Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, December 21st, 2019

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

Roald Dahl

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


This was the most intriguing flat board from the 2001 World Championship match between Italy and USA, where in each room South reached an apparently hopeless slam. Consider how it came home at both tables before I let you in on the secret.

Lorenzo Lauria and Alfredo Versace bid the hand as shown here. North first showed a sound spade raise. Then the auction escalated fast, with Lauria’s final jump to slam on the pushy side — but why shouldn’t partner have had the diamond 10?

As you can see, making 12 tricks requires you to lose just one diamond trick. Playing for both the king and queen to be onside seems obvious — but will not work today.

However, both Versace and Bob Hamman had heard West bid clubs. Both won the club lead and led a diamond at once. When West followed low, they decided to go up with the diamond ace. Then, they cashed the top hearts and ruffed a heart, ruffed a club, ruffed a heart, and ruffed a club. This eliminated the clubs and hearts from both hand and dummy.

At this point, both declarers drew precisely one round of trumps and exited with a diamond. In the three-card ending, West was left with only clubs to lead. On the forced ruff-and-discard, dummy could take the ruff, and declarer the discard. Contract made, for a remarkable flat board.

Had either West managed the spectacular play of unblocking the diamond king on the first round of the suit, the slam would have been defeated.

This may seem controversial, but I advocate doubling for take-out here. You may still catch them if it is partner with the trump stack, and of course, if it is you who has the penalty double, partner might reopen with a double to show a defensive hand, and you can then pass. You plan to bid two hearts over two diamonds from your partner to show a better hand than a direct call in hearts.


♠ A K 6 5 4
 A K 8 4
 4 3 2
♣ A
South West North East
1 ♠ Pass 1 NT 2 ♣

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 2019. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


A V Ramana RaoJanuary 4th, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
After the famous club grandslam by Belladonna against Eddie Kantar , it appears when a club was led and had Kantar played K from K doubleton against A doubleton in dummy , Belladonna admitted that he would have gone for trump coup but would have gone down on that line and after this many started playing K from K doubleton routinely when that suit is played. But considering this hand is much later to the referred hand perhaps the defense should have played K giving South no chance

jim2January 4th, 2020 at 1:51 pm

A V Ramana Rao –

BTW, Our Host knows that hand all too well, as he was at the other table in six notrump (making seven) when that hand was played in 1975.

bobbywolffJanuary 4th, 2020 at 3:41 pm

Hi AVRR & Jim2,

Yes AVRR, and even beginners are taught to play high from a doubleton, if, for no other reason, than to give “even count” to partner.

While being serious, that defensive play would, of course, also be required while holding Qx, as well as Kx.

And to our Professor Emeritus Jim2 for his incredible memory, I’ll relate another true
“chestnut” for him to wow all future audiences wherever he may travel in the thousands of years to follow: Just two days earlier, while playing in the semifinals against France when our team, while retiring to our Captain’s, Freddy Sheinwold’s suite (on the 15th floor) to celebrate a very close victory, Eddie related a defensive hand story how he almost didn’t throw a blocking ace away, enabling a key set of an opponent’s contract, and claiming that if he had not and we had lost he (then pointing to the window) confessed that he would have have just jumped out.

Bob Hamman then immediately replied: ” Don’t fret Eddie, you wouldn’t have had to”.