For 13 days the World Team Olympiad at Deauville, France ground inexorably toward its familiar finale—another American challenge to Italian dominance of the world bridge scene. Toward the end of a long tournament—and the Olympiad is the longest of all—many players are walking around like zombies. Deauville was no different. In the qualifying rounds alone the teams endured 12 uninterrupted days of three matches each, with no rest at all for most of the top stars.
Just getting to Deauville had been a complicated, exhausting affair for many. Until two hours before their departure, the Americans were headed for Geneva, where the tournament had been moved because of the strikes in France. When the site was switched back to Deauville at the last minute, many teams had already arrived in Geneva. They beat their ways across France by hired car, with extra gas in the trunk, or flew to Brussels and tooled across Normandy in private cars, among them Jaime Ortiz Patino's Ferrari. The Americans went by bus from London to Manston—the first incoming stop for crippled RAF fighters in World War II—took the air ferry to Le Touquet and rode another battered bus for eight hours, through Rouen (by way of Wrack, or so it seemed to the passengers) to get to play some cards. Still, 33 of the 35 open teams arrived, and so did 19 of the 20 women's teams. Poland's teams could not get their visas transferred from Switzerland to France in time, and Nationalist China's has yet to be heard from.
Nearly everyone expected that the U.S. and Italian teams would get through the interminable round-robin qualifying matches to the semifinals. Canada was a likely choice for the third spot, and the fourth was supposed to be contested by The Netherlands and Switzerland. But there was one huge surprise. Australia's group quickly captured the audience's fancy with excellent play and almost broke through. The Aussies defeated every top team except the U.S. and lost to the Americans only when a slam went wrong on the very last board. The sudden illness of Australia's bright young player, Dick Cummings, may well have been a pivotal occurrence in the competition. Cummings, a stockbroker from Sydney, collapsed at the conclusion of a match with the Philippines and had to be taken to the hospital in Trouville. In their next two matches, his shaken teammates lost to Iceland and Kenya, and the damage proved irreparable. In the end, Canada and The Netherlands did win the honor of meeting the Italians and the Americans in the semifinals. but their title hopes ended in that round.
The Italians ran away to an enormous lead over the Canadians very quickly. Canada's best-known players, Eric Murray and Sammy Kehela, had not missed a single session of the Olympiad to that point. At the three-quarter mark, Italy's lead was 147-68, and only a last-round surge by the Canadians brought the final score to a more respectable 171-120. The Americans had far more trouble with The Netherlands team, finally winning 174-142.
In the 80-deal finals the Italians quickly built a lead of 26 international match points in the first 20 hands. Even in a world championship, larceny is dearest to the players' hearts, and Benito Garozzo demonstrated what a confidence man he can be when he victimized Norman Kay and Edgar Kaplan in the deal shown above.
The contract at the other table was the same. It was played by Robert Jordan and went down after the diamond opening lead. Jordan won the diamond and led a spade. The Italian West, Walter Avarelli, grabbed his ace, cashed a diamond, and eventually the defense made two trump tricks.
Garozzo was far more deceptive. He ducked the first diamond, thereby setting up a quick reentry to dummy. He won the second diamond and led the 4 of spades. Kay didn't dream that his side held two trump tricks so he saw no urgency about jumping in with the spade ace. When he ducked, Garozzo won with dummy's queen, came back to his hand with the club ace, used the quick entry to dummy—a diamond ruff—he had provided by his thoughtful first play, and then discarded his two remaining spades on dummy's two high clubs. Garozzo returned to his hand with a spade ruff and led his last diamond, ruffing in dummy when Kay elected to discard a spade. Dummy's last heart was led to the ace, and Garozzo then smilingly surrendered two trump tricks and racked up his game. The swing was 12 IMPs to Italy.
Life might have been more difficult for Garozzo had Kay ruffed the fourth diamond with the queen of hearts, but Benito would no doubt have come up with the right answer. When the diamond is ruffed with the queen, declarer discards dummy's last club. West returns a spade, East ruffing with the 10 and South overruffing with the ace. Declarer, having already lost two tricks, must now guess correctly to hold his remaining trump losers to one. He leads a trump toward dummy's J-6, and when West plays low, ducks. East is forced to win the king, and his club return is ruffed. West's 9 can be overruffed by dummy's jack, and the contract comes home.
In the third quarter Italy's new non-playing captain, Angelo Tracanella, put in Massimo d'Alelio and Camillo Pabis Ticci for the weary Pietro Forquet and Garozzo. For a while it looked as if Tracanella had inherited the mantle of genius from his predecessor Carlo Alberto Perroux. His new lineup ran the lead to 39 IMPs.
U.S. Captain Julius Rosenblum continued to use only his anti-Italian experts, Jordan and Arthur Robinson and Kaplan and Kay. But to the amazement of everybody, for the final quarter Tracanella benched the famous Blue Team veterans Giorgio Belladonna and Avarelli and almost became the goat. The American squad caught fire and brought the Italian lead down to a mere 11 with five boards to play. Then the tide turned once more, as it always seems to do in the final stages of a match between the U.S. and Italy. On the 76th deal the Americans lost 6 IMPs; then came the fatal 77th, shown above.