It’s not often that bridge makes headlines, but last week something extraordinary happened. At the online European Qualifier for the 2022 bridge world championships, Italy was boycotted by every other nation. The boycott stemmed from their decision to include Fulvio Fantoni in their team. He and his former partner, Claudio Nunes, were once ranked No. 1 and 2 in the world. But they were found guilty of cheating at the 2014 European Championships by exchanging information through the positioning of their cards, and banned from playing.
They later appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport, which ruled that the case was not ‘proven’, and the ban was lifted. However, no one in the bridge world doubted their guilt — nor that they had been cheating for years.
And so last week, players took matters into their own hands. Scotland, the first to face Italy, led the way by refusing to play a card. All 30 other countries then followed suit — to huge cheers from the wider bridge community. A special bravo to Scotland, and congratulations to the nine teams who qualified, including England. This hand was defended by David Bakhshi and Tom Townsend in their final, decisive match against Germany (See diagram).
Bakhshi (West) led the ♥5, won in dummy. South played a spade to the ♠J, then ducked a club to Townsend’s ♣10. Townsend now made the excellent play of cashing the ♠A before switching to his ◆7. This clarified the winning defence for Bakhshi, who won the ◆J with the ◆Q, then played the ♣9 to lock declarer in dummy — down 3.