Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, January 6th, 2019

When opener supports responder’s major suit, I know that you believe the raise can be based on either three or four trumps. Can responder ask his partner to describe his hand more precisely?

Define and Dandy, Waterbury, Conn.

A convention, called “Spiral Scan” by some, is used after opener raises responder’s major-suit response. A call of two no-trump over the raise lets opener use a four-step response; minimum with three and four trumps, respectively, maximum with three and four trump, respectively. Responder’s two-spade call over two hearts tends to show four, to help reach a 4–4 fit if opener has raised hearts with four spades and three hearts.

If you were dealt ♠ A-9-7-4-2,  J-5-2,  A-K-7, ♣ Q-2, and heard your partner open one no-trump, would you merely drive to game, or would you invite slam? (As the cards lie, my partner had king-queen-third of spades and a 16-count, but he had all the missing controls bar the club ace, and we had 12 top tricks).

Underdone, Memphis, Tenn.

I would simply transfer to spades and then bid three no-trump, not considering slam unless my partner broke the transfer at his first turn. But if, over my jump to three no-trump, my partner made a call other than four spades, it should show a maximum with three trumps. Then I’d probably up and bid slam.

Please explain how leading third-and-fifth or third-and-low works — as opposed to fourth highest. What are the main differences, and which would you recommend I play?

Spot Belly, Staten Island, N.Y.

Leading fourth-highest, but also lowest from three, may make those two holdings hard to differentiate. By contrast, leading a high spot card from two or four cards, but lowest from three or five, means that any ambiguity should be between holdings that are two cards apart. This makes confusion rather less likely, so an experienced partnership might consider moving on from fourth highest.

If you were in fourth seat with ♠ J,  Q-10-6,  K-Q-10-6-4-2, ♣ K-3-2, would you use Pierson points (spades plus high-card points) to determine whether to open the bidding? Would the vulnerability affect that decision?

Keeping the Peace, Fort Worth, Texas

Playing pairs, I tend to open my balanced 11-12 point hands when vulnerable (even when relatively short in spades, a criterion others take seriously). Partner tends to have the hand closest to an opener in such circumstances. But this collection is an unbalanced hand with very little in the majors and no aces. I don’t expect the opponents to be able to make game — but it wouldn’t completely surprise me. I’d pass and apologize if I were wrong; but if I did open, it would be with a call of three diamonds.

Holding ♠ A-J-3-2,  Q-4-2,  K-Q-4, ♣ K-10-2, I assume you would open one no-trump in an uncontested auction. But what would you do if your right-hand opponent opened the bidding? When would you pass, when would you double, and when would you overcall one no-trump?

Call My Bluff, Willoughby, Ohio

I would open one no-trump happily enough, and I would overcall one no-trump over the opening bid of a minor or one spade, but I would double one heart. Having said that, if my partner were a passed hand and I heard a minor suit to my left, I might double and take the low road. I would never pass with this hand.

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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Hi Bobby,

I looked up “Spiral Scan” and there are other applications e.g. the slam bidding approach developed by George Rosenkranz. All interesting stuff.

Monday morning -it is appears to be occurring again with updating the website – I thought it was just people who were the worse for wear on a Monday morning. Thanks for your efforts to kick things along, though.



Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2019 at 1:26 pm

That was “-itis”, the site was trying to help!

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2019 at 2:07 pm

Hi Iain,

Thanks for your continued wholehearted support for at least attempting to make AOB, the best bridge site it can be.

While “Spiral Scan” is a relatively easy way to clarify between three and four card immediate support for partner’s major suit, together with value evaluation, greatly helping partner to determine the strain (usually a major suit with an eight card fit or 3NT with only seven but with all the other suits as least singularly stopped) as the chosen game,
it, like most other conventions, has at least one singular weakness.

That partnership loses the ability to rebid a NF 2NT with perhaps: s. K9x, h. (suit to be investigate). h. Axxx, d. QJx, c. Qxx.

If partner then held. s. Ax, h. Kxx, d. xxx, c. AKxxx he would raise to 3MT but with the same hand with clubs AJxxx he should choose to pass.

However with: s. KQx, h. KJxx, d. xx, c. KJxx he should return to 3 hearts, but with instead the AJ10x in clubs he might go all in with 4 hearts.

Simply explained, that partnership loses the ability to stop at 2NT, a contract that is often the right one.

The four card major suit responder must not immediately rebid that major without first checking first with his partner for 4 card support even though his partner has already raised his suit.

At least to me, when holding: s. x, h. Jxx, d. Axxx, c. AKxxx and after opening 1 club and hearing partner respond 1 heart, to not raise to 2 hearts is quite a bidding distortion, since to do otherwise can lead to disasters when partner has 5 decent hearts but otherwise a balanced hand with only moderate values and, IMO is right to just pass partner’s rebid.

Bobby WolffJanuary 21st, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Hi again Iain,

So, if you feel as I do, that a natural and NF 2NT is just too much go give up, then bidding a suit below your major suit, or of course 2 spades when 1 heart has been raised to 2, will allow virtually the same responses by the opener, all natural, but always bidding three hearts or four if holding 4 card trump support, but bidding another suit (partner’s or not), or often NT when holding only 3 of partner’s original response.

Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Hi Bobby,

Thanks for all that and definitely a window back into the tournament world and more serious partnerships; back in the late 1970s when I was hyper-competitive I had 3 pages of notes on our defence to Multi 2D, but I’d have traded most of the thoroughness and complexity for making fewer real “kickself” mistakes during sessions.

The world’s best golf clubs won’t stop a club golfer missing numerous short putts, and the same concern applies to other sports and games. For the sake of the leisure goods industry (including bridge book sales I suspect), let’s hope players don’t put 2 & 2 together and then their wallets away.



JudyJanuary 21st, 2019 at 5:22 pm

We know Monday is not up yet. Checking on it.

/s/ Bobby’s secretary

Iain ClimieJanuary 21st, 2019 at 6:04 pm

Hi Judy, Bobby,

If this keeps happening, I’ll concoct you a template into which you can edit the hand and text then paste it into the blog field. Thanks for all your efforts, though.



JudyJanuary 21st, 2019 at 6:42 pm

Thanks .. but our computers are so filled up. .. we delete after three months. Good thought though!


Bobby WolffJanuary 22nd, 2019 at 10:40 am

Hi Everyone,

Judy and I are trying our best to see what is going wrong with our site in presenting our daily bridge hand (two weeks delayed).

So far we have not heard back from three different control sources and, of course, will continue to do the best we can to find and correct the cause.

Sincere apologies to all our posters, many of whom who have been so helpful for years and in more ways than we can count.

As of this very moment, we do not have any idea of what has happened, but we will keep trying until we learn. Although yesterday was a major holiday in the USA, Martin Luther King Jr. day, that should not have caused the problem we have not, as yet, solved.

Iain ClimieJanuary 22nd, 2019 at 12:00 pm

HI Bobby, Judy,

I think I speak for everybody when I say the wait will be worth it.



Mircea1January 22nd, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Hi Bobby and Judy,

I’m in the I.T. business running my own company (in ON, Canada). If you need any help with running or hosting this site, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m also more than willing to lend a helping hand to your computer person in getting things back on track. Please don’t hesitate to ask. I am pretty sure Bobby has my private e-mail address and phone number.

Bobby WolffJanuary 23rd, 2019 at 7:40 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Thanks for your thoughtful and very kind offer.

If in fact, it ever comes to pass that we can make use of your expertise, we will look forward to having you available. With your deft handling and conscientiousness with bridge, there is no doubt that you will be able to solve whatever would befuddle us.

Thanks again for your concern.

Judy also sends her best.