Talking Italian

It’s always useful to know another language. If partner and I could have been “talking Italian” with our hands in a recent tournament at Quodlibet then, although Robert De Niro might not have been waiting for us as well as for Bananarama, we would surely have avoided a big fat zero.

This was the hand, no prizes for guessing which pair bid 6 Spades and went down one:


I was dealer sitting East (normally my lucky seat) and bidding between me and partner went as follows with the opponents passing throughout:

1S – 2C – 4S(1) – 4NT(2) – 5C(3) – 6S(4)

  • Nice 15 point hand with only 5 losers, Spades that should be solid, and a lovely single Ace of Hearts. Partner’s 2 bid shows she has 10+ pts. I hope she has 1 or 2 Spades and game should be there. A bit hasty of me though to go straight to 4 as we will see…
  • Roman key card Blackwood 3041 where the King of trumps is the 5th “ace”
  • 3 key cards (hoping she doesn’t ask about the Queen of Spades as we hadn’t discussed this detail)
  • With 4 of the 5 key cards between us what could possibly go wrong?

The opponents wasted no time getting us down. South made the killing lead of a Diamond, which was really brave of her as it was under her King. A lead in any another suit would have allowed the slam to make as I would happily draw trumps and throw all my losing Diamonds on the Clubs and Hearts.

North played the Ace of Diamonds and I desperately tried to persuade her to switch suits by dropping my Jack. No chance, back came another Diamond to the King and the contract was down one right away.

Now if partner and I had been control-showing cue bids the Italian way (and if I had been a little more patient – always a big ask), then, with the 2/1 system our bidding would have gone as follows:

1S – 2C(1) – 3S(2) – 4C(3) – 4H(4) – 5S(5) – Pass

  • Playing “2 over 1” so game forcing
  • Jump rebid showing a strong hand and setting the game in Spades
  • In this method shows interest in slam with an Italian cue bid promising control in Clubs (i.e. Ace, King or void). These cue bids are made “up the line” i.e lowest controlled suit first, so here Clubs are mentioned before Hearts.
  • Shows my Heart control
  • As cue bids are “up the line” partner now knows Diamonds are not controlled and exits us safely at the 5 level.

So although the classic Losing Trick Count (LTC) evaluates our hands as worth 14 (!) tricks or, alternatively, the New Losing Trick Count evaluates them to be 12 tricks, there is no Diamond control so we must not be tempted to bid slam.

At least we knew enough Italian for our signalling when defending the next hand.


  1. „Robert De Niro’s Waiting…“, song by Bananarama released 20 February 1984 with the line “Talking Italian”.
  2. Control Bidding – the “Italian” method
  3. Losing Trick Count –

2 thoughts on “Talking Italian

  • 18. April 2019 at 14:04

    Who led Diamond did good. Next time you’ll have the Ace of Diamonds instead of the Ace of Hearts, bid the same way and with the same lead will collect 13 tricks instead of 12, no worries:) Or your partner will have the King of Diamonds instead of the King of Hearts, bid the same way, and now you got chances in 6S. And the possible flaw in Diamonds would be unfindable by bidding only quebids this time.

  • 25. April 2019 at 21:12

    Actually in the two alternative scenarios presented by Sev the bidding will not be done the same way. Cue bidding will drive the contract to 6S instead of 5S correctly by showing controls in all suits. These are as follows: In scenario 1 with the Ace of Diamonds instead of the Ace of Hearts, the four controls are : Ace of Spades, King of Hearts, Ace of Diamonds, Ace of Clubs. In scenario 2 with the King of Diamonds instead of the King of Hearts, the four controls are: Ace of Spades, Ace of Hearts, King of Diamonds, Ace of Clubs. That Scenario 1 makes 13 tricks on a diamond lead does not mean that 7S should have been bid, as leading under a King makes a present of it.


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