Because of its overpowering performance through the years, Italy's Blue Team has become enshrouded in both myth and legend. The myth is that the Italians possess a genius for bridge that is beyond the ken of American players. According to the myth, America could never win the title away from Italy, but could only inherit it. This is nonsense. The legend, which is much closer to the truth, is that the Blue Team plays amazingly close to its theoretical ceiling when it has to. In this respect, the Italians are unique. Most American experts do not figure to show their peak form more than three sessions in four. What the Americans had to do to stay in contention against Italy in the two-day finals was to maintain a level of performance—perhaps exchanging a little brilliance for added stability. The fact that they were able to do so on Saturday is what made the World Championship close, and their complete failure to do so on Sunday meant overwhelming defeat. This hand, the last one of the first session on Saturday, is a perfect example of the fierce quality of that day's play.
Forquet's four-spade contract was reasonable enough. The opening lead was the jack of clubs, which Kay overtook with the queen in order to lead his singleton diamond. When Forquet then began to pull trumps, Kay held back the ace for one round to give West a chance for an informative discard. West shed the 8 of clubs, confirming that the opening lead had been the top of a sequence. When East won his spade ace he underled his high clubs, putting West in for a killing diamond return.
It was a flawless defense, but hopes that it would provide a North American breakthrough were in vain. When the deal was replayed, Giorgio Belladonna and Walter Avarelli, on defense for Italy, defeated the contract in exactly the same way.
For my money, this is the hand that hurt the most. It came at a critical point in the finals, and it accented something that American teams have complained about for years—perhaps irrationally—namely, that time and time again the Italian artificial bidding systems put the normal contract into play from the "wrong" hand only to have the cards lie in such a way that the Italians can make the contract, while the other side can't. Murray and Kehela had apparently succeeded in blunting the Italians' attack, and the Americans were ahead late Saturday night when good luck gave Italy the biggest point swing of the session.
Each of the Italian pairs plays a different bidding system, and it just happened that this North-South hand was picked up by D'Alelio and Pabis Ticci, who use the Little Roman Club. Once East had interjected the interference bid of one spade, 14 match points depended on what Pabis Ticci bid. The natural bid was one no trump, but in the Little Roman system this would be forcing to game, showing more points than Pabis Ticci actually possessed. So he was forced to bid two diamonds. D'Alelio thus became the declarer at three no trump, and Kehela, on lead with the East hand, could not attack the vital heart suit. He led a spade, and D'Alelio made 11 tricks.
When the deal was replayed in the other room the American North, Root, opened one club, too. But after a one-spade overcall by Forquet, the American South, Roth, bid a predictable one no trump and became declarer at three no trump. Now the heart lead from Garozzo killed Roth's chances. When the diamond finesse lost, he slapped down his cards in dismay, for he was set four. It was a staggering loss, and it left the Americans demoralized, though it hardly accounts for the next day's drubbing.