The origin of this conventional method is somewhat clouded. The initial concept was employed in the early days of the game of bridge by Mr. Ewart Kempson, 1895-1966, of England and was further developed by Mr. Seca Jascha Skidelsky, or Mr. S. J. Simon, or better known just as Skid, born 1904, in Harbin, Manchuria, and died in 1948, to exchange additional information about the holding of partner following an opening of 1 No Trump.

In the following years the concept was devised independently by Mr. John C. H. Marx, aka Jack, 1907-1991, of England and Mr. George Rapee, 1915-1999, of New York, United States, around 1945, who was the regular bridge partner and friend of Mr. Samuel M. Stayman, 1909-1993. However, this newly devised concept was actively further developed by Mr. Samuel M. Stayman, who then first published and promoted this concept to and within the bridge community, and was henceforth known as the Stayman convention.

Note: The first published article of Mr. Samuel M. Stayman appeared in The Bridge World issue of June 1945. This article appears in its full account in the following .pdf file format, which has only been preserved and archived on this site for future reference.

     
     

History Summary

It has been proposed that Mr. John C.H. Marx, of England was unable to publish his version of this conventional method until 1946 because all bridge publications were suspended due to a paper shortage in England at the time when the war demanded all resources. Source: Bridge's Strangest Hands written by Mr. Andrew Ward, page 217.

Note: The Stayman convention was known for many years in the United Kingdom as Marx Two Clubs in the late 1940s and early 1950s since Mr. John C. H. Marx also developed the concept. However, this designation was eventually dropped in favor of the designation of Stayman, under which name it is now universally known. For those players, who continue to refer to this conventional method as Marx Two Clubs, the colloquial designation of Marxists has been created. For those, who refer to the conventional method as Stayman, the colloquial designation of Stayman-ites has been created.

Note: In his publication The No Trump Zone, authored by Mr. Danny Klein, published by Master Point Press in the year 2004 (ISBN-10: 1-894154-70-3), Mr. Danny Kleinman writes (excerpt): Long before there were transfer bids, England's Jack Marx invented a 2 Clubs inquiry response to 1NT. Several years later, America's George Rapee reinvented it. Rapee's regular partner, Sam Stayman, wrote a Bridge World article describing it. Luckily for bridge players in that era, the heyday of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the convention became known as Stayman; had it been named for its British originator, those of us who played in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s might have been dragged before HUAC to swear loyalty.

     
     
     

Non-Forcing Stayman Convention

One form of the Stayman convention is known as the Non-Forcing Stayman Convention. Although this is somewhat of a misnomer, because the response of 2 Clubs to the No Trump Opening forces the 1 No Trump opener for one round. The non-forcing element of this version of the Stayman convention refers to the fact that if, after the No Trump opener responds to the 2 Club bid and the responder bids a new higher-ranking suit on the two level, the No Trump opener is not required to continue the bidding. The No Trump opener may pass as shown in the following example.

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1 NT   2   Forcing for one round.
2   2   Non-Forcing rebid. The opener may pass.

Forcing Stayman

There is another version of the Stayman convention called the Forcing Stayman. This version is played exactly the same as the Non-Forcing Stayman convention, except for the fact that the opener may not pass a rebid by responder on the two level. The opener must continue bidding as long as the auction remains below the 2 No Trump Level.

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1 NT   2   Forcing for one round.
2   2   Forcing rebid. The opener may not pass below 2 No Trump.

From the two illustrations above, the technical difference between Non-Forcing Stayman and Forcing Stayman should be clear. These two versions of the Stayman convention are still being played and if this is your partnership agreement, please adhere to this understanding. It must be noted, however, that the Jacoby Transfer has efficiently replaced any reasons for the responder to rebid a different suit on the two level, thereby rendering the use of the Non-Forcing or Forcing version of the Stayman convention unnecessary.

The Stayman Convention

A typical hand is shown below, and with similar holdings, we shall attempt to illustrate the usefulness of the Stayman convention. The general range for the No Trump opening for this conventional method is considered to be between 15-17 points. However, the Stayman convention can be used for a strong No Trump range between 16-18 points and a weak No Trump range anywhere between 10-14 points and balanced distribution. Depending on the No Trump range the required values of the responder are fewer or increased. For this presentation we use the 15-17 point range for the No Trump opening.

Opener
AKQ4
A76
Q43
J54
 
Responder
9876
KJ43
K72
Q7

Requirements for the Responder

1. At least one 4-card Major suit and at least 8 high card points for a No Trump range of 15-17 high card points. For other No Trump ranges the minimum requirement regarding values is adjusted accordingly.
1.1. Responder should not hold a 5-card Major.
1.2. Transfer bids and/or variations of the Stayman convention are preferable holding a 5-card plus Major suit and/or a 5-4 distribution in both Major suits.
2. The 4-card Major suit should preferably have at least one of the top five honors. The reason behind this guideline is that the declarer has the possibility of finessing.

A review the forced responses of the No Trump bidder:

1. If the No Trump bidder does not have a 4-card Major, the No Trump bidder automatically bids 2 Diamonds. This is the so-called Denial Bid.
2. If the No Trump bidder has a 4-card Major suit, then the No Trump bidder bids that Major suit.
3. ** If the No Trump bidder has 4 cards in both Majors, the No Trump bidder can bid either the Heart suit or the Spade suit first. The preference is to bid 'up the line', which means that the Heart suit is bid first.

** Please read the following for clarification for response number 3:

Hearts First vs. Spades First ...... Convention vs. Contention

** This particular requirement / suggestion / guideline is one of contention among the expert bridge players even to this day. In the original version of the published article it was strongly recommended, if not specifically required, that the Spade suit should be bid first in the case that the No Trump bidder held both 4-card Major suits. No reason is given or provided. Some speculation is that, at the time of the publication, the philosophy was predominant that whoever held the Spade suit would most likely win the auction, but this is only speculation. If any reader has access to other publications stating a reason(s), please be so kind as to contribute this information for the benefit of others.

The reader should also, in regard to a possible answer to this question, read the publication by Mr. Easley Blackwood from his publication Blackwood On Bidding, in association with Mr. Stanley McComas, published 1956 by The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, and New York, New York, Chapter 17, pages 123 - 127, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 56-13044. Mr. Easley Blackwood promoted his New Improved Stayman Convention, and also adamantly required that the Spade suit be bid first if the No Trump bidder held both 4-card Major suits. The exact quote is: "Even should the opening bidder have a biddable heart suit in addition to a biddable spade suit, he still responds 2 S(pades), bidding the higher-ranking suit."

This original guideline may still be practiced via partnership agreement. The reader / visitor should be aware, however, that this published article was written in the mid-1940s and many revolutionary, if not evolutionary elements have been added to improve the nature of the bidding in the game of bridge. Bridge teachers and instructors of the modern bidding theory promote the philosophy that the lower-ranking Major suit should be bid first if both 4-card Major suits are held.

Continuances of the Responder

1. Since the No Trump bidder has limited his hand to 15-17/18 high card points, the responder becomes the Captain of the partnership and must decide the correct contract.
2. If responder has 8-9 high card points, and he realizes that they have an 8-card fit in a Major, then the rebid of the responder is either 3 Spades or 3 Hearts. This is purely invitational and not forcing. The No Trump bidder continues to game with the maximum high card points and passes with the minimum high card points.
3. If the responder finds no fit, then the responder bids 2 No Trump with 8/9 points to show no fit.
4. If the responder has 10-14 points (high card points plus distributional points) after finding an 8-card Major fit, then the responder bids game in that suit.
5. If the responder has 10-14 high card points, and he realizes there is no fit in either Major suit, the responder bids game in No Trump.
6. If the responder has 15 plus points, high card points plus distributional points after re-evaluating his hand, after finding an 8-card Major fit, then the responder should try for slam.
7. If the responder has 15 high card points plus, and discovers no fit, the responder should try for slam by asking the No Trump bidder for his number of Aces with the Blackwood convention, or the agreed partnership slam conventional methods, with the intention of playing the contract in No Trump.

A summary of the (more modern) rebids by the No Trump bidder after responder has initiated the Stayman convention:

Opener   Responder Meaning
1 NT   2 Stayman Convention asking for a 4-card Major suit.
2     Denial bid. No 4-card Major suit.
2     Promises a 4-card Heart suit, but does not deny a 4-card Spade suit. Shows minimum values per partnership agreement.
3     Promises a 4-card Heart suit, but does not deny a 4-card Spade suit. Shows maximum values per partnership agreement.
2     Promises a 4-card Spade suit, and generally denies a 4-card Heart suit. Shows minimum values per partnership agreement.
3     Promises a 4-card Spade suit, and generally denies a 4-card Heart suit. Shows maximum values per partnership agreement.

** The student of the responses should keep in mind the original version, in which the No Trump bidder is required to bid the Spade suit first if holding both 4-card Major suits.

The If's and the Then's

There are many if's and then's (if this, then this ... but if not this, then that), but this should not confuse the bridge player. Since everything is dependent on length and strength of the holding of the responder, it requires only a little memorization and the use of the convention of logic to sort things out. If the partnership keeps the line of communication open, then the partnership will be able to visualize each holding and reach the correct and most optimum contract.

Try to remember and use the following little trick when using the Stayman convention. Although the No Trump bidder has limited his holding and the responder becomes the Captain, who will guide him to the correct contract, the No Trump bidder can show strength in his response. For example:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
AKQ4
A76
Q43
Q54
 
10987
KQJ8
765
K9
 
1 NT   2  
2  
  A rebid on the two level would / should show a 4-card Spade suit and minimum values.
3       A rebid on the three level would / should show a 4-card Spade suit and maximum values.

The same principle holds true if the Major suit is Hearts.

Other possible continuations by the responder of the auction presented above are as follows;

Opener   Responder   Meaning
AKQ4
A76
Q43
Q54
 
J987
Q8
AK65
AK9
 
1 NT   2  
2 / 3  
  Shows either minimum or maximum values.
    4   Sign off. To play.
    4   Gerber convention asking for Aces or Keycards.
    4 NT   This is a quantitative rebid asking partner to bid 6 No Trump with maximum values or pass with minimum values.

 

 

If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.

 


     
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