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Aug/Sep 13Article by Steve RobinsonOct/Nov
Articles1 Followed by 3
I asked my expert panel. Suppose you're playing with me. You open 1, I bid 1, you bid 2NT and I bid 3. All we've discussed is Wolff Signoffs. What would you do with 3=2=3=5 good hand? What would you do with 3=2=3=5 minimum hand? What would you do with 2=3=3=5? What would you do with 2=4=3=4 good hand? What would you do with 2=4=3=4 minimum hand? When you use ‘=’, you show exact distributions so 2=3=3=5 means two spades, three hearts, three diamonds and five clubs. If I said 2-3-3-5 any suit could be the five-bagger.

Wolff Signoffs---After one-of-a-minor - 1 - 2NT, 3 forces 3. Then 3 and 3 are sign-offs. You could even pass 3. With QxxxxQxxxxxxx, you bid 3 and over 3 you bid 3 which shows a weak hand with five spades and at least four hearts. With QJxxxxxxxQxxx, you bid 3 and over 3 you bid 3 which is a signoff. With QxxxxxxQJ10xxx, you bid 3 and pass 3. After one-of-a-minor - 1 - 2NT, 3 forces 3. Then 3 is a sign-off. With xxxQJxxxxQxxx, you bid 3 and over 3 you bid 3 which is a signoff. You could even pass 3 if you had long diamonds. 3 over 2NT is a slam try in a minor. Three-of-either-major is therefore forcing. The question is how do you tell the difference between responder holding five spades and five hearts or five spades and four hearts?


I have a strong feeling that most of the experts do not fully understand Wolff signoffs or they missed that we’re playing Wolff. They’re used to playing that 3, new minor, is used for 5-4 major-suit hands and a direct 3 shows 5-5. In Wolff, a direct 3 has to show both 5-5 and 5-4 in the majors. If Opener has two spades and three hearts, he can’t raise hearts since Responder might have only four. He has to bid 3, a false preference, asking Responder how many hearts he has. Over 3, Responder bids 3NT with four hearts. With five hearts, Responder bids 4 with a non-slammish hand and four-of-a-minor with a slammish hand. If Opener is 2-2 in the majors, he bids 3NT.

Bidding 3 over 3 is similar to the following sequence: 1 - 1NT - 3 In standard bidding, the 3 bidder can be 6-4 in the majors. He can also be 5-5 in the majors or 5-4 in the majors. If Responder is 1-3 or 2-3 in the majors, he bids 3 asking Opener to further describe his hand. Opener bids 4with 6-4, 4 with 5-5 and 3NT with 5-4 in the majors. Therefore Responder’s 3NT-bid over 3 says that he doesn’t care if Opener has five hearts.

I like what Bramley plays. However, there is a problem establishing what’s trump. Therefore, I like 4 to show a good 4 bid and 4 to show a good 4 bid. 4 and 4 promise four hearts. 4 and 4 promise three spades and deny four hearts. 3 does not establish trump. 3 asks Responder if he has five hearts.

Bart Bramley--- Without detailed discussion of the Wolff signoff sequences I can't be sure of the negative inferences available. I'll assume that 3 followed by 3 would have been weak with both majors, and 3 is some game force with MINOR-suit interest, so the direct 3 shows a game force with at least 5-4 in the majors. Here I bid 3 on any hand with spade preference, which covers 3=2 or 3=3 in the majors. If partner has slam interest he can make a try. With 2=3 (or 2=2) in the majors I bid 3NT. The four-level shows hands with four hearts. 4 is a minimum hand, and four-of-either-minor is a cue in support of hearts.

John Mohan---When you don't know what your partner's bid means, it is no longer truly a bridge problem, just a random guess. Assuming that partner is 5-5 Majors, which would surely be the expert expectation, I would bid 4 or raise only to 4 with very minimum, non-slammish hands; all others I would bid 3 or cuebid, which is always for hearts. But I'll go along with the gag - if partner could be 5=4 then a false preference to 3 would make sense if your diamond stoppers were marginal.

Eddie Kantar---
3=2=3=5 good hand – 4
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 – 3 I expect partner to bid 4 if partner has five hearts and 3NT if he is 5-4.  
2=4=3=4 good hand – Cuebid, partner assumes it’s for hearts
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- raise to 4

Doug Doub---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- probably cue bid 4 with good clubs
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- bid 3
2=3=3=5 -- either 3NT or 3, depending upon my diamond holding, and the strength of my spades
2=4=3=4 good hand -- cuebid 4 with good clubs; else 4 with good diamonds
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- raise to 4

Kit Woolsey---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- bid 3. I assume it’s forcing
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- bid 3 unless I knew for certain we wanted to play in spades and I had complete trash for slam -- then I would bid 4 2=3=3=5 -- it would depend totally on the hand -- maybe 3, maybe 3NT, maybe 4
2=4=3=4 good hand -- cuebid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- raise to 4

The following experts assume that Opener is 5-4 in the majors and rebid 3NT. I wonder if they expect Responder to bid 4 with 5-5 in the majors over 3NT. If they do, they could find Opener with 2-2 in the majors.

Ralph Katz---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 4
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- four-of-a-minor.
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Jill Meyers---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Four-of-a-minor
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Barry Rigal---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3; a jump to 4 is specifically good trumps low on aces outside.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3; I will not cooperate later, but for the time being my partner doesn’t know my range.
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT, unless my diamonds were terrible and my spades were K10, double honor or better, when 3 would enter the picture.
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cuebid here agrees hearts, 4/4 as appropriate.
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 suggests no cuebid or minimum.

Mildred Breed---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand --.4    
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Mike Lawrence---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4    
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Jeff Rubens---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 4 with strong spades, else 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Four-of-a-minor if suitable
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Steve Bloom---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Bobby Lipsitz---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Eddie Kantar---
3=2=3=5 good hand 3 -- Set trumps
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 I might fudge a little with three small in a minor and a lot of values in the majors.

Mark Lair---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Minor cuebid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Alan Sontag---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 4
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Eric Greco---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3; I would not want to confuse things by leaping to 4. When I don’t cooperate over your cuebid, you know I won’t have much.
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT unless I was stopper-less in diamonds.
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Four-of-a-minor
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 or four-of-a-minor

Danny Gerstman---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- bid 3.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- bid 3 It’s important for partner to know which suit I think is trumps. I think the people who cuebid immediately with spades or hearts as the suit, planning to revert to spades, are dead wrong. I'll bid 3 and if he cuebids, I'll cooperate with the good hand and with the poor hand I'll just bid 4. This works twofold: That means when I do cuebid immediately, he knows I've got the four hearts as stated below.
2=3=3=5 --3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- cuebid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- raise to 4

David Berkowitz---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3 I want to check out partner’s intentions. Also it is most important to set trumps before cue-bidding. A four-minor bid would lead partner to believe that he hit me in hearts.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4 fast arrival, but I prefer to play it shows a minimum with three good spades.
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT.  
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cuebid four-of-a-minor
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4, not a problem is it?

John Carruthers---
3=2=3=5 good hand – 3. The most important thing is to set trumps. After that, we shall see. If I bid beyond 3NT now, it would be a cuebid for hearts.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3; the most important thing is to set trumps. After that, we shall see. If I bid beyond 3NT now, it would be a cuebid for hearts.
2=3=3=5 – 3NT.  With no primary fit for either major suit, my first duty is to bid 3NT. I cannot go past 3NT without a primary fit for one of partner's majors, either three spades or four hearts.
2=4=3=4 good hand – 4/4. My cheapest control. With a good hand and a primary fit, I must cuebid, regardless of the partnership philosophy. See my answer to (e).
2=4=3=4 minimum hand – 4/4. My cheapest control. My philosophy is that, when a primary fit is found, control bids below game by a limited hand with an unlimited partner do not show extra values - they merely indicate a willingness to cooperate. Suppose I willy-nilly bid 4 with a minimum; how does partner know when to go on and when to subside? Whereas, in my preferred methods, if I cuebid 4, for example, and he has no club control, he knows immediately, regardless of strength, not to go on. Since my range for the jump to 2NT is normally restricted to a two-point range, it is difficult to separate minimums from maximums anyway. And how bad can an 18-point minimum be? On the other hand, if I have an unlimited hand and cuebid below game when partner has limited his own hand, that is a definite slam try.  

When determining which strain in which to play, the single most important factor is distribution, and by a large margin. It is important not to be influenced by the structure of your non-support, for example, AK doubleton in spades or AQ third in hearts in the given problem. With a balanced hand and partner not yet having shown extra length, key on the number of trumps you hold, not their quality (until further notice from partner).

Billy Eisenberg---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cue bid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Marinesa Letizia---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- bid 3 to set trumps and show good hand
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- depends on your toys, if you're a fast arrival person 4 would show this hand.
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT
2=4=3=4 good hand -- cue bid four-of-minor shows max with heart support
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Karen Allison---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3; I play fast arrival principles. I believe 3 is game-forcing.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4; I would reverse these two answers playing slow arrival.
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT. If playing checkbacks along with Wolff, I would raise the presumed five-card heart suit.
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cuebid for hearts
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 on the same fast arrival principle discussed earlier.

The following experts assume that Responder has five hearts and raise hearts with three. They play that 3 is checkback for majors not a slam try in a minor.

Marty Bergen---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4
2=3=3=5 -- you have 5-5, so 4 or four-of-a-minor depending on values
2=4=3=4 good hand -- four-of-a-minor
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 or four-of-a-minor

Ron Gerard--- 3=2=3=5 good hand --
3 3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3; there’s no hand worth 4.
2=3=3=5 -- 4
2=4=3=4 good hand -- 4
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Larry Mori---With 3 being a checkback, then 3 would show a 5-5+ hand in the majors so with good hands with spades, I start with 3 and 4 would be the minimum with three. 4 would be a minimum, and a minor bid would be a cuebid in support of hearts.

Chuck Berger---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3 and then cuebid if possible
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3 and generally sign off. What’s a minimum?
2=3=3=5 -- 4 or advanced cuebid if maximum with aces
2=4=3=4 good hand -- four-of-a-minor cue bid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 if no minor ace

Drew Casen---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4
2=3=3=5 -- 4
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cuebid my cheapest minor suit control
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- Cuebid my cheapest minor suit control

Joel Wooldridge---I assume this auction shows 5-5 in the majors and is forcing. Without special agreement, I would treat this like 1NT - 2 - 2 - 3- so 3 shows a fit and is somewhat forward going, and 4 shows a fit and is to play (if you have different agreements, then use whatever those may be). Also bidding a new suit is a forward going cuebid for hearts, and 3NT shows 2-2 in the majors. If you want to eliminate the 2-2 in the majors bid, you could separate heart support using 3NT as three and a direct cue or raise as four. You could also code your four-minor responses as something like 4 shows three hearts, 4 shows four and a good hand, 4 shows four and a bad hand. Over 4, 4 asks if you like your hand.

The 1NT transfer auction shows 5-5 or longer in the majors. That is not what 3 shows in this problem.

Bobby Wolff---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 4 since four-of-a-minor would be a four-card heart fit with the ace.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3 or 4 depending on my view of good or minimum.
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT unless I didn't have diamonds stopped, Jxx or less, then 3
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Four of the lowest minor suit ace; if neither available, then probably only 4. If holding a super hand such as  AxAKxxKxxKQxx would decide between four simple hearts or a king for a cuebid in a minor. Above all, though, not anything at the five-level as partner could have: KQxxxQxxxxxxx or even worse.
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Allen Siebert---I play 3 as five/five and go thru Wolff if five/four
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 3 to show some slam interest
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4
2=3=3=5 -- 3NT; with good cards outside the heart suit
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cuebid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

Frank Stewart---I can't answer without seeing specific hands. There would be some good 3=2=3=5 hands with which I would decline to take a spade preference. With certain slammish 2=4=3=4 hands, an advance cuebid might be appropriate. I do feel strongly that opener should jump to 4 over 3 with a slammish hand and good spades: AKxKxAxxAJ9xx. Since trump quality is a vital factor in slam bidding, opener should reassure responder about the quality of the trump suit.

There is disagreement about what a jump to 4 shows. I think it should show the worst possible hand.

Ron Smith---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- I'd want to cue-bid my lowest control
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 3
2=3=3=5 -- I assume minimum so 4
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Cuebid
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4

To recap the way I like to play Wolff.

Steve Robinson---
3=2=3=5 good hand -- 4 artificial which shows a good hand with three-card spade support and denies four hearts.
3=2=3=5 minimum hand -- 4 which shows a very bad hand with three-card spade support and denies four hearts. How bad can an 18-19 hand be? Most of the time, you bid 4. My jump to 4 would show KxxQJxKQJKQJx or xxJxxKQJAKQJ. At most one keycard.
2=3=3=5 -- 3. I need to find out how many hearts partner has. I could have AxKxxKJxAKxxx.
2=4=3=4 good hand -- Bid 4 artificial which shows a good hand with four-card heart support.
2=4=3=4 minimum hand -- 4 which shows a very bad hand with four-card heart support. How bad can an 18-19 hand be? Again most of the time you bid 4. My jump to 4 would show JxQxxxAKQKQJx or xxQxxxKQJAKQJ.
2=2=4=5 -- 3NT which shows 2-2 in the majors.
Don Berman, Web Master.