"There must be something in the Latin temperament that ' makes Italian bridge players so devoted to artificial bidding. In addition to the Neapolitan Club and the Roman Club systems employed by Italy's recent representatives in world championship play, a few of the top Italian pairs use something even more exotic called Marmic.
I hasten to assure you that the bidding shown for the following hand, which was played in a European Championship, is not a series of typographical errors. If you find it confusing, so did those playing against it—which may be the system's major advantage. Here is a slam that seemingly can't be made; but it was, thanks to a muddle caused by Marmic.
I will not attempt to decode all the bids. North's diamond opening, however, was a forcing bid, and South's spade response showed a hand with five to seven high-card points. As a result, it was South who became the declarer, with West having the opening lead. As it happens, West could have led any card and declarer would be unable to make the slam. But, most unhappily for his side, East knew that North held the spade suit, and therefore East assumed it was his opening lead. Even then, had East led a heart or the club ace or a low trump, the lead out of turn would not have proved ruinous to the defense. But he led the spade jack.
Under bridge laws, South could accept the lead out of turn, he could call the jack of spades a penalty card, or he could bar West from leading a spade. (The first bridge rule changes in 15 years were announced this week, and one of the most important of them would be applicable in a case such as this; for it gives the declarer a further option. He can now require the proper leader to lead a spade.)
South decided that he would accept the out-of-turn lead. With the spade jack out of the way, the spade 10 became a vital entry to South's hand. He cashed the ace and king of hearts, and played a third round, ruffed by North. So far so good. Next a spade lead to the 10 dropped both the outstanding trumps. A club and a diamond were jettisoned on the good hearts, and the slam was made.
This has to rank as one of the most fortunate slams ever. Even with the aid of the right lead from the wrong defender, declarer needed an even split in both major suits. Without the lead of the jack of spades, South could come to his hand with the queen of diamonds but not before the opponents could win a diamond and a club trick, setting the contract. Thus the Italians made a slam that nobody else did; but also note that their bidding did get them one trick too high.
The penalties provided in the laws of bridge are designed to insure that a player's side does not profit from his breach of the rules. They are sometimes harsher than the transgression seems to deserve, but even in a social game you are advised not to waive the penalty. In bridge, as in every sport, a good game depends upon following all the rules all the time.