Losing sides always squawk, and since the U.S. has lost to Europe's champions in contract bridge's world title play for the past five years, the squawks on this side of the Atlantic have been loud, varied and long—five years long, to be exact.
We picked the wrong team; our players were too old; they were too young; we played the wrong system; we took our opposition too lightly; we should have fixed partnerships instead of pairing versatile players on a catch-as-catch-can basis; some of our players broke training.
None of these complaints arose while U.S. teams were winning the first four world championships. They may not again after the coming World Bridge Olympiad, which begins on April 23 in the exhibition building of the Society for Promoting Fine Arts in Turin, Italy.
For the first time the competition will involve all the countries of the world that wish to enter. The U.S. again meets its most familiar rival, Italy's formidable three-time world champions: Walter Avarelli, Giorgio Belladonna, Eugenio Chiaradia, Pietro Forquet and Guglielmo Siniscalco, with Giancarlo Manca replacing Massimo D'Alelio of last year's team. Twenty-seven other countries will compete in this contest sponsored by the World Bridge Federation, of which I happen to be a founder.
And the U.S. will be meeting them, not with a single team, but with four: two automatic selections—the winners of the 1959 Vanderbilt and the Spingold knockout team championship; the other two made up of three pairs each, as selected by a committee of past presidents of the American Contract Bridge League. (There will also be a women's team, which will play a round-robin for the women's championship.)
Why four teams? The U.S. is entitled to them and more under World Federation rules, which state that each member league may enter one team for every 15,000 members. There are 100,000 persons in the American Contract Bridge League.
The veteran teams are substantially those that battled it out in the finals of the 1959 Vanderbilt—the Becker team, which won, and my own group, whom they defeated in a hard-fought match. The winners' lineup was virtually the same that lost to Italy at Lake Como in 1958: B. J. Becker, George Rapee, Sidney Silodor, John R. Crawford and Tobias Stone. The only change is the addition of Norman Kay of Merchantville, N.J., replacing Alvin Roth of Washington, D.C.
Three of the members of my team also have represented the U.S. and were defeated by Italy in New York in 1957: Helen Sobel, Harold Ogust and myself. We have been reinforced by the addition of Howard Schenken and a strong California pair, Lew Mathe of Los Angeles and Paul Allinger of Alameda.
Since the veterans of the U.S. teams are as familiar to my readers as they are to international play, I will concentrate here on the younger performers. Paul Allinger is the youngest. He is far from a newcomer to important tournaments, however, numbering among his achievements a victory in the knockout team championship in 1958. Just to reassure those who may have heard little of him, here's a hand he played recently against Lew Mathe, who reported it to me.
The final contract was entirely reasonable, but the bad break in diamonds made it extremely difficult to fulfill.