Even the most honorable and law-abiding citizen takes pleasure in committing grand larceny at the bridge table, and Walter Avarelli of the Italian World Olympiad team is no exception. Avarelli, 52, the oldest of the Italian players, is a magistrate by profession and in bridge circles he is known as "the judge." At the bridge table he plays a more orthodox game than his swashbuckling partner, the brilliant Giorgio Belladonna, and perhaps he tends to be slightly overshadowed by him in the minds of many observers. However, I have always recognized Avarelli as one of the strongest and steadiest players in the world.
As befits a legal luminary, his integrity is of course beyond question—except when he is playing bridge. Then look out. He is likely to steal the cards right out of your hand. The following Avarelli swindle took place against the Republic of China during the Olympiad last May.
Some players would open the North hand with one club, others would bid one spade. A few—John Wong being one—prefer to open the lower-ranking major—a system that operates soundly only if the responder is duty-bound to bid any four-card spade suit, however mangy. In this deal there was no disadvantage to opening one heart except that it left North's diamond holding naked to inspection and Wu vulnerable to Avarelli's diabolical plot.
Wu won Belladonna's opening trump lead and immediately led the 10 of hearts with the object of establishing a heart trick in time to avoid a club finesse. Avarelli won the trick with the queen and shifted to the diamond suit. After cashing the ace, his obvious continuation was the queen, since this card would smother dummy's jack no matter which player held the missing king. Avarelli, however, made the "impossible" play of the diamond 10.
Declarer won the trick with the king of diamonds, took another round of trumps and led another heart. Dummy's jack forced East's ace and established the king as a prospective parking place for one of declarer's clubs. However, on the second heart lead, Belladonna, who can find ways to be busy even with a bad hand, got into the act by falsecarding. He played the 9 on this second lead of hearts. Consequently, when Avarelli led back a third round of hearts, declarer took no chances on a ruff. He trumped high, serenely confident that he could be sure of winning the rest of the tricks.
True, in order to cash the king of hearts he would have to extract West's last trump. And if he did that, he would have only one trump in dummy to ruff diamonds. But that did not bother Wu. Remember Avarelli's earlier lead of the 10 of diamonds? Obviously he could not have the diamond queen. All South need do was lead the 9 through West and take a ruffing finesse for the queen, establishing the 8 if West covered or letting the 9 ride if he did not. South was so sure of his conclusion that he did not even bother to draw the last trump before playing the diamond.
I wish I had been there to see Wu's face when Avarelli produced the "impossible" diamond queen to win the setting trick. Moreover, Avarelli's heart return killed dummy's king, for South had to ruff high and take the club finesse. When that lost, too, declarer went down two tricks on a hand where making four spades was out-and-out routine at the other table.