From the ring of the cheers that echoed in the huge Viking Auditorium of Oslo's City Hall, you would have thought that Norway's own contract bridge team had won the European Championship. But, for the third successive year, the toasts at the victory banquet were for Italy's World Champions: Walter Avarelli, Giorgio Belladonna, Eugenio Chiaradia, Massimo D'Alelio, Guglielmo Siniscalco and Pietro Forquet.
With their victory, the redoubtable sixsome from Naples and Rome earned the chance to make it three straight world titles, too, when they meet the challenge of the top U.S. and South American teams in a three-way match to be played in New York next February.
The scandalous speculation about Italian cheating recently front-paged in the United States will no doubt mean SRO signs—perhaps even network television—for the exhibition of those February matches here. But the sound of those cheers in Oslo left no room for doubt of how Europe felt. For its champions, this was vindication as well as victory.
If the vindication was overwhelming, the victory was not. The result was in doubt right down to the conclusion of the very last match. On the basis of two points scored for each match won and one point for each draw, the final ranking put Italy and England into a first-place tie. The tie was broken and the championship decided on "quotient." In this comparison of the margins by which each match was won or lost, the victorious Italian team had a wide advantage.
From the opening gong, it appeared that an upset was in the making. Experts confidently predicted that the 15-nation field would be topped by one of three teams—Italy, France or Great Britain. Then, in the very first match Italy played, the French trounced them by the decisive margin of 25 International Match Points (one IMP is roughly equal to a difference of 100 points in the total score).
This put France into the role of strong favorite, especially when, in the next round of play, they succeeded in holding the highly regarded British team to a draw. (Actually, Britain outscored the French 41 to 37. However, under European scoring, a match decided by fewer than six IMPs is accounted a tie.)
It was evident that Italy was jittery in its first-round match against the French, as will be seen by the following hand:
Neither side vulnerable West dealer
[5 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]