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The Italian Stallion

The Italian Stallion

By In 46th World Bridge Teams Championships On 2nd September 2023

By: Mark Horton and Zia Mahmood

Despite being in the middle of a battle for the bronze medals in the Bermuda Bowl, Zia found the time to report a deal from the play-off between USA2 and Italy. On the evidence of this event, the Italians are back with a team that is a mixture of experience and youth. Zia describes Giovanni Donati as a rare talent (he calls him Mafioso as he can find plays to kill any opponent). Here he delivered a Rocky Balboa style knockout blow to declarer:

In the other room Di Franco and Manno stopped in 3Picche and took 10 tricks for +170.

Expecting EW to have five diamond tricks, maybe a couple of spades and a couple of others, Zia decided to bid 4Picche (note that if South leads a small spade against the notrump game declarer has every chance of securing nine tricks) appreciating that partner would be likely to have a singleton spade.
West led the Quadri8 and East won with the queen and switched to the Fiori2, which looked like a singleton. Declarer took the FioriA, ruffed a diamond in dummy and played a spade for the queen and ace, pleased to see West follow with the Picche10. A second diamond ruff was followed by a spade and East took the king and returned the Cuori5. From declarer’s point of view, ducking this will allow West to win and play the FioriQ which should ensure two down, so declarer took the ace and drew the outstanding trump, accepting one down.

When Zia discovered that East’s hearts were CuoriKQ65 he realised he could have made 4Picchex by withholding the CuoriA, dummy’s CuoriJ becoming the tenth trick.
If East had exited with the CuoriK, declarer could win, draw the outstanding trump and then play a heart for the nine, jack and queen. Declare ruffs the red suit return and the last trump squeezes West in the round suits.
As Zia put it, East made him an offer he couldn’t refuse – but he did – and woke up with a horse’s head in his bed!
What a great play…so beware, the next time you see a youngster with a charming smile he might just be the Mafioso.

The legitimate way to defeat 4Picchex after the diamond lead is for East to duck the second round of spades. Declarer wins and exits with a spade but has no good discard from dummy. Pitching a heart allows East to exit with the CuoriK, while throwing a club can be countered by a diamond return.

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