Who killed Puppet Stayman?
(Page of 3)

Way back in ancient times, life was simple.  1NT was seldom opened with a 5-card major and responder would bid clubs to recover a 4-4 major suit fit.

Then.. innovation came (curse you, Kit!)  It was decided that at little cost, you could conceal opener's (who would also be declarer) shape by having 2 be a puppet to 2.  Responder would then bid the major he didn't have, or NT with both.  In this way, you would only disclose opener's shape when there WAS a 4-4 fit to find.  As an added bonus, you could get out in 2 (or 3 if the opening was 2NT)

1NT - 2; 2* - ??

Pass = diamonds

2 = hearts

2NT = INV

3NT = both majors, choice of games

3 = to play

* forced, although I'm afraid this footnote needs a footnote.

Kit then kind of pontificated* that once you were bidding puppet, it was kind of free for opener to bid a FIVE card major if he had one (the cost is that in order to get out in diamonds, you are a level higher.)    This works great when responder was bidding Stayman with 4-3 in the majors and interest in a 5-3 fit.

*see Kit's comment below, where he denies doing so...

We'll call this ORIGINAL PUPPET

I'll admit, I kind of like this version and it has long been what I try to get my partner's to play.  However, as time marched on, players started opening 1NT and 2NT more and more without regard to whether they held a 5-card major.  Science marched onwards...

With so many people opening NT while holding a 5-card major, it has become attractive for responder to try to uncover a 5-3 fit when they are 3-2 in the majors as well as 4-3.

So people used puppet for this.  Since the original scheme of responses do not allow for responder to NOT hold a 4-card major, those needed to be changed.

Also, semantically, I'm loathe to call this "Puppet" as it is really just 5-card Stayman with a later relay.  Since it is most common for players to use 3 for this (over both 1NT and 2NT) I'll annotate the auction there.

2NT - 3

3 - No 5-card major, BUT A 4-CARD MAJOR

3M - 5 cards there

3NT - No 4 or 5-card major

THEN:

2NT - 3; 3 - ??

3 = hearts

3NT = neither hearts nor spades

4 = both majors

Now science has allowed us to locate all our 5-3 and 4-4 fits. And the price?  We tell the opponents more about openers shape regardless of whether we have a fit.  So we'll call this BLABBERMOUTH PUPPET

Compare the no-fit cases (there is little to be gained by comparing the fit cases):

1) Opener has no major, responder has 1 major or both majors

Original: tells defenders dummy's major shape and that opener has no fit

Blabbermouth: tells defender opener has no 4-card major

2)  Opener has one 4-card major, responder has the other.

Original:  Defenders know dummy's major, they do not that opener has 4-cards in the other major

Blabbermouth:  Defenders know both dummy and declarer's 4-card major

3)  Opener has two  4-card majors, responder has neither

Original:  Responder did not use Stayman

Blabbermouth:  Defenders know opener's major suit shape exactly.

4)  Opener has no major, responder has no major:

Original:  Responder bid 3NT

Blabbermouth:  Defenders know opener has no 4-card major, do not know about responder's shape.

5)  Opener has one major, responder has no major:

Original:  Responder bid 3NT

Blabbermouth:  Defenders know opener has ONE major, but not which one, and that responder has none.

While case 1 is about a break even, cases 2, 3, 4 and 5 are wins for Original as far as keeping information from opponents.  Thats a lot of losses.

Now maybe I'm the only one who noticed this, but science did not stop there.  In discussing the merits of Original vs. Blabbermouth in a new partnership with Elliot Shalita, we came up with a NEW SCHEME for Puppet.

We'll call the proposed scheme HYBRID PUPPET...

While HYBRID discloses more than original Puppet, it conceals more and even has a new winning case.  Here is how it works.

2NT - 3; ??

3 = no 5-card major, says nothing about 4-card majors

3M = 5 cards there

Note, this is the same scheme as ORIGINAL PUPPET, and allows for sign out in 3 or 4 most frequently (opener won't cross a diamond signoff by bidding 3NT for example)

2NT - 3; 3 - ??

3 = Hearts

3NT = Both.

2NT - 3; 3 - 3; ??

This discloses exactly the same as Original puppet in all the cases where responder has hearts or both.  Let's examine the no-fit cases where responder bids 3 and see how they work...

Case 1:  Responder has spades, opener doesn't.

Responder's bid maybe showed spades, opener bid 3NT denying spades.  They know opener doesn't have spades, but do not know if dummy will have spades or if opener has hearts.

Case 2:  Opener has spades, responder doesn't

The defenders get to find this out.

Case 3*:  Neither player has spades

The defenders will find out opener has no spades, but not know about hearts and will not know if responder has spades.

Compared to Original, Hyrbrid wins in case 1 and loses in cases 2 and 3

Compared to Blabbermouth, Hybrid wins in cases 1 and 3 and loses in case 2.

Remember also that Hybrid win vs Blabbermouth in all the cases where responder has hearts or both (as it is the same as Original Puppet)

You can get out in 3 instead of 4 whenever opener doesn't have a 5-card major.

You disclose much less than Blabbermouth about opener's shape.

Primary disadvantage:  You cannot agree spades at 3 vis 3 - 3; 3 - 3 (since responder's 3 didn't promise spades.)  While on slam hands this is irrelevant (responder will continue with 4m, a cuebid that clarifies spades are trump) you can no longer offer a choice of games 3NT after this start.

I got to name the other version BLABBERMOUTH.  Which is exactly what it is.