Judy Kay-Wolff


With the history of WOLFF SIGNOFF (WSO) behind us, it is time to get to the nitty-gritty of the convention and its practical applications.   For the sake of simplification and brevity, let us use the following code which I copped from my creative late partner-in-law, Edgar Kaplan:

(M = Major) (OM = Other Major) (m = minor) (om = other minor).  Got it?

Repeating the conditions that are necessary to set the wheels of WSO in full motion ….

1.   One of the partners must make an invitational 2NT bid (not an Opening 2NT).

2.   The partner of the 2NT bidder must bid 3C, self-deputizing himself to take center stage and call most of the shots.

3.   The bid of 3C FORCES partner to bid 3D.

4.   The 3C bidder now names the trump suit which asks the strong hand to pass, thereby SIGNING OFF.    There are exceptions to be discussed later.

5.   Either partner may initiate the invitational 2NT call (as a jump rebid by the opener or as an overcaller of the enemy’s bid at the two level which will be discussed later).


Since there are several ramifications of WSO, today we are only going to handle the original treatment with our side opening the bidding.   Now let us examine specific auctions.

The most commonly known and adopted treatments of WSO begin when the opening bidder, after partner’s response at the one level, jumps to 2NT in the following sequences in an unobstructed auction:

a) 1m* P 1M P   (b) 1m* P 1S P   (c) 1H P 1S P
  2NT P 3C P     2NT P 3C P     2NT P 3C P
  3D P 3M       3D P 3H       3D P 3S  

In (a), responder is signing off in 3 of his major; in (b), responder is offering partner a choice to correct to 3S or pass 3H; in (c), partner is insisting on stopping in 3S.  *Please note that the minor opening in (a) or (b) can be either clubs or diamonds and the meaning of 3C does not change.

WSO can also assume a simpler format as below.

(a) 1D P 2NT P
  3C P 3D  
The opener, holding something like KJXX  JX  KQJ10XX  X, prefers to play 3D.

There are certain variations of the above.

1.   If the 3C bidder forces 3D and then retreats to 3NT, it was never intended as a weak call, but rather a hand with independent clubs or good support if partner opened with 1C.  (It is similar in nature to the Flint auction where 3D forces partner to bid 3H — and then the diamond bidder does not pass the forced response — but bids 3NT which shows a strong hand with good diamond support).

2.   There are two specialized auctions which must be distinguished as they take on a special complexion:

(a) 1m P 1H P (b) 1m P 1H P
2NT P 3S 2NT P 3C P
3D P 3S

Since the invitational bids of 2NT do not necessarily deny a four card spade holding, it is important to learn more about partner’s hand.   In (a), the responder shows five or more hearts and four spades (just as it sounds to the ear).   In (b), the 3C bid (starting out as WSO) now shows four hearts and four spades — allowing you a choice of contracts (3NT, 4H, 4S — or even considering the possibility of a slam).   Both auctions, of course, are 100% forcing.

3.   The sequences below are NATURAL — to play:

1C P 1NT P 1D P 1NT P 1M P 1NT P
2NT P 3C 2NT P 3C 2NT P 3C

To sum up WOLFF SIGNOFF:   The 3C call sets the stage for a full scale evacuation (at the three level if possible), keeping casualties to a minimum. Some good guidelines ….

1.   The red flag has been waved by the 3C bidder.

2.   The 3C bidder has become the captain of the partnership.

3.   The 3C bidder is better equipped to make the final decision as to where to play the contract.  The Strong hand can overrule — BUT HE HAD BETTER BE RIGHT!

4.    Either hand can initiate the WSO.

5.    *A cue bid of opponent’s major is Stayman after partner has overcalled 2NT.  3C is WSO and all other bids are natural and forcing.

6.   WSO was specifically designed for unbalanced weak-suited hands to escape from No Trump.

(*Auctions referring to interference bidding will be discussed separately at a later date).

1 Comment

Mike RalphJanuary 14th, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Good system. May I suggest a small change to Section 2? The sequence 1m – 1H – 2NT – 3S sounds to my ear like 4-4 in the majors, not 5-4. How else would one look for a 4-4 spade fit in a natural system with no asking bid or relay available? With 5-4 responder should rebid 3H (forcing). Opener with 4 spades should come back with 3S even if he holds 3-card support for hearts. This gives the responder the chance to raise to 4S if he has the 5-4 hand. Otherwise he “signs off” in 3NT, and opener can then reveal his heart support.

This approach would release the given sequence 1m – 1H – 2NT – 3C – 3D – 3S for a different use. How about suggesting a heart slam and showing a singleton?