Italy's continuing sweep in international bridge play—two consecutive European Championships followed by two consecutive World Championships—has whipped up interest in their players' unique bidding system. Apparently, my recent brief outline of their "Neapolitan Club" system (SI, Jan. 27) just before the world championship matches at Lake Como whetted your appetite for more detail.

So here is some more complete information about their very different bidding ideas, previewed from my forthcoming book on the subject (Goren Presents the Italian Bridge System, out July 17, Doubleday, $3.50). It is by no means easy to digest, and I don't recommend it for use by novices. However, anyone whose interest has been piqued by the Italians' seemingly odd bids should find it interesting to discover what their purposes are.

The Neapolitan Club is really two systems in one. It divides opening bids into two types: hands with less than 17 points in high cards according to the Goren point count (ace, 4; king, 3; queen, 2; jack, 1); and hands with 17 points or more, or with such powerful distributional values that the opener does not wish to chance being passed out in a one-bid. Hands which fall in this strong category are opened with one club. This is the only opening bid which is absolutely forcing, but it is not forcing to game.

The one-club bid is artificial. It does not announce a club suit. It simply says: "Partner, I have a strong hand, and I want to know about your aces and kings. Ignore your distribution. Forget about the usual meaning your first response would have. Use this first bid to show your high cards on a quantity basis, counting each king as one control and each ace as two."

So the first response to the club bid is as artificial as the opening bid itself. It simply spells out the number of controls according to a stepladder chain of responses, similar to the ace-showing answers to the Blackwood four no-trump bid.

Of course, it is easier for the opponents to try to jam the broadcasting channels with an interference bid over one club than after a bid of four no trump. However, by adjusting the responses in accordance with the opponent's overcall, the information can still be given unless the interfering bid is quite high. And against strong hands, high bids are dangerous.

Much has been written about the artificiality and the complexity of the bidding after a one-club opening, but the other half of the bidding system—tailored around the fact that the one-club bid has been preempted for artificial purposes and that all hands of 17 points or more are opening club bids—is at least as complex, if not as artificial.

Let's look at one of the deals on which Italy had a substantial gain against the U.S. in 1957.

Both sides vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

North and South passed throughout, and this was the bidding at both tables:

By the U.S.

WEST

1 [Club]
1 [Spade]
3 [Diamond]
PASS

EAST

1 [Heart]
2 [Diamond]
3 NO TRUMP

By Italy

WEST

2 [Club]
2 [Spade]
4 [Spade]

EAST

2 [Heart]
3 [Spade]
PASS

Against the no-trump contract, South opened the king of diamonds and continued by leading the jack. Dummy's queen won, and declarer led a low club toward his jack. North stepped in with the queen, and the defenders collected two more diamonds and the ace of hearts. Result: 100 points to Italy.

At the other table, East-West never even mentioned no trump but rapidly arrived at four spades. North opened diamonds, and South collected two tricks there, returning a club. West won with the ace and led a heart. Now there was nothing the defense could do to prevent the declarer from winning 10 tricks.

It is interesting to consider why the Italians never mentioned no trump. It is worth noting that where a natural club bid is intended, assuming the hand is worth less than 17 points (with 17 points or more, the artificial club bid is mandatory), the player must open with one no trump or two clubs depending upon his distribution. With five clubs and a balanced hand the opening bid would be one no trump. With five clubs and a good second suit of four cards or more, the opening bid would be two clubs. The responder then bids two diamonds to allow the opener the chance to show his second suit. But if the responder has a good hand, he bids normally, in response to the two-club bid.

On the above example, West's rebid revealed that he held at least nine cards in the black suits. He could not have more than 16 points, or he would have opened with one club. Much of his strength was likely to be in the two suits he had bid. So East could assume that his side was weak in diamonds and that spades must be a better contract than no trump unless West himself bid three no trump out of East's three-spade bid.

Suppose West's second suit had been diamonds. With a weak hand lacking club support, East would bid two diamonds, asking for West's other suit, and West could pass. But with his actual hand, East would bid two hearts and, to keep the bidding low, West would show diamonds as his second suit by an artificial bid of two no trump. A great many similar refinements have been woven into the system in order to convey a maximum of information at every turn, while keeping the bidding as low as possible.

The Italians' infinite capacity for great pains will be seen again if you refer—in the table of bidding on page 55—to the responses to the artificial opening bid of one club. In the midst of a smoothly ascending stepladder in which each higher bid shows one more control, there's a sudden jolt. The response of one no trump shows four controls, while the higher response of three clubs shows only three. Why this recently added wrinkle? Because a no-trump declaration, if that is to be the final contract, may play better with the strong hand as declarer unless the responder has four controls. Not even so small an advantage is sacrificed to simplicity.

To sum up, just as it would be a mistake to judge a car by its optional accessories, it would be wrong to judge the Neapolitan Club system on its "gadget" bids. Gadgets can be tacked onto almost any system. The one-club bid to show a strong hand was introduced along with contract itself by Harold S. Vanderbilt. He and other fine players have repeatedly demonstrated how well it can work.

The basic advantage of the Italian method is that it enables the partnership to determine at once how many of the control cards are missing; it often gives warning with the first bid and response that game is out of reach; it provides specialized bids to convey specific information with certain kinds of hands.

To determine whether it's worth your while to study further, try bidding these sample hands with your favorite partner. See if you can equal the Italian performance by checking against Italy's bidding results explained beneath the hands.

PHOTOTHE FOUNDING FATHER AND SOME DISCIPLES
Eugenio Chiaradia (extreme left), the inventor and popularizer of the Neapolitan Club system, exults with his teammates over Bermuda Cup, symbol of World's Bridge Championship, after they retained it last January. His cohorts are (from left) Pietro Forquet, Walter Avarelli, Carl-Alberto Perroux (the non-playing team captain), Guglielmo Siniscalco and Massimo D'Alelio. On the right is Herman Dedichen, tournament director.
PHOTO

BIDDING TABLE FOR NEAPOLITAN CLUB

THE ARTIFICIAL ONE-CLUB OPENING

Shows at least 17 points in high cards (Goren 4, 3, 2, 1 count) or a strong distributional hand; does not show a club suit; is forcing for at least one round.

RESPONSES: The first response shows controls held (ace=two controls; king=one control) as follows:

1 DIAMOND=NONE
1 HEART=ONE
1 SPADE=TWO
1 NO TRUMP=FOUR
2 CLUBS=THREE
2 DIAMONDS=FIVE
2 NO TRUMP=SIX OR MORE

Alternative response of 2 hearts and 2 spades show six-card suit with no controls; 3 hearts and 3 spades, seven-card suit; 4 hearts and 4 spades, eight-card suit. Since the opening bid announces at least 17 points, the first response sets the minimum level of the final contract at a game bid if it shows three or more controls. An overcall complicates the control-showing process, but in most cases does not change the responder's obligation to show his high cards. Without a control, he passes; with one control, he makes the cheapest available bid. For example, if the overcall is 1 heart, a pass says "no control"; a bid of 1 spade declares one control, etc. High interference bids make matters difficult, but are dangerous against the powerful hand shown by the one-club opening.

OTHER OPENING BIDS AND RESPONSES

One of any suit except clubs: at least four cards in the suit; 12 to 17 points.

RESPONSES: Pass with less than 6 points, but make effort to bid if better able to support opener's possible second suit. Raise or bid 1 no trump with minimum hand. Response in new suit is forcing for one round. Responder's first bid may be a short suit if the second suit he bids is higher-ranking. Second suit must be playable. A jump raise in opener's suit is not forcing; shows 9-12 points, four or more trumps.

A Jump response of 2 no trump is not forcing; shows 11-12 points; used only when the holdings promise some advantage if no trump contract is played from responder's seat.

ONE NO TRUMP: 12-17 points, five cards in clubs, no other long suit. Responder bids 2 clubs with a weak hand and at least 2 (usually 3) clubs.

TWO CLUBS: 12-17 points, five cards in clubs, plus a second suit (may show six or more clubs). Response of 2 diamonds is conventional, showing normal 1 no-trump response to opening suit 1-bid, and inviting opener to show his other suit.

TWO OF ANY OTHER SUIT: A weak hand, maximum of 13 points in high cards, usually a second suit. Response of 2 no trump requests other suit.

TWO NO TRUMP: A long solid suit other than clubs. Response of 3 clubs asks opener to bid his suit.

THREE CLUBS: Preemptive, but stronger than other 3-bids; a hand similar to one shown by opening 2 no-trump bid, but with clubs as real suit.

THREE OF ANY OTHER SUIT: Preemptive; suit is weaker than shown by opening bid of 2 no trump. All of responder's bids are conditioned to the fact that opener cannot have more than 16 points.

OTHER CONVENTIONAL BIDS

A double of opponent's opening bid is for a takeout, but first response indicates number of controls held, on the usual stepladder basis.

One No-Trump Overcall is a distributional takeout double. Weaker than the double, it demands partner's best suit.

Two No-Trump Overcall is like a normal takeout double, calling for regular rather than stepladder responses.

Two No-Trump Jump Overcall is completely artificial, and made for defensive purposes. Partner responds 3 clubs to allow bidder to show his suit.

Four-Five No-Trump Bids are Blackwood only when they are jump bids. Otherwise, they show added values, inviting but not commanding a slam.

ASKING BIDS: A useless jump bid of a new suit asks partner to show controls in that suit by steps (i.e., over 4 clubs, bid of 4 diamonds=one step) thus:

NO CONTROLS=ONE STEP
ACE OR VOID=THREE STEPS
KING OR SINGLETON=TWO STEPS
ACE-KING=FOUR STEPS

THREE TEST HANDS IN ITALIAN BIDDING

With notes on why Italy's stars bid them as they did.

A HAND REQUIRING A QUICK STOP AND GO

WEST

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

EAST

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

WEST

1 [Heart]
2 [Diamond]

EAST

1 [Spade]
PASS

If West held a better hand, including perhaps heart jack, club queen and a singleton spade, he would open one diamond and reverse in hearts. East therefore knows this hand is limited to a part score. Without a strong preference for hearts, East must pass.

HERE ONE MUST LOCATE HIS PARTNER'S TOP STRENGTH

WEST

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

EAST

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

WEST

1 [Club] (a)
2 [Spade] (c)
3 [Club] (e)
4 NO TRUMP (g)
6 [Spade]

WEST

1 [Spade] (b)
3 [Heart] (d)
4 [Spade] (f)
5 [Club] (h)
PASS

a) Artificial bid
b) Shows two controls
c) Five-card suit
d) Biddable suit
e) Second suit
f) Spade support
g) Not Blackwood; asks location of control
h) King of clubs
West is able to bid slam

IN THIS HAND THE RIGHT SPOT IS HARD TO FIND

WEST

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

EAST

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

WEST

1 [Club] (a)
2 [Spade] (c)
3 [Diamond] (e)
4 [Spade] (g)
5 [Diamond] (i)

EAST

1 [Spade] (b)
2 NO TRUMP (d)
4 [Diamond] (f)
5 [Club] (h)
PASS

a) Artificial bid
b) Shows two controls
c) Five-card suit
d) Denies spades and five-card suit of his own
e) Second suit
f) Normal raise of suit
g) Powerful rebiddable suit
h) Shows club ace en route to five diamonds
i) Knows he is off heart ace and diamond king

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)