The 1963 World Championship was played in the Alpine resort of St Vincent, Italy. As usual, the title was decided in the match between the USA and the legendary Blue Team. The Americans had a terrific first day and they were enjoying a healthy lead of some 40 IMPs when this board hit the table.

Board 79, EW vul., West dealer.

You are South, holding:

S Q 9 H --- D K Q 9 7 5 C A Q 9 7 4 3

The bidding goes:

RobinsonPabis TicciJordanBelladonna

The question is familiar: do you pass, double or perhaps bid on? And, should you decide to defend, what do you lead?

Scroll down to see Belladonna's decision.

Normally, it is considered very bad bridge habits when a preemptor bids again. So, at first glance the problem seems to be what to lead. Should be a safe K or perhaps an enterprising 9 of either minor, hoping that partner will gain the trick and give you a heart ruff?

Giorgio Belladonna, however, knew when to bend the rules. The signs were there: he had one card more than promised (the sixth club), plus a void. Moreover, his trump holding against 4Swas the worst possible. So, he boldly bid 5C, indicating longer clubs than diamonds. He was promptly doubled by East and he was to go down one, for this was the full deal:

S J 7
H A J 10 7 6 4
D 3
C J 8 6 2
S A 6 5 3
H K Q 9 5 2
D 10 8 6 4
C - - -
S K 10 8 4 2
H 8 3
D A J 2
C K 10 5
S Q 9
H - - -
D K Q 9 7 5
C A Q 9 7 4 3

Only, he did not go down! West led the king of hearts and away went a spade loser. He led dummy's diamond. East put the ace and cashed a spade. Declarer ruffed the second spade and he later finessed twice in trumps to land his doubled game, scoring 550. At the other table, the US North, James Jacoby, chose a very unlucky moment to open with a 3H preempt. He went peacefully down 3, so Italy gained 12 IMPs on the board initiating a comeback and ultimately winning the trophy.

What about 4S? Certainly, it may go down, if declarer fails to draw trumps and runs into a heart ruff. But what is South to lead against 4S? A minor lead gives away a trick or a tempo. A trump lead gives away the trump position and, given the 2NT bid, warns declarer of the possible heart void. Declarer draws trumps and endplays South with a diamond to make 4S.

Obviously, Belladonna was lucky to find such a lie of the cards, but he created his own luck when he assumed that a sacrifice was lucrative. The fact that he actually made his contract was the icing on the cake.

Special thanks to Yvan Calame for the HTML convertion!

Nikos Sarantakos,
Luxembourg, June 1998

Return to Main Bridge Page

Return to Real-Life Problems page

This page has been visited times.