Fixing Puppet Stayman

by Denis Lesage

#### Three Problems

An early version of Puppet Stayman after a two-notrump opening is simple enough: In responses to three clubs, responder bids three diamonds to show at least one four-card major, three of a major to show a five-card suit, or three notrump to show none of the above. Three problems with this method are:

(1) Responder may hold five spades and four hearts. [Some pairs remedy this by using a direct three-notrump response with that shape; to play in three notrump, responder puppets there with three spades (which may also be a prelude to a minor-suit slam-try.]

(2) Responder may hold a four-card major, a five-card minor, and slam interest. He is hampered by the need to bid two notrump -- three clubs -- three diamonds -- four diamonds with four-four in the majors, losing the use of that bid as a natural slam-try.

(3) Responder may have five-three in the majors. This cannot be remedied within the current Puppet-Stayman structure; a solution was proposed in a letter to the editor in the December 2009 Bridge World, but it adds complexity.

#### Solutions

Here is a solution to problem (2) that incorporates the solution to problem (1):

After a response of three clubs, opener bids three of a major with five, three notrump with at least four-four in the minors, or three diamonds otherwise. Over three diamonds, responder bids three hearts with no major or four spades [then: opener bids three spades with four, otherwise three notrump], three spades with four hearts, or three notrump with four-four majors.

After two notrump -- three clubs -- three diamonds -- three of a major -- three notrump -- ?, responder can make a minor-suit slam-try with four of a minor (showing a one-suiter in the other minor) or four hearts | four spades | four notrump (showing both minors with a singleton heart | singleton spade | two-two majors).

After two notrump -- three clubs -- three diamonds -- three hearts -- three spades -- ?, responder can bid three notrump to play, four of a minor as a slam-try in the other minor, four hearts | spades to show a spade fit and good | poor slam values, or four notrump as a key-card-ask for spades.

After two notrump -- three clubs -- three diamonds -- three notrump -- ?, opener passes, bids four clubs | diamonds with a good slam hand in hearts | spades, or four hearts | spades with a poor slam hand in hearts | spades.

After two notrump -- three clubs -- three diamonds -- ?, responder, lacking a four-card major, can make a minor- suit slam-try with four of a minor (showing a one-suiter in the other minor), or four hearts | four spades | four notrump (showing five-four in the minors with a singleton heart | singleton spade | two-two majors).

After two notrump -- three clubs -- three notrump -- ?, responder can pass, bid four of a minor with slam interest in the other minor, or four hearts | four spades | four notrump with interest in both minors and a singleton heart | singleton spade | two-two majors.

After two notrump -- three notrump -- ?, responder can pass, bid four clubs | diamonds with a good hand for a heart | spade slam, or four hearts | spades with a poor hand for a heart | spade slam.

After two notrump -- three spades -- three notrump -- ?, responder can pass or make a minor-suit slam-try (which denies a three-card major, since responder did not bid three clubs) with four of a minor (showing a one-suiter in the other minor) or four hearts | spades (showing 10-plus cards in the minors and a singleton heart | spade).

After two notrump -- three clubs -- three of a major -- ?, responder can bid three notrump to play, four of a minor (showing a one-suiter in the other minor and slam interest), four of opener's major to sign off, or the cheapest bid in the unbid major (showing a fit for opener's major and slam interest).

#### Gains and Losses

The main gain is a simple but relatively complete structure for slam investigation at the four-level; only a few patterns of sequence meanings are used, making the method easy to memorize. Secondary gains include (i) opener, lacking a four-card major, can distinguish 4-3-3-3 and 5-3-3-2 hands from hands with both minors, adding efficiency to minor-suit slam investigation; and (ii) in some auctions, opener's three-diamond rebid will conceal information about opener's distribution form the defense.

ESOTERICA

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