Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, September 4th, 2015

Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight.

John Ruskin

N North
Both ♠ A K 8 7 5
 7 4
 A 3
♣ J 8 6 2
West East
♠ 9 4
 8 6 3
 10 9 5
♣ K Q 10 9 3
♠ Q J 10 3
 A 2
 K Q 6 2
♣ 7 5 4
♠ 6 2
 K Q J 10 9 5
 J 8 7 4
♣ A
South West North East
    1 ♠ Pass
2 Pass 2 ♠ Pass
4 All pass    


During the 1960s the Italian Blue Team seemed invincible. Today’s deal comes from the final of a Bermuda Bowl, and as usual in those days, their opponents were the Americans, and it was Giorgio Belladonna who stole the limelight.

Belladonna sensibly treated his hand as worth a drive to game, and since he thought he knew what he wanted trump to be, he rebid four hearts at his second turn. West led the club king, and declarer won in hand, perforce. There were nine obvious tricks and a number of possibilities for the 10th. He started by leading a low diamond and ducking in dummy – good technique, keeping control in the suit with the chance of taking a diamond ruff on the table. East scotched this possibility by playing ace and another trump.

Reduced now to trying another tack, South won the second trump, drew the last trump, and ducked a spade all round – perhaps the suit would break 3-3? It did not, but there was now a new danger for the defenders. Two top spades and a spade ruff would establish the spade eight as a winner.

To counter this, East was compelled to lead a diamond to drive out dummy’s side entry. A good try, but unfortunately not good enough for the defense, as East was now in control of both of the pointed suits. Belladonna now played off his remaining trumps and, at the end, East had to unguard either the diamond or the spades. Whichever suit he discarded would set up winners for declarer.

Players are taught not to rebid five-card suits if a sensible alternative exists. But that stricture does not apply in a two-over-one auction when opener is unsuitable for a call at no-trump. I believe that a rebid at the three-level (three clubs here) would show extra shape or high cards. To my mind, a simple rebid of a decent five-card suit is more descriptive and economical.


♠ A K 8 7 5
 7 4
 A 3
♣ J 8 6 2
South West North East
1 ♠ 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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


jim2September 18th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

I think there is a smidge more to this hand than the column space would allow Our Host to discuss. That is, it is a story of TWO Jacks, not one. Here are the N-S hands as declarer plays the last trump:




Declarer knows West has the missing club honor, suspects East has the missing diamond honor, but who has the long spade if the suit is 4-2?

It turns out not to matter, because if West had the spades, he also would have been squeezed on this trick! Once West fails to play the KC, then the JC is discarded and the pressure shifts to East per the column text.

Thus, unless one defender holds BOTH missing minor suit honors and short spades, the slam makes by his line.

ClarksburgSeptember 18th, 2015 at 1:59 pm

About the BWTA item, and styles of playing 2/1. Specifically about Opener’s rebidding the opened major suit, and / or rebidding 2NT.
Seems some would not rebid a five-card suit and others would. Seems some would not rebid 2NT with an unstopped short suit, while others would (to show the shape).
So, on the BWTA hand, suppose the Spades were not so “decent”, and some HC strength moved to the minors (small doubleton Heart remains), would you consider a 2NT rebid to be acceptable or even preferred?

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Hi Jim2,

Before the world had produced a flood of top bridge experts, the top drawer quality was often thought to possess the ability to set up some form of squeeze to establish the contract trick.

You have found an unusual type of simple squeeze wherein while playing a suit contract, all three of the side suits offer a threat to the defense, (4th spade, queen of clubs, the remaining high diamond K or Q) making the odds of pulling it off much greater.

On this one, the original opening lead took away the mystery since West by inference had the club queen so unless East had control of only the spades and thus West both of the minor suits, the simple squeeze would work.

Thanks for intellectually pointing this out for all the squeeze aficionados to grasp.

No doubt while being afflicted with TOCM TM any extra knowledge is very necessary to even being able to compete with an opponent who is not so cursed and you certainly have risen to that level.

bobby wolffSeptember 18th, 2015 at 3:28 pm

Hi Clarksburg,

Direct questions deserve direct answers.

Suppose the opener held: s. Q10xxx, h. xx, d. AQ, c. KJxx, yes I would open the bidding 1 spade and then over a 2 diamond (GF) response by partner my ratings for the rebid:
2S=100, 3D=70, 3C=20, 2NT=10.

A great problem for a high-level bridge bidding panel which would remind me of a line from Shakespeare, “The play’s the thing in which we will learn the conscience of the King” (or some such).

I abhor wrong siding NT and will accept other risks rather than doing it. However, other experienced bridge players may differ in their “lesser of evils” approach.

As always you, as almost all of your fellow commentators seem to follow, ask very penetrating and provocative questions.

To which I suspect shows both an intense desire to apply the answer to other reasonably common tough bridge decisions and thus seeking the shortest route to soon having your name basking in high-level bridge

Back at the bridge ranch, give the opener the 432 of hearts (instead of a club) and I’ll take the 5th (amendment, that is).

Wen TaoSeptember 18th, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Hi Mr. Wolff and Jim2,
The column hand and your analyses/comments are fascinating and a joy to read. Of course, Mr. Belladonna’s play of this hand and many others are incredible. Looking at all 4 hands, what do you think of the play by ducking a spade at trick 2?

jim2September 18th, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Dear Host —

I did not think of the squeeze, but I bet Giorgio Belladonna did. I merely recognized it.

jim2September 18th, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Wen Tao –

I am not an expert; Our Host is a World Champion. I may be a fair hand analyst, that’s all.

On your question (since you included me in the heading), I think Belladonna’s line is superior because it forces the defense to find the trump shift right then. They should, but it is far from certain.

Also, cannot the defense always prevail if they return a second spade at Trick 3?

Wen TaoSeptember 18th, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Thanks for your reply. I am not an expert neither (actually far from it). I like the game of bridge, and play and discuss bridge hands for fun. I don’t play competitively (Once a world class professional poker player said that playing competitively for money kills the fun for her, and I believe her).
I know who Mr. Wolff and Mr. Belladonna are. As I indicated in my last post, Mr. Belladonna’s play of this hand and many other hands he played which are illustrated in the blue team’s book are incredible. My original thought was that if a spade is ducked at trick 2, perhaps one could bypass the squeeze; but I wasn’t entirely sure so I posted the question. As you indicated, this only works if the defense didn’t return a spade at trick 3.
Wen Tao

bobby wolffSeptember 19th, 2015 at 2:49 am

Hi Wen,

Both you and Jim2 are very capable of seeing the trees within the forest.

No doubt the late Giorgio Belladonna was one of the best bridge players of all time. The hand shown resembles the some time battle between a cat and a mouse which takes the shape and tone of back and forth.

Yes, it seems that in the event of best play back and forth the defense will prevail, but when that fate is in the air it will be up to the declarer to look for ways to throw the defense off center.

Giorgio wound up with a diamond spade squeeze when early in the hand and with reasonable defense it might seem that between the long spades and the jack of clubs that the better chance for an effective squeeze involved both of the black suits. However with the KQ of diamonds and the long spades with that hand (East) a pleasant surprise awaited South, as long as he took advantage.

Not much more to say, except the technique Belladonna showed in starting out the way he did. There are usually more ways to establish suits than meet the normal eye, but coordinating that with the overall hand is usually the most difficult task.

Like most things in life, plays like the above are there for the taking, but it takes plenty of experience to be able to execute them correctly and often with at least a little help from the those worthy opponents.

Wen TaoSeptember 19th, 2015 at 5:08 am

Hi Mr. Wolff,
Thanks very much for your post. I just want to say that I have learned a lot about bridge from you and your columns. I think that the brilliance and rare qualities of world class bridge professionals are admiring and magic.
Best regards,

bobby wolffSeptember 19th, 2015 at 5:40 am

Hi Wen,

Your kind words are much appreciated.

Added to that is the honest competition and numeric logic which must add to the thrill of bridge. Our game is truly a Bridge For Peace for all humankind and our site is most representative of that.

Thanks again for your presence.