Italy's continuing sweep in international bridge play—two consecutive European Championships followed by two consecutive World Championships—has whipped up interest in their players' unique bidding system. Apparently, my recent brief outline of their "Neapolitan Club" system (SI, Jan. 27) just before the world championship matches at Lake Como whetted your appetite for more detail.
So here is some more complete information about their very different bidding ideas, previewed from my forthcoming book on the subject (Goren Presents the Italian Bridge System, out July 17, Doubleday, $3.50). It is by no means easy to digest, and I don't recommend it for use by novices. However, anyone whose interest has been piqued by the Italians' seemingly odd bids should find it interesting to discover what their purposes are.
The Neapolitan Club is really two systems in one. It divides opening bids into two types: hands with less than 17 points in high cards according to the Goren point count (ace, 4; king, 3; queen, 2; jack, 1); and hands with 17 points or more, or with such powerful distributional values that the opener does not wish to chance being passed out in a one-bid. Hands which fall in this strong category are opened with one club. This is the only opening bid which is absolutely forcing, but it is not forcing to game.
The one-club bid is artificial. It does not announce a club suit. It simply says: "Partner, I have a strong hand, and I want to know about your aces and kings. Ignore your distribution. Forget about the usual meaning your first response would have. Use this first bid to show your high cards on a quantity basis, counting each king as one control and each ace as two."
So the first response to the club bid is as artificial as the opening bid itself. It simply spells out the number of controls according to a stepladder chain of responses, similar to the ace-showing answers to the Blackwood four no-trump bid.
Of course, it is easier for the opponents to try to jam the broadcasting channels with an interference bid over one club than after a bid of four no trump. However, by adjusting the responses in accordance with the opponent's overcall, the information can still be given unless the interfering bid is quite high. And against strong hands, high bids are dangerous.
Much has been written about the artificiality and the complexity of the bidding after a one-club opening, but the other half of the bidding system—tailored around the fact that the one-club bid has been preempted for artificial purposes and that all hands of 17 points or more are opening club bids—is at least as complex, if not as artificial.
Let's look at one of the deals on which Italy had a substantial gain against the U.S. in 1957.
Both sides vulnerable West dealer