Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

A careless shepherd makes an excellent dinner for a wolf.

Earl Derl Biggers

N North
None ♠ Q J 10 7
 J 5 2
 K Q J 8
♣ A 2
West East
♠ A 9 6
 6 4 3
 6 2
♣ K J 8 7 6
♠ 8 5 3
 K 9 8 7
 10 7 4 3
♣ Q 10
♠ K 4 2
 A Q 10
 A 9 5
♣ 9 5 4 3
South West North East
    1 Pass
3 NT All pass    


South could not see what could go wrong in three no-trump. He counted four diamond tricks, two aces, and three spades, once the ace was knocked out. When South played low from dummy at trick one, he soon found out. East won the lead and returned the suit, and West could win the spade ace then cash out the clubs for down one.

We may all be familiar with the position where dummy holds ace-doubleton opposite 10-fourth, when a small card of this suit is led through dummy. The danger is that if the suit breaks 5-2 and the long hand holds an entry; the correct play is to rise with the ace in order to block the run of the suit. The point is that East is almost certain to have one of the top three honors, otherwise West would have led the king. If the suit breaks 4-3 there is no danger, and if is 6-1, when East obtains the lead he will have no card to return.

But today’s situation is analogous: East is really quite likely to hold two out of the K-Q-J-10, since with for example K-J-10-8-x, West’s recommended lead would be the jack (though a small card might be right, I admit).

So by rising with the ace, once again you are heavy favorite to be able to block the suit. You can now knock out the spade ace safely, regardless of which defender holds it. Unless the club suit breaks 4-3, East will have a doubleton double honor and the suit will be blocked.

You are fairly and squarely in the middle of the range for your initial response, of 6-10, and you have no real fit for either of your partner’s suits. The choice seems to be between a call of two no-trump and three notrump, since a three-club rebid might suggest a sub-minimum hand with long clubs. I’ll settle for the two no-trump call, but give me the diamond 10 and I might go high not low.


♠ A 9 6
 6 4 3
 6 2
♣ K J 8 7 6
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 NT Pass 2 Pass

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 2016. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Yasser HaiderMarch 2nd, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Hi Bobby
In BWTA, what do you think of the use of 2N by responder after a reverse by opener to show a relay to 3C, showing a weak hand that wants to sign off at the 3 level, either in clubs or one of opener’s two suits? That way, a 3 level bid over the reverse becomes 8+ points and thus enable the above hand to bid 3C here over 2H. Thanks

Bill CubleyMarch 2nd, 2016 at 7:56 pm

The Earl Derr Biggers character who said the quote is Charlie Chan. He spent more time away from Hawaii solving murders in Palm Springs, San Francisco [pre Herb Caen!], Reno/Lake Tahoe rather than Honolulu. Good reads for mystery lovers.

bobbywolffMarch 3rd, 2016 at 8:25 pm

Hi Yasser,

Your suggestion seems to cater to more hands than what is suggested by natural bidding. Thus I would agree to play it, but keeping in mind that one forget by either partner will bring much more negativity than what can be gained over the long haul.

In other words, by all means play it, but agree to have draconian partnership penalties for forgets (possibly financial ones), otherwise a declination would clearly be my sincere choice.

Good luck with your decision.

bobbywolffMarch 3rd, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the learning experience about topical origination. Also the answer is somewhat akin to my advice to Yasser above about forgetting a new convention.

All shepherds need to not be careless, and when life is at stake, either animal or human, extreme care needs to be exercised.