Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, February 5th, 2015

If all the good people were clever,
And all clever people were good,
The world would be nicer than ever
We thought that it possibly could.

Elizabeth Wordsworth

North North
North-South ♠ A 10 7 6 2
 K J 9 3
♣ K J 6
West East
♠ 3
 K Q 8 5 4
♣ A Q 10 9 5 4
♠ K Q J 4
 J 10 9 6
♣ 8 7 3 2
♠ 9 8 5
 A Q 8 7 6 5 4
 A 3 2
♣ —
South West North East
1♠ Pass
3 4♣ 4 NT Pass
5 Pass 6 Pass
Pass Dbl. Pass Pass
Rdbl. All pass    


It may seem unlikely that a series of world titles could have been decided by a single hand, and even more so if that hand came from a game of rubber bridge. However that is the way it was told by Carl-Alberto Perroux, the Italian non-playing captain of the all-conquering Blue Team from the fifties and sixties.

He was sitting North when this hand was played in a high stakes rubber. The bidding may look a little antiquated, but on the lead of the spade three declarer, the then relatively unknown Camillo Pabis-Ticci set about the play in confident style. He won the ace, drew a round of trump, then cross-ruffed the minor-suits. After taking two club ruffs in hand and two diamond ruffs in dummy he had reached a six-card ending with the lead in North. Dummy consisted of four losing spades, a trump and the club king, while he had two spades and four trump in hand.

At this point Pabis-Ticci led the club king and discarded a spade from hand, forcing West to win and concede a ruff and discard, so both spades went away from the South hand.

Not the most difficult play in the world perhaps, but Perroux was very impressed with the way that his partner had played the hand. When Avarelli was temporarily unavailable to play with the Blue Team, Perroux (who had complete control of the team selection) brought in Pabis-Ticci, for the start of a glittering International career over the next two decades.

Your partner's cuebid asks you to bid no-trump with a club stopper and you are more than generously provided for in that department. If your partner is coming in either spades or hearts he can raise you at your next turn, but for the time being the no-trump game looks the most likely to make.


♠ A 10 7 6 2
 K J 9 3
♣ K J 6
South West North East
1 Pass
1♠ 2♣ 2 Pass
2 Pass 3♣ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1February 19th, 2015 at 9:29 am

Hi Bobby,

Quick novice question: is the South hand worth a 2/1 bid of 2H?

Playing 2/1, what is your your advice for 1S – 3H?

Shantanu RastogiFebruary 19th, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Hello Mr Wolff

1. I think 3 NT by West would have meant minors. If West makes that bid East may sacrifice in 7 Clubs/Diamonds both of which are 5 down only though East’s Spade holding may deter him.
2. On the given layout Club elimination is not required as Club Queen is with West along with Club Ace so North’s club J is getting promoted.

best regards

Shantanu Rastogi

bobby wolffFebruary 19th, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Hi Mircea1,

Yes, of course, with modern bridge, 2 hearts over partner’s 1 spade is a classic response, with a jump shift reserved for a hand with either solid hearts (in today’s hand South’s heart suit was not nearly strong enough) or instead a great spade fit the only reason for losing that valuable bidding space which sometimes becomes critical for accurate slam bidding.

In other words, a jump shift tells partner that he knows what suit will eventually be trump, so start thinking slam which entails both values and controls rather than which suit will become trump.

Your question is necessary in order to understand both the fundamentals and basic tenets of what should be thought when a partnership progresses to the slam zone.

bobby wolffFebruary 19th, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Hi Shantanu,

Yes, no doubt once West’s RHO, South, bids strongly (jump shift) then 3NT by West should logically mean the huge distributional minor suit hand he held, but because of East’s spade holding he should be wary of taking a sacrifice because his strength is defensive and, in fact, forced the declarer to play the slam brilliantly to make it.

However knowing what I know about Carl Albert Perroux, the subject hand is likely to be apocryphal and entirely made up, to give that declarer more confidence since, in truth, he, IMO did not begin to match up with the three superstars of that team, Garozzo, Belladonna and Forquet. The rest of that team were, at best, above average club players, whose ability
didn’t begin to match up with anything world class.

Those were the days my friend, but instead of hoping they would never end, all knowledgeable good players of that day couldn’t wait until they were over, for good reasons.

Iain ClimieFebruary 19th, 2015 at 11:22 pm

Hi Bobby,

Forquet, Garozzo and Belladonna were (I believe) the big 3 in the Blue team. Without tempting providence (or even risking lawsuits), how far behind would you rate players like Avarelli and Pabis-Tici and their successors? I was also interested to see that Malcolm Brachman sponsored a US team in the Bermuda Bowl, but was far from a passenger in its results. At the very highest levels, how far apart are the players in your view?

Iain ClimieFebruary 19th, 2015 at 11:36 pm

OK, I read the post before and the first part has already been answered. Must engage brain before submitting comments!


bobby wolffFebruary 20th, 2015 at 12:53 am

Hi Iain,

Your brain is not otherwise engaged and there are no ultra simple explanations, but I’ll try, as close as possible for me, to simply say that because of some bridge extravaganzas my teams have probably played 1800 official hands against Benito and Georgio and more than 1000 hands against Pietro (with my partner (Both Jim Jacoby and Bob Hamman). I have also played a few sessions with each as my partner and there is little doubt to me that all three are among the top 5 players ever, with both Benito and Georgio topping the list as individual talents and Pietro close behind; Pietro was probably the best partner and maybe possessed the best bidding judgment of all. Benito played with both Georgio and Pietro and any combination of them would rank, at least to me, as taking the game to its highest level, up to now.

All the other well known Italian Blue team members are just not in the same class, even close and or (were) perhaps 5 levels down, from the top three. However the current top Italians, who as a fairly recent addition the last 25 years are also nothing less than top drawer, but my guess is that even they have not yet arrived at the level exhibited by Benito and Georgio and especially when those two played together. I think, but am not 100% sure that all on the early Blue Team except Benito and Pietro are no longer with us. Further, my educated guess is that the three greatest, mentioned above, if given a choice, would have opted to go straight but the very
forceful Carl Albert Perroux, long time Blue Team captain and successful lawyer who was commissioned to win at all costs, constantly refused even the thought of such a thing, citing that since winning was indeed the goal, no chances to lose should be taken.

However in fairness to the players at the very top these days and of all nationalities, they, for the most part but not, of course, likely 100%, have not been helped along with various sorts of nefarious advantages.

Malcolm Brachman was surely a brilliant man and helped with the Manhattan project (aka as the development period for the atomic age) back during WW II, but IMO wasn’t a great bridge player in any sense of the word.

Instead of talking about apples and oranges we are instead rating apples and prunes.

Since perhaps the above bridge history lesson becomes tiresome, particularly when you are hearing from only one player from that era, it has indeed been an obstacle course, with poisoned flowers and wicked witches along the way. Hopefully if bridge survives (and prospects look great in Europe and China where bridge has been put in the national educational systems), I will only be satisfied when, if hard work and determination succeed — with other world bridge communities following suit in perpetuating our great game. I will then be very happy regardless of where I happen to be at that time.

Judy Kay-WolffFebruary 20th, 2015 at 12:59 am

Allow me to add my two cents to Bobby’s appraisal of foreign international competition starting (for me) in the mid 1960s. I married Norman Kay in 1963 at which time I was introduced front and center to the exciting world of live kibitzing at many world championships. Norman and Edgar’s teams were always respected and celebrated for their marvelous talents and unchallenged ethics. But ….. Norman sadly went to his grave with nary a Gold cup. Almost always a bridesmaid .. but never a bride. Bobby, on the other hand, was fortunate to have entered the fray when some of the culprits took a short breather .. then gradually retired from the expert bridge arena. That earlier period was a very sad time for Zone Two Teams, especially for Kaplan/Kay who kept suffering close defeats despite the talents of such headliners as Murray/Kehela, Roth/Root, Mathe/Krauss, Pavlicek/Root et al. Believe me, Bobby’s remarks are not a figment of his imagination or an exaggeration and those high level players still around will attest to the authenticity of his accounts of that era.

jim2February 20th, 2015 at 1:31 am

I never see a K10 club doubleton without thinking of Eddie Kantar, Garozzo, and Belladonna. Forty years ago … and Our Host sanely in 6N at the other table.

jim2February 20th, 2015 at 1:32 am

Without that absurdly lucky layout … sigh

bobby wolffFebruary 20th, 2015 at 3:11 am

Hi Jim2,

Yes that king 10 doubleton club will always live in infamy, to a USA bridge player involved not unlike how FDR described the Pearl Harbor attack to our {“shocked” nation) on December 7, 1941.

However there was a more amusing incident involving Eddie at the same tournament in Bermuda in 1975 (exactly 40 years ago about this time of the year + almost a month) celebrating the 25th anniversary of the original Bermuda Bowl begun in 1950.

Thanks for complimenting Bob & me for being in 6NT in the other room, but 6 clubs would have been safer. And originally the K10 of clubs was accompanied by a 3rd one but somehow that 3rd club waltzed over to his partner’s hand allowing that despicable grand slam to make, depriving Eddie of the ability to claim, “Never mind, since if I would have held only the K10 doubleton, I would have risen with the king on the first lead of clubs when dummy, behind me had the AQ doubleton and caused Giorgio to then misplay it by trying for a trump coup instead of merely cashing the ace, for the same down one.

Thanks Jim2 for reminding me of that not so satisfying occasion. I’ll try and return the favor sometime.

Finally, after all these years, I now realize why.
No doubt the first recorded case of TOCM TM.

Back at the ranch, and at a crucial moment in one of our earlier matches in Bermuda Eddie had almost, but not quite, chosen wrong while defending a vulnerable game contract and, by making the wrong return would have allowed that questionable contract to succeed. However he evidently righted himself in time because he, after a 15 minute study, led the right card to win the match for us.

However, while discussing this hand and being in our home suite on the 15th floor of the then Southhampton Princess in Bermuda, Eddie confirmed his feelings when he volunteered that if he had led the wrong thing back, he would have felt compelled to jump out that window (pointing to it) which overlooked the seemingly entire gorgeous island.

Upon which Bob Hamman immediately replied, “If you did, you wouldn’t have had to”.

jim2February 20th, 2015 at 3:17 am


Iain ClimieFebruary 20th, 2015 at 9:53 am

Bill Shankly, a famous football manager in the 60s and 70s, once said (in a hard Scots accent) “Football’s nae a matter of life or death, it’s far more important than that.”. Joking of course, but it sounds like Bob Hamman had a similar sense of humour.