It is quite common around here to allow a 5 card major in a 2NT opening bid (so 5332 shape) and use puppet Stayman in response to sort out major suit fits. The method is often called “Niemeijer” after Chris Niemeijer who introduced it in this country in the late 1970‘s having seen it elsewhere.

A problem with puppet Stayman that there is a no convenient method for responder to show 5-4. People have solved this by introducing a conventional 3NT response to 2NT, showing 5-4. That indeed solves this problem but introduces two new ones. First, it is easy to forget the bid, as 2NT-3NT sounds very natural. Then, if you want to raise 2NT to game without interest in majors, you have to bid something else. Common solution is to ask for majors anyway, then bid 3NT over whatever the response is. That solves this problem but gives away a lot about opener’s shape making life easy for the defense. Another solution is to play 2NT-3 as a puppet to 3NT, but that allows the opponents to double for the lead.

There is a solution to this problem that doesn’t have all these disadvantages. It is called Romex Stayman and I’ve been playing it for a while now with only good results. Time to share it with you.

So how does this work? 2NT-3 still asks for a major but the responses are different:


  • 3: Not 4 or 5, or 5. Responders rebids are:
    • 3: 4, opener bids 3 with 4, else 3NT.
    • 3: 5-4.
  • 3: 4 or 5, not 4.
    • 3: 3, opener bids 3N with 4 or 4 with 5♥.
  • 3: 5.
  • 3 NT: 4-4.
    • 4/: are transfers, right siding the contract.

Other rebids are kind of obvious. In the first 2 cases, one can still play 4 as minor suit Stayman, in the latter, that does not make sense as there won’t be a minor suit fit. Over 3, only if you open 2NT with 5-4/-2-2. In all these cases:

2N-3; 3//-4:

  • 4: over 3: 5♣/ and 4 now asks, over 3/: no minor
  • 4: 4
  • 4: 4
  • 4 NT: 4-4 minors (over 3)

There are variations on the minor suit ask around, but that is beyond the scope of this note. If you have discussed this, just continue to play what you play today. Obviously, 2NT-3, 3/-3/, 3NT-4 can also be played as minor suit Stayman.

The big advantage of this method is that 2NT-3NT becomes natural again. If you are not interested in the majors, simply raise to game without telling anything about opener’s hand and, of course, you can never forget again that 2NT-3NT is a conventional bid. The second advantage of this method is that opener’s hand isn’t fully revealed. The disadvantage is that with 5-4, you end up playing 4 by the weak hand.

Final note: there is also a Romex Stayman variation over 1NT opener’s around. The idea is the same, but there are some differences in the details. That is something for a later blog.

Henk Uijterwaal 2019