The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 29, 2013

Bridge column, Dec. 30: The best play of the year

As 2013 comes to a close, let's recognize the deal that was chosen by the International Bridge Press Association panel for its Keri Klinger Memorial Declarer Play of the Year award.

Appropriately, it was played by the top-ranked player in the world, Fulvio Fantoni. He was born in Italy, but now represents Monaco. The journalist prize went to Toine van Hoof from the Netherlands.

How did Fantoni make six hearts after West led the club queen to declarer's ace?

Fantunes (as Fantoni and his partner, Claudio Nunes, are known) play an unusual system in which one-level opening bids are natural and unlimited. North's three-heart raise was pre-emptive. East then produced a revealing takeout double. South made two control-bids (cue-bids), and North jumped to the slam.

Fantoni felt that East had 4-0-5-4 or 4-0-4-5 distribution with the four honors he actually held. Trusting his reading of the position, at trick two, Fantoni played a low heart to dummy's seven!

When East discarded a diamond, declarer continued with the club 10, pitching a diamond from his hand. West won with his jack and returned a trump. South won with dummy's 10 and led the club nine, covered by the king and ruffed with the heart queen. Then two rounds of trumps ending on the board squeezed East, not that it mattered.

Declarer discarded a diamond and a spade on the eight and six of clubs before taking the marked spade finesse to land his slam. Terrific.

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