Italy's almost total domination of world bridge for the last three years ended last week when the Italians suddenly—and surprisingly-wentdown to defeat in the first World Bridge Olympiad at Turin.
The new world champions are a group of young, aggressive Frenchmen who, with one exception, are amateurs. Pierre Ja�s, a physician, Roger Tr�zel, a gentleman farmer, G�rard Bourchtoff, a paper manufacturer, Claude Delmouly, the one professional (he runs a bridge school), Ren� Bacherich and Pierre Ghestem, merchants, swamped the Italians in the last round and, in fact, the closing minutes of the grueling 12-day, 14-round Olympiad.
Their triumph in this match however, did not assure victory. They were still tied with the English, who in one stretch had won 12 successive matches. But the English, to the lasting joy of the French, came a cropper against my weary teammates, who had gone through most of the final matches using only four players, Lew Mathe, Paul Allinger, Howard Schenken and Harold Ogust. A severe cold had knocked me out of action and left my partner, Helen Sobel, without a teammate whose style of play was familiar to her. Behind at one time by 17 IMPs, we rallied and in the closing hands forced the English to settle for a tie. It was no famous victory, but for the English—and the French—it was enough.
The wonder of the tournament was that the Italians lost. They had behind them three straight world championships and four straight European championships. Along with the English, they had gone through the qualifying rounds undefeated. But in the first playoff round, the two nations met, and the English ( Terence Reese, Boris Schapiro, Albert Rose, Nico Gardener, Jeremy Flint and Ralph Swimer) won 66-58. The margin of victory was slight, but the Italians ( Walter Avarelli, Giorgio Belladonna, Eugenio Chiaradia, Pietro Forquet, Giancarlo Manca and Giorgio Franco) never recovered. The next day they dropped another, closer match to the U.S. team combination of Sam Stay-man, Morton Rubinow, Ira Rubin, William Grieve, Oswald Jacoby and Victor Mitchell—one of three U.S. teams to reach the six-team finals. In the third round they defeated my depleted group but lost their last two matches by wide margins to the U.S. team of Sidney Silodor, George Rapee, Tobias Stone, John R. Crawford, B. Jay Becker and Norman Kay, and also to France.
THE ABSENT CAPTAIN
I asked Forquet, the flawless young playmaker of the ex-world champions, to explain the sudden turnabout in Italian fortunes. "I do not know," he shrugged. "It is not the fault of our new players [Manca and Franco]. Nor was it the loss of Guglielmo Siniscalco, once my exclusive partner. We missed him, of course, but Chiaradia and I have had a winning partnership too. Perhaps we were not joking when we called Carl' Alberto Perroux 'the great captain.' It must be said he is the big difference."
I have always rated Perroux, the nonplaying captain in all seven of Italy's recent European and world championships, as one of his team's greatest assets. He could call down "my primadonna," as he sometimes called Belladonna. He could take the pressure off the highly keyed Chiaradia. He could rally the team when it floundered, crack the whip when it appeared overconfident. But Perroux, taken ill just before the playoffs, left the team, and without him the Italians lost their winning touch.
It is perhaps significant that most of the members of both the French and the British teams play with few artificial conventions—especially since recent Italian victories have been attributed so largely to their highly gadgeted systems.
With the possible exception of my own team, Great Britain used fewer artificial bids than any other team that reached the finals. One of the few unusual conventions they used was the Texas transfer bid—a method by which the no-trump bidder remains the closed hand and has the benefit of the lead coming up to him, even though his partner has a long suit at which he wishes to play the contract.
The usual method for accomplishing this is for the partner of the notrumper to jump to four of the suit immediately below the one he holds. Thus, if he holds a long diamond suit, he jumps to four clubs; with hearts, he jumps to four diamonds; with spades he jumps to four hearts. Partner is then commanded to bid the next higher-ranking suit.