Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dealer: South

Vul: All

J 9
K 4
J 9 7 6 4
A 10 8 4
West East
K 4 2
Q 10 8 7 A 9 6 5
K 8 5 Q 10 3 2
K J 9 3 Q 7 6 2
A Q 10 8 7 6 5 3
J 3 2


South West North East
    4 All Pass

Opening Lead:5

“Se non e vero, e ben trovato. Even if it is not true, it is a good story.”

— Italian proverb

Italy’s Giorgio Belladonna was one of the greatest bridge players of all time. He won 13 Bermuda Bowls between 1957 and 1975, and 10 European Championships between 1956 and 1979.


The number of well-played hands attributed to him is legion. This is one of my favorites, though its attribution is hard to pinpoint. Belladonna, South, opened four spades and played there. West led the diamond five, and declarer’s ace won the first trick. Cover up the East and West hands and plan the play.


Clearly the objective is to limit your losers either to one spade and two hearts, or to three heart tricks. The straightforward line is to play a heart toward dummy’s king. This loses to the ace and a trump comes back. If you finesse, it loses to the king. A trump is returned, and your only hope is to find East with the heart queen. Slightly better is to rise with the spade ace and play the heart jack. But West will win, cash the spade king, and take his heart winner.


Belladonna’s approach was far better than either of these lines. Can you see it yet? He crossed to dummy with the club ace and led a low heart! If East plays either the ace or the queen, then declarer can always build a heart trick. And if West wins the first round of hearts, he cannot attack spades successfully. Declarer cannot be denied a heart ruff in the dummy.

ANSWER: Did you consider bidding two no-trump? If so, be aware that this is a huge overbid. You need to have more than just a single stopper in the minors and a misfit for partner to try for game here. Your hand is actually very suitable for giving preference back to two spades, a partscore that is infinitely safer than no-trump.


South Holds:

J 9
K 4
J 9 7 6 4
A 10 8 4


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 2009. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact