The match against Norway was eagerly anticipated, even without their star player, Helegmo, they are always formidable opponents.
The sequence of the team rotation was kept in tact so the starting line-up for this match would be Bocchi-Madala, who are lying third on the butler scoring system with a strike rate of 1.51 imps per board, which is pretty impressive over 80 boards, and Lauria-Versace. They would be lining up against Charlsen-Hoftaniska and Brogeland-Svendsen.
The first board saw Italy gain 10 imps playing 4H from the ‘right side’, essentially the lead was automatic and the Norwegians were down at trick 1. The Scandanavians had a bye in the previous round so were somewhat refreshed and were playing and defending well.
The Italians soon got into their stride, board 7 and 8 both produced swings into the in column, 12 and 11 respectively, on the former Versace played passively in defence in a quite unexpected fashion leaving the declarer to open up all the other suits.
Board 8, was the classic case of bidding 3NT with a single stop or bidding the seemingly safer contract of 5 in a minor, Versace chose to exercise Hamman’s Law, by bidding 3NT as a possible alternative, the Norwegians chose 5D, 9 tricks proved to be easier than 11.
Board 12 the Norwegians bid a slam, 6H, which was cold, Bocchi and Madala had a slightly more competitive auction and had trouble locating the heart fit so ended in 6NT, which is cold on a finesse, a finesse that he declined to take, having heard a weak jump overcall on his left he placed the Qx on his right and 10xx on his left.
On board 17, Alfredo and Lorenzo exercised their intuition and decided to stop at 5H, the Norwegians pressed on to the slam which was impossible to make since the there was no real play for the 12 trick, in the other room Madala chose to make a Lightner double and so killed the contract by a ruff. The director was called when Bocchi seemed to expose a spade card on the lead, but then switched to a diamond for his partner to ruff. At the time of going to press we have not heard what the final outcome is.
However towards the end of the match, Norway did not shine, this might have been a combination of not playing particulary well and Italian pressure, but after the first 100 hands played the standard of play has been great, without being the greatest.
Gluckenval, official commentator Vugraph BBO
Translated by Mr. John Wilmott