When the Italian team won the world bridge championship for the fourth time last month in Buenos Aires, there was double bad news for the other teams in international competition. The key figure in the Italian triumph—Benito Garrozzo—was new to his team. He is a 32-year-old Neapolitan road builder, and he should be around for years.
Last year Italy's Blue Team, weakened by the absence of Guglielmo Siniscalco and Massimo D'Alelio, could finish no better than sixth. Siniscalco was absent again this year, but with Garrozzo the Italians looked stronger than ever. Proving that he belonged at the top, Garrozzo entered two postchampionship pair events, gaining a first in one and, with Peter Leventritt of New York, a second in the other. This was one of the well-played hands in his partnership with Leventritt.
North's two-club response asked South to show a four-card major suit if he held one. East's double of the artificial bid showed club strength—it was not meant for a takeout. This is the logical method employed by experts for coping with artificial bids. South duly showed his four-card heart suit, and North, with 10 points in high cards and an extra point for his doubleton in clubs, promptly carried him on to game.
West's opening lead was his lowest club, the customary selection from three to an honor in partner's suit. (Although East had not actually bid clubs, his double of North's club response came to the same thing.) East took his two top clubs and shifted to the spade 10. Garrozzo won with the king and led a trump to dummy's jack, which was taken by East's ace. The deuce of spades was won by South's queen, and two more heart leads cleaned up the trumps. Now, making the contract hinged on finding the queen of diamonds.
A simple finesse is a 50-50 proposition, but these odds can be substantially improved when the finesse can be taken either way and an expert is playing the hand. Some players believe that a missing queen will most often be found behind the jack. There is no rule or "percentage," of course, that will back them up, and whatever advantage they feel they get from their theory is not nearly as good as the percentage Garrozzo followed in deciding his play.
He led a third round of spades, completing his count of the distribution in that suit. Now East was known to have begun with only two spades and two hearts. West's lead had marked him with at least three clubs. Therefore, East must have started with at least three and possibly four diamonds. Mathematically, the player with the most cards in a suit will have the best chance of holding any given card. So, with the odds at least 3 to 2 in his favor, Garrozzo played for East to have the queen of diamonds. He laid down dummy's king and finessed the 10 on the next lead, thus bringing home his contract.
If your guessing average is only 50% or worse, the chances are that you are not counting out the unseen hands of your opponents. Whenever you can afford to do so, postpone your guess until you have played out enough cards in other suits to give you an idea which opponent has the greatest length in the suit you are trying to finesse.