This year's European Bridge Championship was played on a new stage. It presented a new cast of characters and a brand-new script. But it turned out to have the same familiar plot with the same old ending.
The setting was Palermo, and Sicily provided its usual perfect September weather. The makeup of all three of the principal contenders' teams had been altered from last year. Both France and Great Britain were confident that their teams had been strengthened, while Italy was defying the cardinal axiom of competitive sport: Never disturb a winning lineup. But at the end, it was the Italians who once again were in the lead.
No American tournament is conducted in quite the same way as the European Championship.
The Vanderbilt and the Masters, generally considered the most important U.S. team championships, are played on a knockout basis. Session-long matches are fought team-against-team, and a team can lose only twice before it is out of the tournament. It takes about a dozen sessions to conclude these events.
The more leisurely European tournament is a round-robin affair. Each team meets every other team for a full session of 40 deals, scoring two points for each match won and one for a tie. Another difference: in Europe, a match won by fewer than six International Match Points is a tie.
Many expert observers believe that Europe's plan gives the best team the best chance to win, and I am inclined to agree. And Europe's best continues to be Italy.
The resignation of Guglielmo Siniscalco and Massimo D'Alelio represented more than the loss of two players to the Italian champions; it broke up two of Italy's three fixed partnerships. Fortunately for Italy, Eugenio Chiaradia and Pietro Forquet speedily developed a partnership that seems to be at least as strong as either of the two it replaced. Both men played brilliantly.
We are so accustomed to reporting exactly how bright the Italian play can be that it is a refreshing change to describe a hand in which Forquet demonstrated that even he can sometimes err. There is hope yet for the United States teams which will meet the Italians in the spring.
This was the deal, played during the match between Great Britain and Italy. And although Italy eventually won by a huge score, it was only the sixth board of the match—too early for anybody on either side to relax.
Except that failure to open the bidding with one club limits the strength of the opening bid, this Neapolitan pair bids in almost standard fashion after an opening bid of one in any othersuit. Thus, Forquet's jump to two no trump after a pass indicated just about what he had—11 or 12 points in high cards and the unbid suits well stopped. Having opened an absolute minimum, Chiaradia wasn't even tempted to go further.