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Agustin Madala is From Another Galaxy?

Photo Agustin Madala  by Francesca Canali

Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz; March 24, 1874 — October 31, 1926) was an Austro-Hungarian-born American stunt performer, noted for his extraordinary escape acts. He first attracted notice as “Harry Handcuff Houdini” on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to try to keep him locked up.

This revealed a talent for gimmickry and audience involvement that characterized all of his work. Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to hold his breath inside a sealed milk can.

Agustin Madala

The 2012 Campionati di Società (Italian Clubs Championships) were held in Salsomaggiore from September 27 to 30. The teams played the semi-finals and final for promotion to the upper league.

The Open Final (six sets of 16 boards) found Associato Allegra and Bridge Reggio Emilia playing against each other. Associato Allegra consisted of Norberto Bocchi, Giorgio Duboin, Guido Ferraro, Maria Teresa Lavazza, Agustin Madala and Antonio Sementa.

Bridge Reggio Emilia was Mauro Basile, Andrea Buratti, Amedeo Comella, Gianfranco Facchini, Ezio Fornaciari, Carla Gianardi, Aldo Mima and Gianpaolo Ruspa. On the first board of set three, Agustin Madala performed a sensational three-stage escape act.

Board #1 Deale North, None Vul


6 2
J 8
Q J 4 2
J 8 6 5 3

A K 10 5
10 9 4
10 8
K 7 4 2


A 7 5 3 2
K 5 3
A Q 10 9


Q J 9 8 7 3
K Q 6
A 9 7 6

West    North   East   South

Ruspa  Bocchi   Mina   Madala

               Pass       1       1

Doblo  Pass       2       2

4       The End

Lead: J

Madala led the jack of spades (Rusinow). Declarer won with the ace and continued with a low club to the ace…Madala realized that if he ruffed the trick he was going to be endplayed (a diamond return would give a diamond trick and a spade return would give a spade trick to declarer). So he performed his first escape act: he pitched a low spade. Declarer quickly realized he was in danger…and played the ace of hearts. Agustin performed his second escape act: he unblocked the heart king, saving a heart escape card.

Declarer continued with another heart and Madala performed his third escape act as he held his breath in perfect Houdini style and played the heart six, dreaming for a miracle…and all of his dreams came true when Bocchi won the trick with his heart jack and returned the diamond queen to defeat the contract by two tricks.

This three-stage escape act could only function with the play of a club at the second trick. If declarer had played the ten of hearts at the second trick, letting South win the trick if North played low, or winning with the ace if Bocchi played the heart jack, Madala-Houdini wouldn’t have been able to escape. Finally, if Madala ruffs the first club with a heart honour and exits with his other heart honour, declarer ducks the first heart lead, wins the second, then runs hearts and clubs, ending in the dummy. This position is reached:


Q J 4

K 10



K 5 3


J 9

A 9

When declarer plays the nine of clubs to the king, South is squeezed without the count in spades and diamonds. Declarer must, of course, read the end position correctly.

After I wrote this article, I received some e-mails from bridge players talking about this deal. Luis Palazzo was one of them; his e-mail begun with this words: “Agustin Madala is a player from another galaxy.” (“Agustín Madala es realmente un jugador de otra galaxia.”)…the same words people used to describe The Great Houdini.


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