Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, March 25th, 2022


A V Ramana RaoApril 8th, 2022 at 4:05 pm

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Yes while a spade shift at T2 might have not given any chance to declarer, perhaps declarer had even an alternate line as the play went. Instead of leading club towards Q, start playing top down. Probably Q might appear or they may break 3-3 . West wins third club , cash his long heart and get out with spade. South wins in hand and the fourth club puts west through the crusher

bobbywolffApril 8th, 2022 at 6:33 pm


With the intent of only continuing your discussion, it is no wonder that after the early unfortunate start (due to the obvious location of crucial cards) most declarers would just assume that the diamond king is onside, all under the guise of basic simplicity needed for success.

Added to that is the no known or suspected evidence as to where the elusive diamond king figured to be.

So what do we charge the declarer for, when and if, he falls victim to that solution?

Finally, and to add to the business at hand, declarer might be thinking that the hearts could be 5-2 and, if so what should be his directed order of plays, particularly so since West switched suits at trick two, perhaps surmising that he did not have a potential entry while holding the diamond king.

Tough game, this bridge. Perhaps, the detective work necessary to become good, makes it enjoyable to take up.

A V Ramana RaoApril 9th, 2022 at 6:57 am

Hi Dear Mr Wolff
Just read that Eddie Kantar passed away. Sad day indeed for bridge. He was known for his technical and writing skills , sportsmanship and humour. Anyone who reads his article on what happened at Bermuda Bowl when Belladonna made grand slam in clubs against him cannot but appreciate his writing skills and humour
RIP Eddie Kantar

After Billy passed, Belladonna opened two clubs, which in the Italians’ super-precision system showed a long club suit, fewer than 17 high-card points and possibly an outside fourcard suit. Garozzo responded two diamonds, a relay, asking for more information, and Belladonna duly bid two spades to show his four-card suit. Garozzo now tried a natural bid of three hearts and Belladonna retreated to three no trump.

Garozzo was far from through; in fact, he was just beginning. He showed his club support by bidding four clubs and Belladonna cue-bid four diamonds, showing either first- or secondround diamond control.

Garozzo made a waiting bid of four no trump (Blackwood is for peasants) and Belladonna confirmed first-round diamond control by bidding five diamonds.

Garozzo tried another cue bid of five hearts. Billy, who had seen some of my opening leads, doubled to help me out, and Belladonna seized the opportunity to show first-round heart control by redoubling. Garozzo bid five spades, a bid whose meaning is not 100% clear to me, and Belladonna bid five no trump, another mystery. Whatever it meant, Garozzo leaped to seven clubs. Everyone passed in exhaustion.

Seven clubs! I could hardly believe my ears. Here I was defending a vulnerable grand slam with the king-10 of trumps tucked away safely in back of the original club bidder. God is not an Italian after all. They were certain to go down one. I was going to be a world champion. What a day. I could hardly wait to get home to tell everybody. I would hold court…I would….

I led a heart and then I saw it in the dummy…the ace-queen doubleton of clubs! Could this really be happening to me? Why me? Why couldn’t the ace of trumps be where it should have been? Why couldn’t they have dealt Billy the king of clubs? Or why couldn’t I have been dealt just one more little club? Just one…a very little one. Why, why?

Wait. Maybe I did have one. I searched frantically through my spades. The whole scene reminded me of a story I tell my classes. A little old lady, Alice, is playing with a pro, Morris, and she shows out on the second round of hearts, even though Morris knows from the bidding she must have another heart somewhere.

“No hearts, Alice?” he asks. “No hearts, Morris,” she replies. “Look in with your diamonds, Alice.” “Morris, I have no hearts in with my diamonds.” “One more time, please, Alice.” “No hearts, Morris.” On the last trick Alice rather sheepishly produces a heart. Morris repeats, “I told you to look in with your diamonds.” “I’m sorry, Morris, it was in with my clubs.”

All right, Morris, I’ll look through my hearts and my diamonds, I said to myself. (Later at the “victory banquet” I admitted to my teammates that I had searched despairingly through my hand for just one tiny little club, admitting that I would have killed myself if I actually had one and didn’t know it. “You wouldn’t have had to,” said another of the U.S. players, Bob Hamman.)

Meanwhile, upon first viewing dummy, Belladonna thought the big problem was his. He knew he needed to find me with precisely the doubleton king of clubs or possibly the singleton king, in which case an unlikely trump coup was at least feasible. Roughly a 13% chance. He could see the world championship flying out the window. But I knew better; I could see myself flying home with the runner-up trophy.

He ruffed my low heart lead and led a club to the queen, shaking his head. Next he cashed the ace of clubs, and when my king dropped two huge sighs filled the room. One from Belladonna, the other from Billy. We both knew it was all over after that, and so it was.

The last few hands were relatively flat (no swings), and Italy went on to defeat us by 26 IMPs. Had the grand slam been defeated we would have won the match by 3 IMPs. In the closed room, our other pair, Hamman and Bob Wolff, had bid to six no trump, played by North, making seven with a club lead. Admittedly six clubs is the best contract, but six no trump is a far better contract than seven clubs, particularly after North had bid hearts initially, thus inhibiting that most damaging lead.

As soon as the last hand was finished, we were told that Italy had won. The door to the room burst open and a hundred thousand Italians surged in to hug and congratulate the winners.

Billy and I trudged back to our team’s rest and recovery room to compare scores and suffer with Hamman-Wolff and Paul Soloway and John Swanson, our other teammates, who must have watched the last 16 boards in horror. After the comparison there was a long silence. Finally it was broken by Hamman. “This calls for a human sacrifice,” he said. I flipped the king of clubs out the terrace window.

The great Belladonna, declarer, trumped the heart lead, and led a trump to the ten and queen. At that point, his face lit up, he looked to the heavens, called for the ace of trumps, and … At the victory banquet, he was asked, “What would have happened had West played the club king on the first round of trumps?” He answered, “the Americans would be World Champions today!”

Excerpts from the webpage:

Must have been a truly painful experience not only to him but to whole American team and US in general but the sporting way he presented steals hearts


bobbywolffApril 10th, 2022 at 1:42 pm


Thanks for providing the wonderful story from Eddie Kantar, a memorial to him, universally loved and overwhelmingly respected as a bridge god, but even more so as a person.

BTW, an early partner and first mentor to me, going back to 1955 when I played with him at Bridge Week in Los Angeles when we were both 22 years old, separated by only one month with our ages.

During that same tournament in Bermuida, 1975, I’ll repeat a story which happened, when we won our close semifinal match against a very good French team, Eddie, in our team suite at the Southhampton Princess Hotel on the twentieth floor and while celebrating our thrilling victory, Eddie was telling the team how he almost made a bridge play on defense against a vulnerable game which would have changed our victory into a loss.

He conceded that he was very close to doing so and if he would have no doubt he would have jumped out that window he was pointing at.

With that statement in tow, Bob Hamman immediately turned to him and responded, “Don’t worry Eddie, if you had made that play, you wouldn’t have had to do the walking to the window”.

Remind me to further, one day when we get together in the hereafter, tell you a story on that Belladonna hand in the finals that never
got known, in which involved Maury Braunstein the late and great American chief tournament director, of that tournament.

Finally, much thanks for all your time involved with what you consistently do for the group of us who look forward to reading and digesting your always accurate analysis.