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My way – Norberto Bocchi’s Column (no. 2): An incredible hand, sex and dress-codes

Posted on 09 March 2012

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An incredible hand. First I would like to share an incredible hand with you which went trough my mind when I am about to play the international team event in Montegrotto. Coming back there after so many years reminds me of a deal that deserves to enter into the Guinness Book of Records. It was played in 1993 I think. Each time I was ready with my own match I rushed to kibitz the Italian pair Malaguti-Vivaldi. They were playing strong club, so the 2NT opening was free. They used that bid to show a weak two suited hand either with minors or with majors. Today this is regarded as a brown sticker, and as such it is allowed only in higher level competitions.

This is because it is hard for opponents to defend against it. But in those times it was allowed at all levels. Even though Malaguti and Vivaldi were excellent players, the opening and further bidding were not thoroughly developed.

Looking at the NS hands, what contract would you like to be in and what contract had been reached in real life?

North (Vivaldi)

♠ KJ10xx



♣ –


South (Malaguti)

♠ Ax



♣ —


North opens with 2NT, showing both majors. So far, both players seem to understand each other, since South responds with 3, a positive relay. North, according to the system, bids 3NT, which shows both majors. No problems yet. South now bids 4♣, which clearly is a cuebid from his point of view. Maybe North takes it as a cuebid as well, but as he is not sure of the situation, he bids 4 denying a diamond control and basically nothing else to add. South must have thought “Let’s hope partner understood that 4♣ was a cuebid”, so he goes on with 5♣, thus showing a club void and diamond control. South apparently (?) wants to keep the bidding alive in order to check if a slam still is on. No, for North it is not so apparent: “Why did he bid clubs twice?” he thought. He meditates and ponders and reaches the conclusion that South must have a good eightcard suit, therefore he PASSES.

When dummy comes down Malaguti is emotionless: he does not say a word to his partner and plays 5♣ without a single trump card. I have never seen in my life someone playing a game with a double void in the trump suit. I think this has never happened before or afterwards in the history of bridge. The other kibitzers and I of course bursted out laughing. It was an unforgettable hand. As unforgettable as the memory to Gaetano “Jeff” Malaguti, who prematurely passed away a few years ago. He was a great player, ironic and refined, and his emotionlessness in this circumstance is a another sign of his fair-play at the table.


Are bridge and sex compatible? Good question. Whether and how sex has an influence on sport performance has been debated for a long time. Preliminary remark: professional bridge involves not only high-level cognitive performance (concentration, memory, problem solving), but also high level physical performance like in physical sports. Professional players need a good stamina, because they have to sit still at the table for many hours a day and for many consecutive days. Stamina is not only physical but also psychological. Sex in a way is a waste of energy. However this waste is different if we are talking about a stable relationship, or a casual encounter. What I mean is that the energy waste depends not only on the physical act, but also on the psychological involvement. In the case of a stable relationship, sexual activity does not involve anxiety, it can make one feel better, getting rid of tension, and enhancing one’s self-esteem and well-being. In this case I would say that sex positively contributes to a good performance at the bridge table. However in the case of a casual encounter, sex can become a distraction, because it involves courting, performance anxiety, fear of being rejected, thrill of the new meeting, plus other emotions and stress factors that are generated by the new encounter. This waste of physical and psychological energies can have a negative effect on your bridge performance, as it takes away peace of mind and concentration.

I think the sexual act in itself, as a waste of physical energy, damages only sport performances that involve an intense and short physical effort, such as shot putting or a hundred meters race. I have a confession. One of my worst performances was in Barcelona, in the Eutopean Champions’ Cup 2004. When my dispirited teammates asked me “Norberto what’s wrong with you? You look awful!” I had to tell the truth. I had just started courting Sigrid, a girl from Barcelona (who now is my wife) and I was really into her, submerged by the passion related to the first phases of falling in love.


Dress-code, compulsory uniform for players. During the last World Championships in Veldhoven, WBF endorsed a dress-code. I ask myself: do we really want to be considered a “sport”? I played basketball at high-levels and I think I know what sports are. Personally I do not regard bridge as a sport. But if we do want to regard it that way, then the dress-code should be welcome, especially in international competitions when players represent they own countries (European and World championships, Mind Games and so on). The uniform gives a touch of class, which is necessary in this field. I am in favor of a compulsory uniform and I hope never to see players again in international competitions wearing shorts, slippers, or undershirts. That really diminishes the elegance of the environment. A uniform is compulsory in all sports. For instance in golf, even in private clubs, some clothing is forbidden and a formal etiquette is in place. This is common also in sports like snooker, so why would bridge not have uniforms, if it wants to present itself as a sport?

A uniform is a sign of respect for the opponents as well for the spectators, especially in present times when we tend to broadcast a lot of bridge on the internet and the image of bridge, thanks to new technologies, is gaining popularity.

Adios y hasta muy pronto,



My way – Norberto Bocchi’s Column for Neapolitan Club. Translated by Laura Cecilia Porro.

Picture: Bridgecat no. 11 (February 2011)

March 9, 2011


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