Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, August 25th, 2013

What is your view on the use of the sandwich no-trump, when the auction starts with your LHO opening the bidding, and RHO responding at the one-level? Do you like to play a one-no-trump call as unusual, or strong and balanced?

Shape-Shifter, Pueblo, Colo.

Years ago, when players did not dredge up responses with very weak hands, there was a case for playing the two-suited one no-trump. No longer. These days you need the natural no-trump call since your side could still easily be making game, or at least a partscore. As a passed hand, the call shows the unbid suits of course, with more shape and less defense than a double.

Should you ever open one no-trump with a 5-4-2-2 shape? If so, what might the constraints be? I recently opened one no-trump, holding ♠ J-4,  A-Q-5-4,  K-J, ♣ K-J-5-4-2. Everyone at the table told me that I should have opened with a suit instead.

Home Tutoring, Twin Falls, Idaho

With 5-4-2-2 and a five-card major, never open one no-trump. Also with five of a minor and four spades you can generally bid your suits efficiently. With hands like yours, opening one no-trump is acceptable, but it is fine to open one club, planning to rebid one no-trump over a one-spade response. Conversely, with a 17-count, bid your suits, reversing if necessary, and you get to show both your values and shape.

I think I understand the phrase rectifying the count — which has to do with giving up tricks. The phrase seems to get used in many bridge articles but is rarely explained. Does it matter?

Counting Coup, Saint John, New Brunswick

When you are playing for a squeeze, it is frequently right to surrender all the tricks that you can afford to lose as early as possible, reaching a point where you need the rest of the tricks. This often increases the pressure on the opponents and is called rectifying the count. Failure to do so may leave a defender with a spare discard.

Last week I disagreed with the club expert, who was in fourth seat with ♠ Q-10-3,  3-2,  K-Q-5-3, ♣ K-10-4-2. The bidding started one diamond to his left and I doubled. When his RHO bid one heart, he tried one spade! We ended up in a 3-3 fit, but I was too timid to comment. What would you have done?

Bowled Over, Palm Springs, Calif.

I must admit I would have bid two clubs, but if the opponents had raised hearts, I might have balanced with an imaginative two-spade call. The difference is that you would then have put me back to three clubs — right?

Please help me on this. I have played regular Key-card Blackwood forever and now my partner is insisting I play 1430 responses when we go to our next regional tournament. It is far too complicated for me, and I don't want to play it and mess up! I'm thinking about just not going to the tournament. What is your opinion?

Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Miami, Fla.

Whatever you do, don't give up! Tell your partner there is basically no real advantage to 1430 responses over 0314. What matters is KNOWING your system. Tell your partner you have Bobby Wolff's approval to stick with what you know and can remember.

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


ClarksburgSeptember 8th, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Mr Wolff,
Further to Home Tutoring’s question and your answer:
So it seems that with a 5422 shape, 1NT is OK if the 5-carder is a minor, but 1NT is a No-NO if the 5-carder is a major.
What about 5332 with a 5-card Major? Would 1NT be correct with a high-end count and a sketchy suit, but 1M better with a weak-end count and a better quality suit.
I’m asking, because I’ve bought into the idea that opening 1NT whenever justified is a big plus…i.e. early limit bid, and many options for responder.

And an unrelated query about responding to Partner’s 1NT with a strong hand and a major suit. Assuming the pair plays Jacoby and Texas Transfers, and appropriate continuations to explore for slam, what would you recommend the jump 1NT >> 3 Major be used for?

Bobby WolffSeptember 8th, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

First, one aspect which was left unsaid. If opening 1 of a minor (instead of a 15-17 NT) and then over 1 spade, rebidding 1NT with 15 HCPs and a 5 card suit, partner will always be in a quandary, holding a balanced 11 HCP’s. I would then at the table open 1NT on that hand so that partner can blithely pass 1NT, without fear of missing a relatively easy game by raising. Part of winning consistently at matchpoint duplicate is playing 1NT, not 2 on hands short of the point count (and 5 card suits) necessary to make 9 tricks and sometimes ugly defensive breaks cause the hand limited to making only 1 instead of 2, not to mention making only 2 instead of 3 (when the opener accepts the invitation).

The reason for my above diatribe is to distinguish between what is taught and what good players practice, a delicate and sensitive subject. This site is to promote what wins and columns are to ward off the bogey man’s criticism which you are subject to.

I totally agree with the tactics of opening 1NT whenever possible, because of unseen advantages (opponents not easily entering the bidding) but also add to that being able to play contracts at lower levels without constant fears of missing good games.

I would recommend playing 1NT P 3 of a major to show shortness (always a singleton, not a void) and, of course, a hand which is strong enough to justify game, to keep from getting to 3NT with an unstopped suit and/or also the NTer having Ace third, which will also lend toward playing a suit even a minor suit game. However the jump to 3 of a major would also deny a 4 card (or longer) major suit which should be bid using normal Stayman.

In my heart of hearts I strongly prefer to play 2 way Stayman, e.g. 2 clubs NGF and 2D GF, which at least to me is far superior to transfers, but does not have universal support.

Playing the hand from the wrong side is not as bad percentage wise as transfer lovers deem and once 2 diamonds (GF) is bid that partnership can now explore slowly all suit slam possibilities without fear of being passed short of game.

Believe me, it is far superior, but as of this point, transfers are so ingrained with their users that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for those advocates to change horses.

Good luck and happy bridging!

ClarksburgSeptember 8th, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Thank you, thank you!!
Your suggestion “…I would recommend playing 1NT P 3 of a major to show shortness…” was most helpful….incisive, highly-descriptive and so useful in many ways.
That one is already on my convention card!! No doubt my regular partner and I (beginner / intermediates) will be the only pair playing this in our local area. I’ll share it with any and all who might be interested.