Bridge Master Tips – 5 Card Major Stayman

Why top players open 1NT even when holding a five-card major.Bidding styles change, invariably for the better, as players judge the outcome of the decisions they make. Chances are that when you were learning bridge, the dominant approach was to open 1NT only with a balanced hand, one with a hand pattern of 4-3-3-3 or 4-4-3-2, or 5-3-3-2 as long as the 5-card suit was a minor. With a 5-3-3-2 pattern, a 5-card major and the right strength for 1NT, opening the major was advocated because major suit games usually have a greater chance of success than 3NT when there is at least an 8-card trump fit. This did not apply to minor suits since making nine tricks in no-trumps is easier than eleven with a minor suit as trumps when the hands are relatively balanced.This is especially important for duplicate pairs. If you can make ten tricks in a major suit and score 420/620, you outscore those in 3NT who make 400/600. If an overtrick is available in no-trumps it is usually also available in the suit contract (but exceptions exist). On the other hand, if you can make eleven tricks in a minor suit game you are likely to make ten tricks in no-trumps, with 430/630 outscoring 400/600.That was the argument in favour of choosing the major suit opening. What has happened since is that players realise they can have their cake and eat it, too. To open 1NT with a 5-card major need not impede your investigation for a major suit game. In addition many benefits flow from choosing 1NT rather than the 1-major opening.The assumption is that your partnership is using a 1NT opening in the 15-17 point range. If your no-trump range is different, you can simply adjust the examples by switching a king or a queen or a jack from one hand to the other.The benefits of opening 1NT if 5-3-3-2 with a 5-card majorIf no major suit fit exists, what value is there in opening the major? In that case, opening 1NT has significant advantages and virtually no drawback.1. Opening 1NT can keep the bidding lower.
2. Opening 1NT gives less information to the opponents.Whatever contract you reach, the less you tell the opponents the better your chances of success. If you open 1H or 1S and end in no-trumps they will certainly not lead your suit. After an auction like 1NT : 3NT a major suit lead is frequently chosen. If you open 1NT and your 5-card major suit is not revealed, you will sometimes be the beneficiary of a friendly lead into your 5-card suit.3. If you open with your major and no major fit exists, partner will often respond 1NT. Opening 1NT allows the strong hand to be declarer if you end up in no-trumps.After 1-major : 1NT, the weaker hand will be the declarer if the contract is no-trumps. There might be no difference, but it can be preferable to have the stronger hand concealed. That makes it harder for the defenders to place the missing high cards. Having the opening lead come into the strong hand can also be beneficial, as the strong hand is likely to have more tenace-like holdings, such as A-Q, K-J-x or K-x, to protect from the lead.4. Opening 1NT allows responder to make a transfer bid.If you open 1H or 1S , partner is expected to pass with a very weak hand. If you open 1NT, partner is permitted, indeed encouraged to bid with a weak hand and a long suit.