For nine days beginning this Saturday the entire bridge world will be following the flickering lights on the world's biggest bridge table, set face-outward on the stage of the Barbizon-Plaza Theatre in New York City. On this 9-foot-by-9-foot Bridge-O-Rama, some 500 kibitzers actually seated in the theater will be able to follow, play by play, the 1962 World Bridge Team Championship for the Bermuda Bowl.
This is the 11th edition of the toughest and perhaps the most exciting of all championship bridge events. Representing the U.S. is a brand-new team selected in a unique manner by a special playoff match held in Houston last November (SI, Dec. 4). Our players will be meeting the defending world champions, Italy; the current European champions, Great Britain; and the Argentine team that won the championship of South America. What are our chances?
In the 10 previous Bermuda Bowl contests, we were victorious the first four times but never since. Over the past six years we have been defeated once by England, once by France, then four consecutive times by Italy's famous Blue Team. Five of the six Italian players, as well as their non-playing captain, Carl'Alberto Perroux (don't underestimate the importance of his role), have been on the Blue Team throughout and will compete again this year. They are Walter Avarelli, Giorgio Belladonna, Eugenio Chiaradia, Massimo D'Alelio and Pietro Forquet. The sixth man, young Benito Garozzo, demonstrated by his fine play in last year's world championship that the team has not suffered through his addition to the lineup.
The Italians are a strongly disciplined team of three long-practiced partnerships. They play two different and highly exotic systems. I am convinced that these methods do not confer any special advantages save one: familiarity. The players who have used these complex systems for years know more about them than do opponents who, however expert, lack long experience in competing against them.
Artificial systems are rigid; they also convey a great deal of information to the opponents. In addition, the Italians are not as young as they were six years ago when first they began to win, and stamina is an important consideration in an event that requires the playing of 432 deals in nine days—144 each against three different sets of opponents. I do not believe that the Italian powerhouse is invincible. Nevertheless, on past performance, it would be injudicious to select another team as favorite.
Before nominating second and third finishers, I want to name my candidate for fourth place: Argentina. I watched and played against the Argentine team in Buenos Aires last year and I have the highest regard for the skills of Alberto Berisso, Carlos Cabanne, Ricardo Calvente, Arturo Jaques and Egisto Rocchi, all of whom have represented South America in previous Bermuda Bowl contests. With the addition of a brilliant young ex-Italian, Luis Attaguile, they may surprise one of their opponents. However, it is my judgment that they still lack the sustained experience against strong opposition essential to victory in a world championship contest.
That brings us to the British team and to our own. Also to what I think may prove to be a serious blunder by my friend Terence Reese, generally conceded to be England's best player and analyst. Members of virtually every British international team of the last decade, Reese and Boris Schapiro have been the "automatic" first selection. Neither one took part in the Team Trials that produced the current British lineup: Albert Rose and Nico Gardener, who played for England on the team that finished second in the 1960 World Bridge Olympiad; Kenneth Konstam, who helped win the Bermuda Bowl for England in 1955, playing now with Claude Rodrigue; and teammates Alan Truscott and Anthony Priday, with Louis Tarlo as nonplaying captain.
Our own team trials in Houston resulted in the selection of Eric Murray, Toronto and Charles Coon, Boston; G. Robert Nail and Mervin Key, Houston; Lew Mathe and Ron Von Der Porten, respectively of Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif. This team, averaging just under 34 years of age, is led by 55-year-old John Gerber, Houston, the nonplaying captain, who is highly respected by the bridge world at large both as a player and as a judge of other players.
When he heard this news, Reese wrote:
"Announcement of the American team for the world championship strikes no terror into British hearts. Two of their pairs appear to be of recent formation and the others have not accomplished any great things in the past.... I believe that in Rose and Gardener, Truscott and Priday, we shall have two pairs with a better understanding and technique in bidding than any of the Americans, and Konstam and Rodrigue will show them the way in flexibility and attack.... I reckon our team will beat the Americans."