The last lingering doubt that Italy has the world's best contract bridge team vanished last week, along with U.S. hopes of regaining lost laurels and South American dreams of achieving an upset. Before the critical eyes of this country's top experts and the bugged eyes of thousands of American bridge fans who came to the tourney and the hundreds of thousands who watched the final session on television, the Italian powerhouse captured its third straight World Contract Bridge Championship and sent the U.S. down to its fifth successive loss to Europe's champions.
The two Romans, Walter Avarelli and Giorgio Belladonna, and the four Neapolitans, Eugenio Chiaradia, Massimo D'Alelio, Pietro Forquet and Guglielmo Siniscalco, led by their nonplaying captain, Carl'Alberto Perroux of Modena, beat the U.S. team by 50 International Match Points and turned back a late surge by Argentina to win by 40 IMPs.
Right down to the wire it was a tremendously exciting competition. Italy took a narrow lead on the first day against the U.S. champions—Harry Fishbein, Sam Fry Jr., Len Harmon and Lee Hazen of New York, Sidney Lazard of New Orleans and Ivar Stakgold of Washington, with Charles Solomon of Philadelphia the nonplaying captain. It remained nip and tuck, with the U.S. a few points to the good on the second and third days, and on the fourth day Italy apparently fell apart as our team built up a 22 IMP lead. (An International Match Point is roughly the equivalent of 100 total points.)
Then, in a stunning turnabout on Wednesday, Italy bounced back to score 41 IMPs while the U.S. could garner only 7. In Thursday's play, the U.S. cut that lead to a mere 4 points, and on Friday, but for an unfortunate miscue on the last hand, the match would have stood at an out-and-out tie. But the session ended with Italy 10 points ahead, and from there on it was a lost cause.
Argentina was thought to be the underdog in both its matches but presented a strong team. Although they lost decisively to the U.S., they threw a scare into Italy until the final afternoon. And so the stage was set for the Sunday night showdown between Italy and the U.S., with our side trailing by 30 IMPs and only a faint hope of victory that never materialized.
In the earlier going, each team suffered a single blow through a mental aberration. On that final Friday night hand, Sam Fry pulled a wrong card to lose a non-vulnerable game. Earlier in the week Giorgio Belladonna had renounced (that is, failed to follow suit but discovered his mistake before it became an established revoke)—and thereby incurred a penalty so rare that it was news to most of the players, expert commentators and, of course, the audience watching the show on the Bridge-O-Rama. This was the situation:
East-West vulnerable West dealer
[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]