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Not that the relative positions mattered, except to the Brazilians, who had to settle for third place, and to Becker's squad and the Indonesians, who followed in fourth and fifth. The first and second finishers were automatically in the finals, and only the result of the last 128 deals would count. Indeed, the Italians had seemed to relax once they were assured of a berth, but observers began to wonder if the Aces' strong finish might not be a portent of good things.
Those wonders were soon to cease. The Italians, with Garozzo and Belladonna pounding away in the closed room and Forquet and Bianchi performing exquisite surgery on closed-circuit TV, scored 65 I MPs to the Aces' four in the first 16 deals, then went on in the next 16 to collect another 59 IMPs to the Aces' two. The score was 124-6, and the match was as good as over.
How do the Italians go on winning? As a member of the team that absorbed the worst drubbing ever administered at the hands of the Blues, I am in no better position to answer than anyone else, yet no team ever has been more closely observed in an effort to fathom its secret of success.
Early on we were told that it was the Blues' bidding system—but they once used three different systems, and today four of their present team, including Bianchi, have switched over to Precision. Their record in slam bidding is far better than their opponents', but we have usually outbid them in competitive part-score hands and held our own in the game-bidding department. Superb players? Surely it would be difficult to find any team with three members to equal Belladonna, Forquet and Garozzo, but through the years the Blues" personnel and partnerships have changed, and still they keep winning. A great captain? That was true in the days of Carlo Alberto Per-roux, who molded the team and built it, but Perroux has not been the captain since 1966. Luck? Good teams make their own. Yet consider the straw that broke the Aces' back on Board 15 of the finals.
Both Garozzo and Hamman are aggressive bidders, but in this deal Bianchi's Precision Club opening gave Ham-man a chance to come in at the one level.
Warned by the diamond overcall, Bianchi played accordingly. He won the spade lead and returned a spade to West's 9. Hamman shifted to the 7 of diamonds, taken by South's king. A spade was ruffed in dummy, and when East ducked the 10 of hearts lead, Bianchi was not tempted to take a deep finesse, realizing that if he lost the trick to Hamman he would probably lose a diamond ruff as well. He finessed the queen of hearts, cashed the heart ace and cheerfully bore the loss of two more tricks to the ace of clubs and the high heart, making his contract for +620. In the other room Goldman's opening bid was one heart, and Garozzo (West), unwilling to come in at the two level on such a shabby diamond suit, restrained his normal desire for action and passed. Lawrence responded one no trump, then raised to game when Goldman jump-rebid in hearts.
Goldman won the king of spades opening lead with his ace and led the king of clubs. Garozzo took the ace and continued with the jack of clubs, won by dummy's queen. Since it would be dangerous to give up a spade to East and get a club return, declarer took the finesse of the heart queen. The finesse held, and Goldman was pleased to find both opponents following to the heart ace. With only the high trump now out, he cashed the king of diamonds and led toward dummy's queen. If this held, he would be able to discard one spade on the diamond ace and make his contract; and he would make an overtrick if the diamond jack dropped on the third round, allowing him to throw his last spade on dummy's good 10.
There was only one thing amiss. Belladonna was able to ruff the second diamond, and the defenders cashed two spade tricks. Down one for the Aces and a swing of 12 IMPs to Italy on the combined result, with nobody having done anything really wrong at either table.
So once again the Italian national anthem was played first at the victory banquet, with Italy's supermen applauded by their hosts and most of the members of the opposing teams. Three were absent: Corn, called away by a previous business appointment; Wolff, who returned with him; and B. Jay Becker, who continued what has been a luckless year. After surviving a near-fatal illness and subsequent surgery this winter—not to mention the shellacking his team took in Guarujá—B. Jay was struck by a bus while getting into a cab on his way to the banquet. He is home now, recovering from a severely lacerated leg and fractures of the collarbone and ankles. Poor B. Jay. He even looks like a man who has been steamrollered by the Blues.