Finding a Major Suit Fit

Pat Harrington

Each partnership must reach agreement regarding the conventions used when responding to a 1NT opening bid. Almost everyone uses Stayman to uncover a 4–4 major suit fit. Many duplicate players agree to use transfers to show a long major, but it is also possible to use standard bidding methods with these responding hands.

Your partner opens 1NT (15–17). We discussed responding with a game-going hand of 10 or more highcard points last month. Let’s look at some invitational hands with 8 or 9 HCP.

1. ♠K Q 9 6   7 5 2   K 7 3  ♣9 7.

You have 8 HCP plus one length point for the fifth spade and would like to show five spades while you invite game. Your response depends on your partnership agreements. It’s impossible to do what you want to without any bidding conventions.

If you use Jacoby transfers, bid 2 to direct opener to bid 2♠. Your rebid should invite game. Recall that once you transfer holding a five-card suit, you should not rebid the suit. You never actually said spades, but you showed all five of them with your transfer bid. Holding a five-card suit, follow up your transfer bid with 2NT
to invite game. Opener has several choices: Pass 2NT, sign off in 3NT, sign off in 4♠ or even sign off in 3♠, choosing a better partscore than 2NT.

Once you show your hand, the final decision is up to opener. Those who do not use Jacoby transfers can use Stayman to show this hand. Bid 2♣. If you get lucky and opener shows four spades, you can invite game by raising to 3♠. If opener denies a major with a bid of 2, rebid 2♠. Your 2♠ rebid guarantees five spades. It is invitational and leaves opener with the final decision.

Note that many partnerships agree that the 1NT opener bids hearts first with two four-card majors, and if opener responds 2 to Stayman, responder’s 2♠ rebid shows the equivalent of a raise to 2NT with a four-card spade suit.

2. ♠7 5 2   K Q 9 7 6   K 7 3  ♣9 7.

This is similar to the first hand, but your majors are switched. Bid the same way, but there is one problem for players who do not use transfers. What if opener answers Stayman with 2♠? In order to show the heart suit, you have to bid 3. This leaves a minimum opener with only one choice — pass 3 even with a doubleton heart. It could be uncomfortable playing at the three level with only seven trumps. You might give up on showing the fifth
heart and settle for a 2NT rebid in that one case. Transfer players have no problem. They transfer and then invite game with 2NT. That is one advantage of using transfers.

3. ♠K 9 7 6  K 7 5 2   Q 7 3  ♣9 7.

Your only choice for inviting game is Stayman. If opener shows a major, invite game by raising. If opener bids 2 to deny a major, invite with 2NT.

4. ♠K 9 7 6 4   Q 7 5 2 K 7   ♣9 7.

The decision here is whether to transfer to show five spades or use Stayman. To keep both majors in the picture, use Stayman. If opener bids a major, you might carry on to game based on points for shortness. What if opener bids 2? Hearts are out of the question, but you still have an invitational hand with five spades, so you bid 2♠, just like players who did not use transfers bid on the first hand. Many players think learning to use transfers removes their need to know how to bid without them, but there
are times when you still need this knowledge. It’s smart to learn how to bid without transfers. By the way, if you have a game-going hand with the same shape, forgo transfers and use Stayman. If opener denies a major, responder jumps to 3♠ to show that hand.

Stayman and transfers seem like fairly simple conventions, but there are many different hand types and bidding situations to consider. Both conventions are also used over a 2NT opener and over a 2NT rebid by opener after a strong 2♣ opening. It’s worth spending time discussing different situations with your regular partners and educating yourselves on using the onventions. Stayman requires no Alert or Announcement, but opener Announces a transfer to a major immediately.

The Zoom Room is available Monday through Friday, 3:30 pm-5:30 pm (Eastern).

Getting help is easier than ever with the ACBL Zoom Chat service.
Simply click the "Join Zoom Chat" button below to be taken to our dedicated zoom room.
Once there, click the "Launch Meeting" button to start your session. To hear us and vice-versa - don't forget to "Join with computer audio."

If the Zoom Room isn't available and you need answers, you can email us at

Join Zoom Chat