Search

AFTER 328 BOARDS BY THE LAKE 'A GREAT TEAM WON'

Feb. 17, 1958
Feb. 17, 1958

Table of Contents
Feb. 17, 1958

Snow Patrol
Acknowledgments
The Habs Have It
The Lion's Den
Lake Como Bridge
Basketball
Fitness
Sporting Look
Horse Racing
Horse Shows
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

AFTER 328 BOARDS BY THE LAKE 'A GREAT TEAM WON'

The world's bridge title again went to those amazing Italians in the playoff alongside the beautiful shores of Lake Como

Those fine Italian hands are still the contract bridge champions of the world. Successfully defending the title they won in New York last year, Italy's great six-man bridge team took up a comfortable position on the shores of beautiful Lake Como. There, as expected, they easily repulsed South America's champions, Argentina, 239 to 167. And, not quite as expected, they also outplayed and outscored the formidable sixsome representing the United States, 216 to 179, thereby upsetting the pre-tournament calculations of a majority of those "experts" who climbed out on a limb to predict the probable result. Included among the casualties when that limb broke was your reporter.

This is an article from the Feb. 17, 1958 issue Original Layout

The U.S. drew what comfort it could from its expected victory over an inexperienced Argentine team, 211 to 179, in the third match of this 1958 World Contract Bridge Championship. (Championships played in Europe are scored by International Match Points, one IMP being roughly equal to 100 total points.)

We should have been forewarned by the consistent record of this Italian team of Walter Avarelli, Giorgio Belladonna, Eugenio Chiaradia, Massimo D'Alelio, Pietro Forquet and Guglielmo Siniscalco—great sportsmen as well as great players. I, for one, had good reason not to underrate them after their brilliant performance against the United States team on which I played last year, when Italy first captured the world title.

But going against them was one of our strongest lineups—B. Jay Becker, John R. Crawford, George Rapee, Sidney Silodor, Tobias Stone and Alvin Roth. This time, it appeared, our team would not be subject to the principal criticism leveled in the past—good players but no partnerships. The lineup shuffles that took place during the match against Italy were eloquent proof that U.S. versatility was not an advantage compared to Italy's plan—and the method used by most European countries—of a team comprising three permanently wedded pairs.

The 1958 championship broadened its "world" scope by including the winners of the South American championship. Thus, there were three separate matches of 164 deals each, played team against team. For Argentina, Alejandro Castro, Alejandro Olmedo, Hector Cramer, Marcelo Lerner, Carlos Cabane and Albert J. Blousson played gallantly but suffered from lack of experience in world championship play.

It was a foregone conclusion that the championship would hinge on the match between the U.S. and Italy, and great crowds turned out to watch the struggle between the two titans on the Bridge-O-Rama.

The margin of the Italian victory, 37 IMPs, was conclusive—but it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that American methods and American players have fallen behind Europe in general and Italy in particular. The match was no romp. Going into the final 16 deals 28 points behind, the U.S. team had cut that margin below 20 points in the next four hands. At that point, the title was still up for grabs—but the Italian team rallied to do the grabbing. No single hand can tell the story of a 164-deal match, but boards 60 and 64 may well have been the crucial ones. The United States team, off to a jittery start in both its matches, was trailing Argentina as well as Italy after two days' play. But by the conclusion of the third session, our representatives had settled down to pull well ahead of the South American entry and narrow Italy's lead to 17 International Match Points, the equivalent of less than 2,000 total points.

In the early hands of the fourth session, accurate bidding and play whittled this lead still further, until deal No. 60, when disaster struck in both rooms. This was the pivotal deal:

North-South vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[2 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

The bidding in the closed room, where play was without spectators:

WEST
(Rapee)

3 [Club]
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Belladonna)

PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

EAST
(Silodor)

3 NO TRUMP
5 [Club]
PASS

SOUTH
(Avarelli)

4 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

Silodor's judgment in bidding five clubs was excellent, as four spades could not be defeated. Unfortunately, Lady Luck failed to smile upon Rapee's chosen play.

North opened the 5 of spades, which was taken in dummy, and the king of clubs was played. North ducked but won the second club and shifted to the jack of hearts. Declarer ruffed and, after drawing North's remaining trumps, was left with only one trump and six diamonds. A two-two diamond split would make the hand, but when North played the 8 on the diamond lead toward dummy, Rapee considered the possibility that South held a singleton. The odds were two to one that such a singleton would be the jack or the 10 rather than the king, so dummy's queen was finessed and lost—a 1,250-point disaster.

A heart return forced West's last trump and when the diamonds failed to drop under the ace, instead of making the contract West was down four, losing 700 points.

In the open room, where 600 to 700 spectators followed the play, the bidding went:

WEST
(Siniscalco)

2 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Becker)

PASS
4 [Heart]
PASS

EAST
(Forquet)

2 NO TRUMP
DOUBLE

SOUTH
(Crawford)

3 [Heart]
PASS

Siniscalco went into a long trance before he passed, but his bid had announced a weak two-suiter and he had to accept his partner's decision. Forquet won the opening diamond lead and shifted to the king of clubs.

Dummy won and cashed the heart jack, revealing the trump break. Crawford then made the clever play of king of spades from dummy, dropping West's queen and East's ace. But the 10 of clubs forced him down to one trump fewer than East. After East trumped the fourth spade, the queen of diamonds play again forced South to trump and established a long trump in East's hand for the setting trick.

A low heart lead from dummy instead of the jack would have allowed South to make his contract. After surrendering the spade ace, South could make two spade tricks, ruff two in dummy with the jack and 10 of trumps and round out his 10 tricks by making all the trumps in his own hand. This would have more than recouped the loss at the other table and shaved another two IMPs off the Italian lead. Instead, another 200 points was added to the swing, producing a total deficit for the United States of 900 points.

In an effort to make up the loss, Crawford resorted to swing tactics four boards later. The tactics were correct, but his ammunition was inadequate.

In the closed room, our East-West pair duly arrived, quite normally, at the contract of three no trump without adverse bidding. They made four-odd, scoring 630 points.

In the open room, however, the bidding went:

WEST
(Sinisealco)

1 [Club]
DOUBLE

NORTH
(Becker)

PASS
PASS

EAST
(Forquet)

2 [Club]
PASS

SOUTH
(Crawford)

3 [Diamond]
PASS

This deal shows the highly artificial Neapolitan Club system (SI, Jan. 27) in action in both the bidding and the play. West's one-club bid announced a strong hand; East's two-club response showed three "controls" (ace=two controls; king=one control). Against this kind of system, where no suit has been shown and neither partner knows a thing about the other's distribution, preemptive tactics are often most effective. This time, however, South's suit was too weak to permit the barricading campaign with reasonable safety.

The defense by Sinisealco and Forquet was a thing of beauty. Knowing his partner held three controls, West assumed these included the ace of clubs, so he opened the club 6. East won and returned a spade. The appearance of South's king enabled West to read that his partner's remaining control was the king of hearts. He therefore underled the ace of hearts and, on the return of that suit, picked off three heart tricks. The king of clubs and the high spade were cashed. This accounted for all seven of declarer's side cards, and deftly evaded any chance that West would be caught in an end play. With nothing left but diamonds, declarer had to give up four trump tricks. South took but two tricks and the resulting 1,300-point penalty plastered the U.S. team with a 670-point net deficit.

At the close of this disastrous fourth day, that lead had soared to 33 match points, and although we dented it in some of the ensuing sessions, Italy always was able to build it back. Jean Besse, Swiss expert and one of my favorite partners in my tournament jaunt through Europe last summer, observed at the end of the match: "The Italians were less erratic. They played on an even keel, while the U.S. pitched and tossed."

Another deal that saw a victory for Italian bidding style was board No. 113:

Neither side vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[10 of Diamonds]

WEST

[9 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST

[King of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

East and West passed throughout, and the bidding at the two tables went:

With U.S. North and South: With Italy North and South:

NORTH
(Crawford)

PASS
2 [Club]

SOUTH
(Becker)

1 [Diamond]
PASS

NORTH
(Belladonna)

1 [Heart]
2 [Club]
3 NO TRUMP

SOUTH
(Avarelli)

1 NO TRUMP
2 NO TRUMP
PASS

The North hand is one which Americans sometimes bid, sometimes pass. My own feeling is distinctly in favor of opening. Having passed it, North would have made a stronger response except that Becker's opening bid hit his singleton. Since Becker himself had opened a sub-minimum bid, he was correct to pass the two-club response. North made five-odd, but the game had not been bid so he scored 150 points—including a 50-point bonus for making a part score contract.

In the other room, the Italian North could not open with one club, the strong bid, but this proved to be an advantage. Because the one-club opening is used for all hands counting 17 points or more, an opening bid of one in any other suit is limited in strength, and light opening bids gain an added measure of safety. North had ample values to bid one heart. The defenders got just their four top-card tricks and the Italians scored 400 for game.

If I seem to be stressing Italy's good hands, this is not to say that the United States did not have its share of brilliant bids and plays. There were numerous deals on which our team gained swings, of course. Even when their home favorites lost points, the generous Italian audience never failed to cheer a good performance, and several times our players earned an ovation. But it was, after all, an Italian triumph, and the decisive hands were those on which Italy gained.

Board 128 was an example of the kind of swing that caused Terence Reese, one of Britain's best and best-known experts, to comment: "Delaying tactics and failure to act promptly in entering the bidding proved costly to the United States." The Roth-Stone system, notably successful at match point play, has proved somewhat less effective at total points.

Italy, East and West, had no trouble getting to game on this bidding:

East-West vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[Ace of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST
(Siniscalco)

1 [Spade]
3 [Club]
3 NO TRUMP

NORTH
(Crawford)

PASS
PASS
PASS

EAST
(Forquet)

2 [Heart]
3 [Spade]
PASS

SOUTH
(Becker)

PASS
PASS
PASS

With the heart suit blocked so that the opponents got only two tricks in it, West was able to set up spade winners to round out nine tricks and the game.

At the first table, our North-South pair never had a chance to get into the auction. Yet, at the other table, Italy's North-South pair were able to do so much bidding the strong East-West hands were nearly shut out. The bidding went:

WEST
(Stone)

PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

NORTH
(Belladonna)

1 [Heart]
2 [Heart]
PASS

EAST
(Roth)

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Avarelli)

1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

Stone's initial pass does not meet with my views. Most players would open West's hand, but it does not qualify as an opening bid in the Roth-Stone system. Roth's decision to pass the double is a strange choice, in view of the likelihood that East and West could make a vulnerable game. Playing at two hearts doubled, North managed to make seven tricks for a loss of only 100 points, so Italy gained 500 for another 6 match points.

Expert observers found the results sometimes a bit weird, but the audience as a whole found it exciting. The match between Italy and the U.S. played to capacity at almost every session, with enormous interest displayed during the last four sessions. They were treated to a few unexpected incidents, including a bid out of turn by Stone that cost his team a few hundred points and, on the very same hand, a lead out of turn by Siniscalco that caused no harm.

However, to bear out the impartial observers' feeling that the luck of the cards was about even, here is another curious incident, which occurred on board 125:

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[2 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

WEST

[King of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[8 of Clubs]

EAST

[Queen of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

In one room, Belladonna, North, passed, and Roth, East, bid one club. South doubled and everyone passed. East managed to garner seven tricks despite the trump break, giving the U.S. a score of +140.

In the other room the bidding was strangely reminiscent of a bid by Ely Culbertson that remains the most unmistakable "hands-off" penalty double ever made in a tournament. His partner opened with one spade, the next player overcalled insufficiently with one heart, and Culbertson doubled. The opener's hand was not too well suited to defense against a heart bid, but he reasoned that if Ely couldn't wait to require the opponent to make his bid sufficient it was reasonably safe to assume that he had it set a few. And he did.

NORTH
(Crawford)

PASS
1 [Diamond]
PASS

EAST
(Forquet)

1 NO TRUMP
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Becker)

DOUBLE
PASS
PASS

WEST
(Siniscalco)

PASS
DOUBLE

No, there is no misprint. Crawford's bid was insufficient, but Forquet didn't realize it and passed, thereby accepting it. There is some justification for both players.

In the Neapolitan Club system, the opening bid of one no trump shows a hand that would be a normal one-club bid in a natural system. No doubt Crawford had this in mind when he took out what amounted to a double of a one club bid with his call of one diamond. At any rate, the one-diamond contract was set only one trick and Italy gained only 60 points on this deal.

To the question, "Why did the United States team lose?" neutral experts offered several answers.

Britain's Reese added to his previously quoted criticism of Roth-Stone bidding tactics: "The Italians are better bidders. If there were a replay it would end with the same result."

Herman Filarski, of Holland, thought Italy had better team spirit and valued this at 3,000 points.

Ewart Kempson, editor of one of England's two bridge magazines, reflected that country's serious view of the need to keep strict training when he remarked: "Baccarat after late bridge sessions is not conducive." He thought the U.S. loss was due to lack of discipline but added, "Bidding told the story. The States could have won if all its players had used more natural methods."

While I have a high regard for Kempson's judgment, I am inclined to doubt that's the answer. The fact is that Italy has a tremendous team. They have proved their stature by the unprecedented feat of winning both the European Championship and the World Championship two years running, with the same six players, paired in the same three strong partnerships. There is no need to seek explanations for our team's loss by what, in such a long match, must be considered a close margin. Let's put the result correctly:

"A great team won."

Extra tricks: Reese thought that of the Italian pairs, Avarelli-Belladonna earned top laurels, but the Italians' own opinion may be judged from the fact that Siniscalco-Forquet, using the Neopolitan Club, played all but 20 of the 164 deals.

Crawford, who played hero as well as goat, earned applause for good plays; so did Roth. But consensus selected Silodor-Rapee as our most consistent pair.

Beneath the politeness proper between hosts and guests, observers sensed high tension between the players, but the only flare-up was due to a misunderstanding. One session was played in the municipal casino of Campione, and with 70 spectators breathing down the players' necks, Tournament Director Herman Dedichen of Denmark told U.S. players that hands should not be shown to kibitzers but neglected to informltaly. In the resulting to-do, Carlo Perroux, Italy's nonplaying captain, requested the removal of all spectators.

At Como, however, the size of the audience and its generous applause was one of the outstanding features of the championship.

PHOTOTHE OLD-WORLD GRANDEUR OF LAKE COMO CASINO SURROUNDS BRIDGE-O-RAMA, SOUNDPROOF BOOTH IN WHICH PLAYERS CAN BE WATCHED BY HUNDREDSPHOTOTENSE BIDDING MOMENT INSIDE THE BRIDGE-O-RAMA BOOTH INVOLVING (L TO R) D'ALESIO, RAPEE, CHIARADIA AND ROTH

East-West vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[9 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[5 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]