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Augustin the Magician

If asked the question, “who is the best player in the world, those in the know would all come up with the same player: Agustin Madala.

Madala, or “Agustin the Magician” heralds from Argentina, where he was a child prodigy, representing his country in the Bermuda Bowl aged just 15. In 2006 he moved to Italy, land of his grandfather, where he has become an integral part of their winning team.

I remember in a big Dutch tournament a few years back being rather pleased with myself to bring home a rather tricky 3 NT – it’d taken me at least 10 minutes to get the ending right and I eagerly awaited the praise of the assembled masses. Agustin had replicated my line of play card for card – in under 30 seconds. He’d thought nothing of it.

North Deals
N-S Vul
A Q 10 6
A 10 8 5
A Q J 8 6
K J 8 6 2
J 5 4
Q 7 6 4
W   E
10 7 4 3
K J 9 3 2
K 10 4
A Q 9 5
9 8 7 3 2
9 7 5 2
West North East South
  Bocchi   Madala
  1  1  1 
3  6 1 All pass  
  1. Not the wild gamble it might first appear. Partner is marked with a void diamond (or at most a singleton) given the opposing diamond bidding, so North has a two-loser hand: the kings of hearts and clubs. The odds of partner holding at least one of those must be good, but if he lacks either “rounded suit” king and all his values are in the unbid spades, then he knows how to take afinesse...or how to spurn one...

Madala was the only declarer to make [I’ve heard that beginning to many a sentence] 6  on this deal from the round robin stage of the recent Bermuda Bowl in Bali. This is how he will have reasoned on West’s three of clubs lead:

“The bidding has marked East with five diamonds and West with four. The nine missing spades pretty- much have to be split five with West (any more and he’d have bid spades) and four with East (any more and he’d have bid the suit). It appears West has led a singleton club (why else lead dummy’s suit?), therefore he has three hearts. West is clearly hoping his partner will win an early lead, perhaps with the ace of clubs or ace of hearts to give the club ruff. If his hearts were  KJx/  Kxx, a possible/probable trick, would he be playing to put partner in to score a ruff? More likely he’d led a diamond to try to set up a winner there. His three hearts rate to be  Jxx rather than  KJx/ Kxx. East’s singleton heart is probably the king”.

Declarer rose with the ace of clubs, spurning one finesse, then cashed the ace of hearts (key play), spurning the other. East’s king duly fell, whereupon declarer could ruff a diamond, finesse the ten of hearts, cash the queenfelling West’s jack and knock out the king of clubs, to chalk up 12 tricks and slam made. Magic.

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