# Does one need to bid Stayman with a flat distribution?

This example is from a book. South opens 1NT (15-17) with:

(s) AKx (h) JTxx (d) Kxx (c) Axx.

North has (s) Qxx (h)Axxx (d) Axx (c) xxx and goes to 3NT. The author (George Coffin) says that North ought to bid 2 clubs, Stayman, with four hearts. That's technically true.

But I don't fancy playing for ten tricks with a 3-4-3-3 distribution. Would rather take my chances for nine tricks with 3NT. (And I do have a bias toward NT.)

With a flat distribution, may responder jump directly to 3NT over 1NT? Or must s/he call a Stayman two clubs since he has four of a major? Which bidding systems allow a 3NT call in this situation?

-
The South hand you've given has 14 cards. – ruds Jun 15 '13 at 23:42
Subtract a point for 4333 distribution; that yields a 12-14 NT hand, so open 1C and rebid 1NT to show the hand best. – Forget I was ever here Jun 16 '13 at 9:54
@ruds: Fixed, only 3 diamonds. – Tom Au Jun 16 '13 at 17:47

In the hand given, you can sometimes make 3NT and never make 4H without misdefense. But change South's hand slightly to AKx JTxx Kxxx Ax and 4H has more chances than 3NT:

You have 7 top tricks (3 spades, 1 heart, 2 diamonds, 1 club). At 3NT, you must develop two more tricks, and hearts seems like your best shot at that. You must hope for honor-doubleton on your right (run the jack; if RHO covers, win the Ace and play up to the ten. You will lose to the honor on your left and then your ten and long heart are winners). If the honor holding is unfavorable but the split is 3-2, you still have hope of picking up the fourth round of diamonds (duck a diamond, then play the A and K; hopefully they have broken 3-3). You will have held up the CA on the opening lead. If clubs broke 4-4 then you'll make if you were able to take 3 hearts but go down if you lost two hearts as you still must lose a diamond. If they were 5-3 you're always going down on a club lead (and if hearts didn't behave, the opponents can still defeat you with a club switch). If they're 6-2, you can make in the unlikely case that the 1-3 tricks you must lose before taking 9 tricks are all lost to the doubleton club holder.

In 4H, you have a sure club and heart loser. In order to develop ten tricks, hearts must break 3-2 and you must ruff a club and a diamond, which requires losing a diamond, so you must be able to play hearts for one loser (which means Qx or Kx on your right). However, you make even if clubs don't break 4-4.

Consider some other hands declarer may have:

Ax KJTx KQxx Axx

KJxx KQxx KQx Jx

xxx QJTx KQx AK

All of these have more play in 4H than 3N.

So this hand isn't a great example of a hand that would want to avoid Stayman. That being said, there are times when jumping to 3NT with a 4-card major is indicated. Here's such a hand:

AKx KJxx Q9x JTx

This is a flat, meaty hand. You don't have ruffing values, but your side has a combined 29-31 HCP. Not enough for a slam, but very comfortable for game -- unless opponents can establish a ruff or two before you gain control. Let's give partner (South)

Qx AQ9x KJTx KQx

You'll almost certainly take 11 tricks in NT. On the other hand, in 4H, it may easily go diamond to the A, diamond ruff, club to the A, diamond ruff.

-
There is also the chance that 2C bid might get doubled for lead, and a making 3NT on a non-club lead would end up going down, when you look for a major fit (and probably don't find it anyway). With 27-31 total points and 4-3-3-3 hand opposite the 1NT bidder, it is usually recommended to blast 3NT, which you expect to make on strength alone. – Aryabhata Jun 16 '13 at 19:51

As ruds has looked closely at Declarer's hand, let's now consider that of responder: Qxx-Axxx-Axx-xxx.

• Start at 10 HCP
• 4333 distribution is worth -1 pt, leaving it as a 9 pt hand.
• None of the honours support each other, or are supported by a 10: -0.5 pt taking it down to 8.5 points.
• Ace-heavy: good for suits, bad for notrump; no ruffing values, bad for suits, good for notrump. Call it a wash.

Playing 15-17 NT I would bid 2NT with this hand (matchpoints, and not vulnerable at IMPS/Rubber), as I (have learned to) expect my partners to accept invitations aggressively. ;-) (Somehow, good players always do.) Vulnerable at IMPS I might attempt 3NT, depending on state of the match, and how I expect the opponent holding my cards will bid at the other table; I want to duplicate his/her bidding if possible on this hand, and allow my partner to play it better.

Knowing how to, in conjunction with your partner, slightly vary your bidding for the state of match and conditions of the hand is an important and valuable skill. M experience has been that accepting aggressively and controlling the decisions as the invitor is easier and more natural for most partnerships.

Also, knowing the appropriate odds for bidding game is valuable:

• Matchpoints, bid 50% games (translates to aiming at 25 combined points).
• IMPS, Vulnerable, bid 40% games (translates to aiming at 24 point games).
• IMPS, not vulnerable, bid 50% games (translates to aiming at 25 point games again.

Reverse this pattern for bidding small slam at IMPS: aggressively when not vulnerable and passively when vulnerable.

-
Disagree with devaluing the hands. What about adding points for the Aces? They are valuable at no-trump too. You can decide exactly how many rounds of a suit are played, and they can be valuable for tempo/communications etc. Frankly, I find it highly annoying when people randomly add or subtract points to try to prove the point they are making. IMPS or MPS, I think responder needs to get to game. These are a pair of normal hands. There is no need to do anything out of the ordinary. – Aryabhata Jun 16 '13 at 19:47
Also, your game % odds seem off for IMPS. – Aryabhata Jun 16 '13 at 19:54
@Aryabhata: Bridge Ace agrees with me: bridgeace.com/Lessons/Rubber%20Bridge%20vs.%20Matchpoints.pdf – Forget I was ever here Jun 16 '13 at 23:36
@Aryabhata:Northern Colorado Bridge Association agrees also: "If you're vulnerable, it pays to be a little more optimistic when you're considering a thin game. The IMP odds (your potential gain if the contract makes) favor bidding any game that has even a 40% chance of making." from here: northerncoloradobridge.com/archives/playerscorner/… – Forget I was ever here Jun 16 '13 at 23:37
@Aryabhata: From Cornell University: The odds are not spelled out precisely, but the basic strategy between Vul and NotVul is verified: math.cornell.edu/~belk/impmp.htm – Forget I was ever here Jun 16 '13 at 23:39