The historic maritime city of Genoa, is located in the centre of Liguria, at the top of Italy’s iconic boot. This “Italian Riviera” region is famous for pesto and was the setting for this hand I played during a recent Pairs tournament.

Sitting North, I opened one club in fourth seat and replied two clubs over my partner's one diamond. After two passes West balanced with a double, and East had an easy two spade bid. When it came back to me, knowing full well that to let the opponents play in two spades would almost certainly lead to a poor score (my reasoning was proven accurate by the frequencies:  -110 was worth just 20.24%), I doubled for take-out*, and my partner bid three clubs. 
East, in turn, went for blood by doubling the final contract and led the ace, then the king of spades.

At this point, switching to a heart is essential in order to beat the contract, but East, fearful that the nine of hearts was in my hand, opted to continue with a third round of spades. Now there was no defense: I ruffed and played a club toward the jack, East won and switched to the jack of diamonds, ducked by West and won by my king.

A club to dummy's jack, a heart to the king and two more clubs produced the following ending:

I tabled my last trump throwing dummy's eight of diamonds, and West was squeezed: if she had pitched a heart, I would have followed with a heart to the ace dropping the queen; if she had pitched a diamond - as she did - I would end-played her in diamonds.

As is normal with this type of matchpoint hand, there was a lot at stake: +670 was worth a full top for us, while -200 would have resulted in a bottom shared with just three other pairs out of sixty.

When on lead with the queen of clubs, a heart switch would not have saved the defence: I could have won in hand and played the king of diamonds, having all the necessary communication to make diamonds good and enjoy them (eg if West ducks it - best defense - declarer plays a second round, then goes back to dummy with the jack of clubs to ruff diamonds good, then, having drawn trumps, still has the ace of hearts to reach dummy's good diamonds).

A satisfying reason to play matchpoint pairs. Here’s another satisfying morsel. Try it. Unlike many of our traditional dishes – this is easy to make. You can even store some for another time.

Enjoy pesto the way the Ligurians have for centuries. 

For every 50 grams of basil leaves you’ll want half a glass of top quality extra virgin olive oil, 6 tbsp of a very nice parmesan cheese, 2 tbsp of pecorino (if you can, source the Sardinian variety of this wonderful cheese it has a unique taste after it ages for 2 years or so), a few grains of coarse salt, 2 garlic cloves and 1 tbsp pinenuts.

Put everything in a food processor, and process it as much as you like. The original recipe does not use a processor, but a mortar, so it should not be over processed.

Here’s a typical dish to complement your pesto making efforts. You’ll need a suitable quantity of Trofie - a variety of fresh pasta made with chestnut flour (if it’s not available use spaghetti or linguine & plain flour is just fine), potatoes and long green beans.

Peel and cut the potatoes into small cubes, then put the water onto the fire (at least 3 litres of water for each 500 grams of pasta). When it boils, add salt, potatoes and the beans. When they're almost done (keep them al dente) add the pasta into the pot. Remove a cup of water and set aside for later, then drain the vegetables and pasta and put them into a bowl. Add your pesto, and start gently mixing it up. Slowly add some of the water to make your dish creamy.

Buon appetito!

Pesto is great in minestrone too. Try adding one or two table spoons. Delicious.