The Hog’s Two-Way Stayman

The Hog’s Two-Way Stayman — Well, It sure is a Variation

“Partnership understanding — what does it mean?” asked the Hideous Hog rhetorically, putting down my glass and picking up Oscar’s. “It’s all a question of semantics, really. The usual idea is that each player, in turn, knows what his partner means, draws the inferences and plays accordingly. That works well enough when Benito Garozzo faces Giorgio Belladonna, but what happens when one’s sitting opposite the Rueful Rabbit or Walter the Walrus or Timothy the Toucan? They wouldn’t know what you meant anyway and couldn’t draw the right inferences if they did. So why tell them anything?

“When I speak of partnership understanding, I mean something very different. Now take the Rabbit. He tells me what he has, and I tell him what to do with it. Once I’ve got that message across, we’ve achieved perfect understanding.”

We had been discussing Two-Way Stayman, an adaption of the original convention devised by HH for use with some of his gifted partners. This is how it works.

When the Hog opens 1NT and a partner bids 2♣, a rebid in a major is two-way. The Hog either has it or he hasn’t. Partner can raise it to the three level, but no higher and he must pass the Hog’s next bid.

The advantages of this method are considerable. If the 2♣ bidder has the major shown by HH, the suit will have stoppers in NT. If he hasn’t, the opponents won’t know whether to lead it or not. After all, HH isn’t debarred from having a suit just because he has bid it. So they must guess.

“I can see one snag,” objected Oscar the Owl, our Senior Kibitzer. “Suppose you open 1NT and bid 2♠ in response to Rabbit’s 2♣ bid. Now, though he may be worth 4♠, he can only bis 3♠.”

“And how is RR to know whether he is worth 3♠ or 4♠?” countered the Hog. “No, no, Two-way Stayman is foolproof, almost Rabbit-proof.

This was the hand that gave rise to the discussion:

Dlr: South Rueful Rabbit
Vul: None ♠ A 8
Q 10 8 2
A K 4
Papa ♣ A Q 10 2 Karapet
♠ K 10 7 4 ♠ J 9 6 5 2
K 4 J 9 7 6
8 7 6 5  Hideous Hog 3 2
 ♣ 8 7 4 ♠ Q 3 ♣ 9 6
A 5 3
Q J 10 9
♣ K J 5 3
East South West North
1NT Pass 2♣
Pass 2♠ Pass 4NT
Pass 6NT All Pass

Of course with the 4-4 fit, 6♣ would have been a better contract, but the Hog liked to get notrump in first, to prevent an accident.

Suspicious of the 2♠ bid, Papa nearly led a spade. That would have been a triumph for the convention, presenting declarer with the contract at trick one. The Greek thought better of it, however, and picked on the 8, which gave nothing away, leaving HH with only 10 top tricks.

The Hog began by cashing three diamonds and three clubs, but nothing interesting happened and the decisive moment could be postponed no longer. So, leaving two winners uncashed and with communications still open, HH laid down the A.

The danger signal flashed through Papa’s mind. He could see just what would happen. The Hog would take his fourth diamond and the ♣K, and now, with spades only in his hand, Pap would be thrown in with the K.

Promptly, the Greek jettisoned the king on the ace. It was safe enough, for Karapet was marked with the J. Had the Hog had it, he surely would have taken the finesse. The Q wouldn’t give HH his 12th trick, and meanwhile the end-play had been averted.

There was a price to pay — the spectacular unblocking play gave away the position of the ♠K, for without it the Greek would have been in trouble.

Making the most of the information, the Hog cashed the ♣K and discarded dummy’s ♠8 on his fourth diamond. With four cards remaining. HH spread his hand.

♠ A
Q 10 8
♣ —    (1)         (2)
♠ J 9  or    J
J 9   or    J 9 7
♣ —

If Karapet retained two spades and two hearts (1), HH would simply concede a heart. If the Armenian kept one spade and three hearts (2), the Hog would cash the ♠A and exit with the 8, endplaying Karapet in hearts.

“Could we have got there without Two-way Stayman?” asked the Rueful Rabbit.