The Stayman Convention is widely used, and should be part of every serious bridge player's repertoire.
It is a bid which is used as a response to a No Trump opener, when you, the partner, feel that there might be a better contract in a major suit, and are intent on exploring the possibilities of this.

So the pattern is as follows: the opening bid of 1 No Trump, followed by a No Bid, and then the Response Bidder says 2 Clubs. This is an artificial bid. Whenever you are playing an artificial bid, you are required to inform the opposition of this. You can do this by knocking on the table, which is called ALERTING. They then have the option of asking the partner of the person who made the bid (the person who did the knocking) what he/she understands by their partner's bid. You are required to answer, and sometimes you might have to say that you don't know. However, Stayman is such a widely used convention, that most players are familiar with it, and use it themselves.  So anyway, the asking bid is 2 Clubs - and the question that is being asked is:

DO YOU HAVE A 4 CARD MAJOR?  Then assuming a No Bid by the other opposition player, the person who originally bid the No Trump will reply by bidding 2 Hearts if they have 4 Hearts, 2 Spades if they have 4 Spades, 2 Hearts if they have both Hearts and Spades, and 2 Diamonds if they have neither.

Now the person doing the asking - the Response bidder, will not be using Stayman if they have a hand which is suited to playing in No Trump. And they should have 11 points, although there is another variation of Stayman where you use it as the equivalent of a weak takeout, and can get by with 6 points.  But the proper version requires 11 points, and Response Bidder must have 4 Hearts or 4 Spades himself, and with a bit of luck, might well have both. So what you are searching for is an 8 card trump fit.

Once the answer has been given, the Response Bidder, then - if his partner agrees with his choice of suit might No Bid, or might raise the bidding to game, if he has sufficient points. However, if the response is not the one he wanted, he can revert to bidding 2 No Trump, which is probably where the bidding will end. Sometimes, the Response bidder will have a 5+ card major, and then he might continue bidding in his suit, even knowing their partner doesn't have 4, in which case their partner would leave him in that suit.

Here is an example of how the bidding works:

This is the opening No Trump hand (South)

Spades         K,8,5
Hearts          Q,8,7,3
Diamonds     A,10,6
Clubs           A,J,7

This is Response Bidder's Hand (North)

Spades         A,Q,7,4
Hearts          J,8,6,4,2
Diamonds     5
Clubs           K,Q,4

His hand has the required 11+ points, and has a reason for not liking No Trump - namely he has a singleton, which is much more use in a trump contract. And he has the required 4+ cards in a major suit, and in fact he has 4 Spades and 5 Hearts, so will be happy with whichever major his partner mentions.

So the bidding goes like this:
1 No Trump, No Bid, 2 Clubs (Stayman), No Bid, 2 Hearts, No Bid, 4 Hearts.

Because Response Bidder knows they have a 9 card fit in Hearts, he can add extra points for the singleton, making his point count 16 - added to his partner's 12 minimum, makes 28, which should be enough for a game bid. However, because of the convention, the hand is played by South.

If South's hand had had 4 Diamonds instead of 4 Hearts, his response would have been 2 Diamonds, and in that case North would have either said 2 Hearts - showing a 5 card suit, or 2 No Trump.  I think I would prefer the 5 card major suit because even if your partner has 3 and he might only have 2, your singleton Diamond will still be very useful.

Sort out the hands, and play the hand out, and see if you can make 4 Hearts. If you like a challenge, sort it out the second time and see how well you would do in 3 No Trump.

If you have difficulties in making the contract, click here to see how it should be done.

We will discuss another artificial response bid to the 1 No Trump opener in the next chapter which is on Transfer Bids.