It was only a year ago, as the more dedicated bridge disciples will recall, that a team of Italian players landed on our shores and gave us a close look at their complex new system of bidding. I might even—without much fear of contradiction—call it the most complex system now in vogue among the leading players. Lest anyone should doubt its powers, let it be remembered that the Italians made off with the world bridge championship.
During the next couple of weeks we are going to get more of the same as the eighth World Championship Contract Bridge Team Match opens in Lake Como, Italy on January 25th, with three competing teams and one foregone conclusion.
The three teams: Europe, again represented by last year's world title winners, Italy; the United States, represented by the winners of last year's National Masters' Team title; and, for the first time in the history of the world event, South America, represented by its champions from Argentina.
The foregone conclusion: During this next week, most Americans who read reports on the world tourney in their daily newspapers will be tearing their hair.
Let me hasten to say that this is not a prediction of disaster for the strong lineup that won the right to play for the United States by taking the round-robin event in Pittsburgh last summer: B. Jay Becker, John R. Crawford, George Rapee, Alvin Roth, Sidney Silodor and Tobias Stone. I am counting on them to break a streak of three straight wins by the European champions and bring us our fifth leg on the Bermuda Bowl, the world title trophy that has gone back to Europe for the past three years. And I have not forgotten that, to do this, they must whip the identical Italian powerhouse that handed me and my teammates such a tremendous thumping in taking the '57 world championship.
What is bound to tousle the topknots of American readers and make them wonder if the players or the linotypers have gone berserk is the weird-seeming Italian bidding. All of the Italian players use highly artificial bids and, to add further complication, each of the three Italian pairs follows an entirely different system.
Eugenio Chiaradia and Massimo d'Alelio of Naples use "natural" bidding that comes closest to American methods. Walter Avarelli and Giorgio Belladonna of Rome play the Roman Club. Pietro Forquet and Guglielmo Siniscalco, of Naples, use still another highly artificial method known as the Neapolitan Club.
I have just completed work on a book about this system (shortly to be published here by Doubleday) and I will try to explain how it differs in important ways from the methods with which you are familiar. But first a word about the Argentine players, who must be rated as the dark-horse entry in this event.
Only once in the past have three teams met for the world championship title. That was in 1950 in Bermuda—the first running of the event—when we were victors in a three-cornered match among the champions of Continental Europe, Great Britain and the United States. For the next six years, it was a two-team battle between champions of Europe and the United States.
This year, in further justification of the "world" scope of the event, South America was invited to send its champions to compete in another three-cornered match. In a tourney reduced to six nations when political unrest caused the withdrawal of Venezuela's entry, Argentina scored an upset victory over Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. Thus, South America's representatives in Lake Como will be six gentlemen from Buenos Aires: Alejandro Castro (captain), Alejandro Olmedo, Hector Cramer, Marcelo Lerner, Carlos Cabane and Alberto J. Blousson.