C
H-AQxx  H-Kxxx  2D  2S
D-AQx  D-Kxxx  3S  3NT
C-Kxxx  C-xx  4H  P

After a maximum raise responder uses 3NT to transfer opener back to 4 of the agreed suit. The result of this is that Opener can become declarer on all 4-4 major suit fits, and, if opener shows a maximum with 4-cd support, responder also has the option to decide to make himself declarer.

Following is the worst sequence in this system:

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  2S
2NT  ?

Opener has shown 2 or 3 hearts with a minimum hand, if opener has 5 hearts and an invitational hand he won't know whether to pass or bid 3H. If responder has an invitational hand, that's the one insoluable problem in the system, but if he has a game forcing hand he can continue with an artificial 3D to create a game force and ask for opener's exact length.

    3D  =  Artificial game force. Asks number of hearts.

If responder bids 3D in this auction, opener will respond 3H = 2 and 3S = 3. If opener shows 3 hearts the suit is assumed to be "set" in hearts and any new suits should be taken as cue bids. If he shows 2 hearts, the suit is not set and new suits are natural. In the auctions where responder has spades, opener's length is already known and the 3D bid becomes a game forcing, slam invitational spade raise. i.e.

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  2H
2S,2NT  3D

...is a game forcing, slam invitational spade raise. Opener should cue bid.

If opener shows 4 cards in responder's suit the auctions are straightforward, new suits are slam-going cue bids and 4NT is RKCB. But after the reponses that show 2 or 3 cards there are more options and things are less clear. Following are two tables showing what responder's bids mean after opener's 2 or 3 card responses. First after responder asked about spades with a 2H bid.

After 2S,2NTAfter 3CD
2NT To play -
3C Puppet for minors -
3D Sets the suit in spadesNatural. GF
3H Singleton Heart Singleton Heart
3S To play Set suit slam try
4CD ??? ???
GamesTo play To play

Next after a 2S bid asking about hearts.

After 2NTAfter 3CD
3C Puppet for minors -
3D GF. Asks numberof heartsNatural. GF
3H To play Set suit slam try
3S Singleton spade Singleton spade
4CD ??? ???
GamesTo play To play

Here are some sample hands.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Kxxx  S-Axxx  1NT  2C
H-Kxx  H-Qxx  2D  2H
D-AJxx  D-xxx  3S  P
C-Ax  C-Kxx     

Opener shows a minimum with 4 card support and responder signs off.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Kxxx  S-Ax  1NT  2C
H-AQx  H-Kxxx  2D  2S
D-KJxx  D-Axxx  3D  4D
C-Kx  C-Axx  4H  4S
      6D  P

Opener shows a maximum with 3 card support for hearts. Responder then shows his diamond suit.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Axx  S-x  1NT  2C
H-AQx  H-Kxxx  2D  2S
D-QJx  D-Axxxx  3D  3S
C-Kxxx  C-QJx  4C  4D
      5D  P

Opener shows a maximum with 3 card heart support and responder shows his singleton spade. Opener decides that one spade stopper isn't sufficient so he starts looking for other contracts.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-AJx  S-xxx  1NT  2C
H-Kxx  H-AQxxx  2D  2S
D-xx  D-Axx  2NT  3D
C-AKxxx  C-xx  3S  4H

Opener shows 2 or 3 card support and a minimum so responder asks with 3D and learns that he has 3.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-xxx  S-KQTxx  1NT  2C
H-KQx  H-x  2D  2H
D-Kxx  D-AQx  2NT  3D
C-AKxx  D-xxxx  4C  4D
      4H  4S

Responder uses 3D to make a game forcing spade raise. Opener doesn't have to show his count, that's already known, so he immediately cue bids.

Minor Suit Puppet Stayman

Back to 2C Auctions

Auctions where responder uses 2C, opener denies a 5 card major, and responder later follows with 3C are Minor Suit Puppet Stayman. These auctions:

Open     Resp            Open     Resp            Open     Resp
1NT 2C  1NT 2C   1NT 2C
2D  3C  2D  2H   2D  2S
      2S,2NT  3C   2NT  3C

Minor suit puppet stayman works in almost exactly the same way as the major suit version, the initial ask is for 5 card minors.

    3D  =  No 5 card minor.
    3H  =  5 clubs.
    3S  =  5 diamonds.
    3NT  =  4-4 in the minors.

As with major suit Puppet Stayman, responder may continue by asking for length in a specific minor. He does this by using hearts to ask about clubs and spades to ask about diamonds.

Open     Resp            Open     Resp
1NT  2C  1NT  2C
2D  3C  2D  2HS
3D  ?  2S,2NT 3C
      3D  ?

    3H  =  Asks for club length.
    3S  =  Asks for diamond length.
    3NT  =  To play, but slam invitational.

All of the minor suit stayman auctions are slam invitational. The general idea is that if you're interested in playing in 5CD, how far away from 6 can you be?

The responses to the length asks start with 2 and go up. The fact that all of these auctions are slam invitational means that there are no complications as exist with 2NT in the major suit puppet.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Qx  S-AKxx  1NT  2C
H-Kxx  H-Ax  2D  2H
D-Kxx  D-Axxx  2S  3C
C-AKxxx  C-Qxx  3H  4C
      4NT  5D
      5H  5S
      7C  P

Responder confirms clubs with his 4C bid and opener signs off in 4NT. When responder makes further slam tries, opener is happy to go along.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Ax  S-Kxx  1NT  2C
H-AKxx  H-xxx  2D  3C
D-Kxxx  D-Ax  3D  3H
C-Qxx  C-AKxxx  3NT  4C
      4H  4NT
      6C  P

Responder confirms clubs and later indicates only a mild slam try by signing off in 4NT. Opener, with excellent cards, continues.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Ax  S-Kxxx  1NT  2C
H-Kxxx  H-Ax  2D  2H
D-Kxxx  D-AQxx  2S  3C
C-AJx  C-Qxx  3D  3S
      4D  4H
      4S  6D

A lot happened in this auction! Responder checked for a 4-4 spade fit, a 5-3 or 5-4 minor suit fit, and finally discovered a 4-4 diamond fit. They then cue bid to slam with the known doubleton spade in operner's hand being a key factor.

Both Minors

Back to 2C Auctions

The 3D bid after 1NT-2C; 2D shows both minors in much the same way as a 1NT-2D shows both majors. If responder first asks about a major, 3D has other uses but isn't needed to show both minors anyway since with a major plus both minors, e.g. Axxx x QJxx Kxxx, responder would ask about spades and then bid 3H to show 4-1 in the majors. Showing both minors is also slightly different than 1NT-2D in that weak hands are not a possibility. All of these auctions are game forcing and show some slam interest

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2D  3D

    3H  =  4+ card clubs
    3S  =  4+ card diamonds.
    3NT  =  No 4 card minor.

Again the trick of using heart and spade bids to point to clubs and diamonds is used. There is no need for opener to show less than a 4-cd minor as there is in the "both majors" auctions because we are forced to game.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Qxx  S-Ax  1NT  2C
H-AQxx  H-Kx  2D  3D
D-AQx  D-Kxxx  3NT  4C
C-Kxx  C-AQJxx  4D  4S
      5H  5NT
      7C  P

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-KQxx  S-Ax  1NT  2C
H-Axxx  H-Kxx  2D  3D
D-Ax  D-KQxx  3NT  4NT
C-Qxx  C-KJxx  P   

With no fits, responder goes conservative with 4NT and opener passes.

Opener's Five Card Major

2C Auctions

The 2D response to 2C is the most usual by a wide margin, but sometimes opener does turn up with a 5-card major, a 6-card minor, or 5-4 in the minors.

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2HS  ?

    2S  =  Invitational, 5+ card suit.
    2NT  =  Invitational
    3CDHS  =  Transfers.

After a 2HS bid, opener is known to have 5332 distribution. Since many of the auctions that would be used after a 2D response are directed toward finding 4-4 fits, they no longer apply. These responses use transfers at the 3-level, including into opener's 5 card major, to look for 5-3 fits and to make invitational or slam try raises of opener's suit.

Open     Resp            Open     Resp
1NT  2C  1NT  2C
2H  3D  2S  3H
?     ?   

If responder transfers to opener's suit he may just be making an invitational raise or it may be the start of a slam try. Opener must bid the full value of his hand. If he simply accepts the transfer he may be passed in three of the major. With a maximum he should bypass 3 of his suit and cue bid.

If opener's suit is spades and responder transfers to hearts, there is still the possibility of playing in 3H and opener should not accept the transfer with 3 card support or a maximum.

Open     Resp
1NT  2C
2S  3D

    3H  =  Minimum. 2-card support.
    4H  =  Minimum. 3-card support.
    3NT  =  Maximum. 2-card support.
    Other  =  Maximum. 3-card support. Cue bid.

Finally, if responder transfers to clubs, opener should bid 3NT with a doubleton and only accept with 3-card support. Transfers to diamonds or to spades when opener's suit is hearts are forcing and should always be accepted.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-AQxxx  S-Kxx  1NT  2C
H-Kx  H-Qxxx  2S  3H
D-KQx  D-xx  3NT  4S
C-QJx  C-Kxxx  P   

If opener had bid 3S over responder's 3H that would have become the final contract.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-AQxxx  S-Kx  1NT  2C
H-xx  H-QJxxxx  2S  3D
D-KQx  D-xx  3H  P
C-Axx  C-Qxx      

Responder knows opener has a minimum with 2 card support.

Opener's 2254 or 2245 Hands

Back to 2C Auctions

Opener has three ways to show a minor 5-4 hand after responder's 2C. The direct 2NT bid shows a minimum with either 5-4 or 4-5 in the minors and 3HS shows a maximum and indicates which is the long minor.

Open     Resp            Open     Resp            Open     Resp
1NT  2C   1NT  2C   1NT  2C
2NT     3H     3S   

Responder must then take over and place the final contract, the only forcing bids be has below game -- whether over 2NT or 3HS -- are 4CD which set the suit and are slam tries.

If opener shows a 6-card minor the auctions are natural and forcing, including a raise to 4 of opener's suit.


Back to document begin

If opponents take action in second seat, we have to react on the basis of what their bid meant.

Clickable links within this section.

Second seat -- Penalty double

If opponents double in 2nd seat our first task -- particularly if playing weak NTs -- is to escape from the double with weak hands. With stronger hands we may also want to penalize opponents for entering our auction or bid constructively ourselves.

Open     LHO     Resp     RHO
1NT  Dbl  ?   

    RDBL  =  Transfer to clubs.
    2CDH  =  Transfers.
    Pass  =  Either:
       =  (1)Desire to play in 1NT redoubled, or
       =  (2)Desire to escape, but no 5+ cd suit.
    2S,3CDHS  =  Pre-emptive.

With a 5+ cd suit responder can begin by transfering into it at the two-level. If he's weak, that's the end of the auction. There are distributional hands, however, where, even though responder is fairly strong, he still doesn't want to play 1NT redoubled and/or he knows opponents have a suit contract that he can't double. Here's an example:

You     Pard            You     LHO     Pard     RHO
S-Axx  S-KJxxxx   1NT  DBL  2H  P
H-Kxx  H-x   2S  P  3D  P
D-Axx  D-Kxxxx   4S         
C-AJxx  C-x             

The second bid by responder should be taken as a 5+ card suit and forcing 1 round.

If responder's pass gets back to opener he usually re-opens with a double in case partner wanted to play 1NT redoubled. If he bids a suit it's a 5-carder. If opener's re-opening redouble gets back to responder, he can pass for penalties or remove to his lowest ranking 4-cd suit. The partnership then bids suits up the line until they find a place to play. Any redoubles from this point on are takeout. Here's an example:

You     Pard            LHO     You     RHO     Pard
S-Axxx  S-Kxxx   1NT  DBL  P  P
H-Kxxx  H-xxx   RD  P  2D  Dbl
D-Ax  D-Jxxx  RD  P  2S  P
C-Jxx  C-xx   P  ?     

Opener's second redouble is takeout telling responder to pick a major. If he had bid 2H instead, he would be saying that his hearts were longer than his spades.

Second seat -- Two-suiter

The case where responder shows two suits (usually the majors or the minors) by bidding something else are handled by the Anti-TwoSuiter convention. Here's a list of them:

  1. 2NT overcall
  2. Cappeletti 2D
  3. Landy
  4. Ripstra
This doesn't apply to two-suiters where only one suit is known such as DONT 2CD, ASTRO 2CD, or Capeletti 2HS. It also doesn't apply to known two-suiters where the opponents are bidding one of the suits such as DONT 2H.

2nd seat -- One known suit

This bidding applies to the situation where 2nd seat makes an overcall that shows one specific suit. It includes situations where their bid shows a two-suiter but only one of the suits is known. Examples of this are: a natural overcall, ASTRO 2CD, and DONT 2CD.

Lebensohl is not used here. Lebensohl is one of many conventions that seem designed for a bidding contest rather than play against actual opponents. The 2NT bid works fine if the player in fourth seat passes, but if he does something as simple and natural as raise his partner's suit the weak or strong nature of the Lebensohl bid causes big problems for opener, i.e.

Open     LHO     Resp     RHO
1NT  2H  2NT  3H

A penalty double, 3NT, or a 3S bid are out of the question since the 2NT bid may be a very weak hand with a long minor, and a sacrifice, even with both minors, may find partner with a good hand wanting to play 3NT.

Another aspect of Lebensohl that causes problems is the "slow with" version of it where responder is required to jump to 3NT to deny a stopper and unbid majors. This sometimes causes the partnership to go fishing for a suit to play in at the 4CD level. This violates the bidding principal that the higher you bid the more specific the hand you're showing, but I suspect it's played because hands with a stopper are less likely to get the problem 4th seat raise.

This system of bids uses a 2NT bid that is always strong, and direct bids at the three-level are weak. There is a "slow" and "fast" aspect here as well, but we use "fast shows" and keep the auction lower when we aren't sure where we're going. Here are the bids:

Open     LHO     Resp     RHO
1NT  2CDHS  ?   

    Pass  =  Usually just a bad hand, but can be a trap in some situations.
    New suit  =  To play.
    Jump shift  =  5+ cd suit. Game force.
    Double  =  Penalty. The partnership is now in a forcing pass situation.
    3-level Cue Bid  =  Stopper and 4 cds in the unbid major
    3NT  =  Stopper without the unbid major
    2NT  =  No stopper. Game force.
    2-level Cue Bid  =  If available, invitational hand with no stopper.

Now opener has some chance of taking the right action if RHO bids. If responder has bid 2NT, he can take strong actions like double, 3NT, or a new suit, and if responder has just bid a new suit he may decide to compete or sacrifice.

The trap pass idea can be used when opponents made a bid that may or may not be their suit such as an ASTRO 2CD or a Cappeletti 2C. Here's an example after a Cappeletti 2C:

You     Pard            You     LHO     Pard     RHO
S-Axxx  S-Kxx   1NT  2C*  P  2D
H-xx  H-AJxx  P  2H  DBL  P
D-AKxx  D-Qxxx  P  P     
C-Jxx  C-xx           

*One-suiter in any suit.

The problem with doubling immediately is that clubs might be the 2C bidder's real suit and if you double the auction will continue Pass-Pass-Pass. Opener should be alert for this possibility. If responder passes and then comes to life with a strong bid later in the auction, he probably has a hand like the above.

Situations where there are two cue bids available occur with conventions like ASTRO 2CD. The "jump cue bid" is a hand where responder knows he wants to play in either 3NT or 4 of the unbid major. The non-jump cue bid is used for invitational level hands. Here's an example after an ASTRO 2D:

You     Pard            You     LHO     Pard     RHO
S-Axx  S-xx   1NT  2D*  2S  P
H-QJxx  H-Kxxx  3H  P  P  P
D-AJxx  D-Qxx           
C-xx  C-AJxx          

*Spades and another suit.
This is an almost impossible hand to bid otherwise.

The double is a penalty double of the suit that was bid, but if that wasn't the suit that was shown, it also shows 2+ cards in their real suit. In other words, enough so that if partner doubles it you will be able to sit.

Responder's 2NT bid has denied a stopper, but he may have a side 4 card major, so we have to look for that first, then for 3NT, and finally for minor suits.

Open     LHO     Resp     RHO
1NT  2CDHS  2NT  P

    Unbid major  =  4+ cd suit. Does not show or deny a stopper.
    3NT  =  Stopper. Denies 4 cards in an unbid major.
    Minor suit  =  5+ card. Denies a stopper. Denies 4 cards in an unbid major.
    Cue bid  =  No stopper. No 4 cd major. No 5 cd minor.

Since responder's 2NT denied a stopper, further NT bids by him have the effect of asking opener for a stopper. As:

You     Pard            You     LHO     Pard     RHO
S-AQxx  S-Kxx   1NT  2H  2NT  P
H-xxx  H-xx   3S  P  3NT  P
D-Kxxx  D-AQxx  4D  P  4S  P
C-Kx  C-AJxx  P  P     

Second seat -- Jump overcall

We play negative doubles of 3-level jump overcalls. The assumption is that 2-level overcalls are much more vulnerable to big penalties -- sometimes when there is no game our way -- than 3-level overcalls. The negative double can be passed and it should be regarded as invitational, not game forcing. Other new suits are forcing.

4th seat after a 2C Response.

After a 2C response the key factor is that the auction is invitational or better. This means that a forcing pass situation exists and the main idea in the auctions is to try to punish the opponents first and bid constructively later. If the interference was a double we try to play 2C redoubled.

Open     LHO     Resp     RHO
1NT  P  2C  DBL

    RDBL  =  4+ card club suit with some honors. To play.
    Pass  =  Some interest in playing in clubs redoubled(i.e. 4 small or honor 3rd).
    2D  =  No interest in playing in clubs. Denies a 5 card major.
    2HS  =  5 card major.

If the interference was an overcall we try to double for penalties.

Open     LHO     Resp     RHO
1NT  P  2C  2DHS,3CDH

    DBL  =   
    Pass  =   
    2HS,3HS  =  5 card major. (3HS over a 3 level overcall)

If the auction gets back to responder and he decides to continue the constructive auction how should he proceed? The rule is simple: if the auction is below the 2H level we ignore the interference. At higher levels all bids by responder are natural and forcing and there are no conventional responses. A cue bid by responder asks for a stopper.

You     Pard            LHO     You     RHO     Pard
S-Kx  S-AQxx   1NT  P  2C  DBL
H-KQxx  H-xxx   RD  P  P   
D-Axx  D-Kxxx             
C-KJxx  C-xx             

The opponent is punished for his lead directing double.

You     Pard            LHO     You     RHO     Pard
S-Kx  S-Axx   1NT  P  2C  DBL
H-Axxx  H-KQxx   P  P  2S  P
D-KQxx  D-Jxxx   3H  P  4H  P
C-Kxx  C-xx   P  P      

Since the auction is below 2H we proceed with the ordinary auctions.

You     Pard            LHO     You     RHO     Pard
S-Kxx  S-QJxx   1NT  P  2C  3D
H-KQxx  H-Axx   P  P  3S  P
D-Ax  D-xx   4D  P  4S  P
C-Axxx  C-Kxxx   P  P      

Since the auction is above the 2H level the bids are natural. Responder might have a 5 card suit for this auction.

4th seat after a 2D Response.

If the opponents interfere with the 1NT-2D auctions, opener bids a major only with a 4+ card suit and otherwise passes or redoubles. Don't forget that responder can have a very bad hand for his 2D bid, if he pulls a redouble to 2H he may have a 4-4 yarbourough.

You     Pard            LHO     You     RHO     Pard
S-KQx  S-xxxx   1NT  P  2D  DBL
H-Ax  H-xxxx   RD  P  2H  P
D-AJxx  D-x   2S         
C-Qxx  C-xxxx             

2NT Opener

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After a 2NT opening or any auction that begins 2C-Artificial Bid, 2NT, the initial bids are the same except for the fact that the three-of-a-suit bids are missing.

Open     Resp            Open     Resp
2NT  ?  2C  Artificial Bid
      2NT  ?

    3C  =  Stayman. Maximum of one 4 card major.
    3D  =  Both majors. Any point range.
    3HS  =  To play. 5+ card suit.
    3NT  =  To play.
    4CD  =  South African
    4HS  =  To play

As you can see, the 1NT-3HS bids showing a singleton are gone, the 1NT-3CD bids showing consolidation suits are gone, and the 2NT relay to 3C for signoffs is gone.

2NT-3D works exactly like 1NT-2D with the exception of one auction defined as invitational over 1NT that is game forcing over 2NT.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-AQx  S-Kxxxx  2NT  3D
H-Kxx  H-QJxx  3H  3S
D-AKxx  D-xx  4S  P
C-Axx  C-xx      

The 3S bid is forcing, not invitational.

After the "bread and butter" auction of 2NT-3C, 3D-3HS there is a big difference in the responses, opener only goes beyond 3NT with 4 card support. His 4CD responses and 4 of the other major are cue bids showing 4-card support. Here are the responses after a 3H bid.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
2NT  3C  2C  2D
3D  3H  2NT  3C
?     3D  3H

    3S  =  2 card spade support.
    3NT  =  3 card spade support.
    4CDH  =  Cue bid showing 4 card support.
    4S  =  4 card support. No outside acces.

After a 3S spade bid by responder there are two differences: 3NT includes both 2 and 3 card support, and the cue bids stop at 4H.

Open     Resp            Open     Resp
2NT  3C  2C  2D
3D  3S  2NT  3C
?     3D  3S

    3NT  =  2 or 3 card spade support.
    4CD  =  Cue bid showing 4 card support.
    4H  =  4 card support. No minor suit ace.

Opener     Responder            Open     Resp
S-Axxx  S-QJxx  2C  2D
H-KQx  H-Jxx  2NT  3C
D-AJx  D-KQx  3D  3H
C-AKQx  C-xxx  4C  4S

Opener shows 4 card support with 0 or 3 controls and responder signs off.