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ITALY PLAYS THE WINNING CARDS

Feb. 23, 1959
Feb. 23, 1959

Table of Contents
Feb. 23, 1959

Bobsled Triumph
Wonderful World Of Sport
Wonderful World Of Sports
Bridge Match
Horse Show
Food
Basketball
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

ITALY PLAYS THE WINNING CARDS

The world champion bridge players invade New York, and with a runaway finish brilliantly defend the Bermuda Cup against the challenge from the United States and Argentina

The last lingering doubt that Italy has the world's best contract bridge team vanished last week, along with U.S. hopes of regaining lost laurels and South American dreams of achieving an upset. Before the critical eyes of this country's top experts and the bugged eyes of thousands of American bridge fans who came to the tourney and the hundreds of thousands who watched the final session on television, the Italian powerhouse captured its third straight World Contract Bridge Championship and sent the U.S. down to its fifth successive loss to Europe's champions.

This is an article from the Feb. 23, 1959 issue Original Layout

The two Romans, Walter Avarelli and Giorgio Belladonna, and the four Neapolitans, Eugenio Chiaradia, Massimo D'Alelio, Pietro Forquet and Guglielmo Siniscalco, led by their nonplaying captain, Carl'Alberto Perroux of Modena, beat the U.S. team by 50 International Match Points and turned back a late surge by Argentina to win by 40 IMPs.

Right down to the wire it was a tremendously exciting competition. Italy took a narrow lead on the first day against the U.S. champions—Harry Fishbein, Sam Fry Jr., Len Harmon and Lee Hazen of New York, Sidney Lazard of New Orleans and Ivar Stakgold of Washington, with Charles Solomon of Philadelphia the nonplaying captain. It remained nip and tuck, with the U.S. a few points to the good on the second and third days, and on the fourth day Italy apparently fell apart as our team built up a 22 IMP lead. (An International Match Point is roughly the equivalent of 100 total points.)

Then, in a stunning turnabout on Wednesday, Italy bounced back to score 41 IMPs while the U.S. could garner only 7. In Thursday's play, the U.S. cut that lead to a mere 4 points, and on Friday, but for an unfortunate miscue on the last hand, the match would have stood at an out-and-out tie. But the session ended with Italy 10 points ahead, and from there on it was a lost cause.

Argentina was thought to be the underdog in both its matches but presented a strong team. Although they lost decisively to the U.S., they threw a scare into Italy until the final afternoon. And so the stage was set for the Sunday night showdown between Italy and the U.S., with our side trailing by 30 IMPs and only a faint hope of victory that never materialized.

In the earlier going, each team suffered a single blow through a mental aberration. On that final Friday night hand, Sam Fry pulled a wrong card to lose a non-vulnerable game. Earlier in the week Giorgio Belladonna had renounced (that is, failed to follow suit but discovered his mistake before it became an established revoke)—and thereby incurred a penalty so rare that it was news to most of the players, expert commentators and, of course, the audience watching the show on the Bridge-O-Rama. This was the situation:

East-West vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
— [Club]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spade]
[King of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

EAST

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

WEST

PASS
1 [Heart]
PASS

NORTH

PASS
1 [Spade]
PASS

EAST

PASS
1 N.T.
PASS

SOUTH

1 [Diamond]
3 N.T.

The three-no-trump contract by South was reached in both rooms. The bidding shown is by Avarelli (North) and Belladonna (South) because it illustrates one of the unusual sequences mandated by the use of an artificial opening bid of one club.

In the Roman system, which this Italian pair uses, the South hand does not qualify as a one-club bid, so South opened with the longest of his other three suits—diamonds. Thereafter, Belladonna's three no-trump bid was daring but not unsound.

West opened a low heart, dummy ducked and East's jack forced the king. With no convenient way to reach dummy for a club finesse, South laid down the ace of clubs and continued with the deuce, giving East a trick with the king. East returned his remaining heart, and South mistakenly discarded a low diamond. West played the heart 9 to force dummy's queen, thinking that he had thus left partner with a heart to return. After taking the trick with dummy's queen, but before leading to the next trick, Belladonna suddenly realized his error and produced the heart 6. This mistake gave West the right to withdraw his card and play any other, but the offending side did not enjoy the same privilege so the queen had to remain on the table. West, of course, withdrew his 9 of hearts and played the ace, thereby running the remainder of the heart suit and setting the contract.

In the other room, with Fishbein as declarer, the first plays were the same. On the third trick East ducked South's lead of the club queen, winning the third round with his king. At that point a double-dummy return of a spade would have stopped the game, because, while South was in for the last time, he would have to run his clubs and in doing so would squeeze the dummy. However, East returned a heart, and when a trick was conceded to North's heart queen the declarer had nine tricks.

I don't believe that even my Italian friends will object to my describing board 72 as the miracle hand. It is true that great players have a way of making their own miracles come to pass, but this one—perhaps it's better to have you judge for yourself.

Neither side vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

EAST

[8 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]

First, let's observe the bidding by the U.S. with Fishbein and Hazen lined up against Siniscalco and Forquet in the fish bowl.

EAST
(Forquet)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Fishbein)

1 [Spade]
2 [Spade]
3 [Spade]
PASS

WEST
(Siniscalco)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Hazen)

2 [Club]
3 [Heart]
4 [Spade]

The capacity audience watching the layout on the Bridge-O-Rama electric board and hearing the bidding direct from the fish bowl, was, of course, largely composed of rooters for the U.S. There was a sigh of relief, therefore, when North and South kept out of the foreseeable trouble of a diamond opening against a slam contract. Indeed, the diamond 7 was opened against four spades, and Fishbein was held to five odd.

Then the bidding as it occurred in the closed room was revealed. Messrs, Belladonna and Avarelli had failed to keep out of a slam. But they had somehow managed to find it in the only makable declaration—six hearts! This was their auction.

EAST
(Stakgold)

2 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Belladonna)

DOUBLE
3 [Spade]
4 [Heart]!
5 N.T.
PASS

WEST
(Harmon)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Avarelli)

3 [Diamond]
4 [Club]
5 [Diamond]?
6 [Heart]

The bidding requires a road map, which I will endeavor to draw with the aid of my Italian interpreters of the Roman Club system. I refer to Avarelli and Belladonna, who have been employing it since the early days of their partnership with such enormous success.

East's opening was a "weak" two-bid. South's double announced a good hand, and North's cue bid was a game-forcing response fully warranted by his powerhouse. South declared his spades, and North showed his clubs. The surprise bid was Belladonna's four-heart call. He reasoned that North's cue bid in diamonds, if it did not include spade support, must be based on a four-card heart suit or possibly even five as well as good clubs!

The question mark following North's bid of five diamonds in the diagram is to indicate its type, not its tone. This was an asking bid. With no diamond control, South would bid five hearts; with king or singleton, five spades; with a void, or with the ace he actually held, South was required to bid five no trump. For his six-heart bid, North might have held a much better suit; at any rate, it left South with no option but to pass and battle it out.

Belladonna got the same opening lead of the diamond 7. He won with the ace, crossed to the ace of spades and played three rounds of clubs. The first phase of the miracle came to pass when East turned out to be the player with only two clubs. If East ruffed with the ace, South could discard his losing diamond. Instead, he ruffed with the 10, forcing South to overruff with the king.

South took his king of spades, discarding dummy's diamond loser. Then he led the heart 8 and finessed against West's 9. The finesse succeeded, the trumps broke and the Roman gladiators lost only to the ace of trumps, bringing home the slam and a useful 6 IMPs for Italy.

The spectators, by this time perched on the edges of their respective chairs, witnessed a mild comedy of errors which wound up in a substantial gain for the U.S. on deal 60. This was the layout.

East-West vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
— [Diamond]
[King of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Stakgold)

1 [Heart]
1 [Club]
PASS
2 [Heart]
PASS

WEST
(Belladonna)

DOUBLE
DOUBLE
DOUBLE
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Harmon)

PASS
2 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS
PASS

EAST
(Avarelli)

PASS
PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

Perhaps Avarelli decided to leave in the double of one heart on the theory that the opponents could gain but little even if they fulfilled the contract. This would not have been our choice. We would have been neither enterprising enough to expect to defeat the contract nor apprehensive enough to look for protection in a small loss. With three spades and a doubleton club, East is reasonably insured against disaster if he responds one spade.

However, Stakgold decided to back Avarelli's judgment and ran to two clubs, which West set out to punish. With such good support for clubs, North's rescue to two diamonds seems strange but it had a happy ending. Belladonna doubled and Stakgold returned to the suit from which previously he had fled. The Roman magistrate might have been suspicious of this additional evidence, but he fell victim to the rhythm of doubling.

West led his singleton heart, won with dummy's king. A spade return put West in again, and declarer ruffed a diamond lead. Another spade put West on lead once more. South was able to trump his last spade in dummy with the heart 4, score his ace and king of clubs and win two more trump tricks by ruffing diamonds. Thereafter, the top trump won an eighth trick, and Stakgold made his doubled contract, for a 470 plus.

In the other room Fishbein played for a sure profit and got it. Forquet also opened with one heart, and Fishbein made the routine take-out double. Siniscalco's two-diamond bid strikes this department as doubtful strategy. In situations of this type better results are usually obtained by permitting nature to take its course. Bids in sequences of this type on moth-eaten suits rarely serve a good purpose. Forquet passed in the hope that Fishbein would take him off the hook, but the American veteran discreetly played for a sure profit and racked up a gain of 100 points when Siniscalco was held to six tricks. The net gain to the U.S.A. was 6 IMPs.

In previous discussions of Italian bidding I have concentrated largely on the Neapolitan Club, but in this ninth edition of the World Championship it was the Roman Club that seemed to gain for Italy her most sizable swings. The two systems are alike only in the fact that each is based upon an artificial bid of one club, and if the Neapolitan version seems complex, I may warn you that the Roman edition is even more of a mystery—both to the average spectator and the harassed commentators, of which I was one. Having watched it in action, I think it could be played successfully only by such wizards of the pasteboards as Giorgio Belladonna and Walter Avarelli, who were, in the opinion of some observers, Italy's most effective pair this year. This is a great tribute, particularly when one views the almost spotless performance of Forquet and Siniscalco. As one of the commentators observed during Saturday's play, "Belladonna and Avarelli have thus far played seven of the eight sessions in the closed room against Harmon and Stakgold. Unquestionably, it's the toughest set game in town."

Complex as the Roman system is, however, it has no secrets from its opponents. But they could not cope with situations in which the hand was made to order for a bid no other system includes. Deal 94 was such a hand.

Neither side vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
— [Club]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

When Lazard and Fry held the North-South cards, the bidding was short but, to U.S. tastes, unsweet. Lazard opened fourth hand with one heart and everybody passed. East opened the ace of clubs (four of the Italian players lead ace from ace-king) and Lazard managed to win six tricks for a score of minus 50. When the bidding from the other room was shown, there was a collective gasp and a hurried call for a Roman interpreter. It went:

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

PASS
2 [Spade]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

2 [Diamond]
4 [Spade]

The two-diamond opening is a specialized Roman bid that indicates a three-suit hand, either 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-4-0. If South had any strength he would respond two no trump, requesting that North respond by showing his short suit. This would make it clear to responder that he could choose his own suit, however weak it might be. But South's bust called for a two-spade response—preparing to show clubs later if spades hit North's short suit. North knew that there was no slam and that the fit had been found so he jumped to game in spades!

West opened the diamond 2 and declarer made all of his eight trumps separately, in addition to three top diamonds. That produced eleven tricks for a score of 450 and a gain of another 6 IMPs.

At the conclusion of nine days of play, it was quite clear that if the U.S. is ever going to beat the Italians it must field a team of three long-practiced pairs, thoroughly experienced in play against the Neapolitan and Roman Club systems.

PHOTOMYRON EHRENBERGBRIDGE EXPERT Charles Goren takes his turn at microphone as commentator to explain intricacies of game to crowd.PHOTOMYRON EHRENBERGBRIDGE-O-RAMA, the name given to the electric scoreboard above, gives kibitzers in darkened ballroom a clear view of the hand in progress. The four players, plus a referee and a narrator, sit in soundproof fish bowl to the right. Above them hang the flags of the three competing nations, Argentina, United States and Italy. At the front of the audience there is a commentator who predicts and analyzes the course of action. The hand, or board, shown is No. 73, played by Italy, sitting North-South, and Argentina, East-West. The same board is played earlier in a closed room (see chart at far right) where each hand is originally dealt, but with the teams sitting in the opposite positions. The point difference between the two results, if there is any, is awarded to the team which did the better.PHOTOMYRON EHRENBERGSENIOR U.S. PAIR was partnership of Lee Hazen (above) and Harry Fishbein.PHOTOMYRON EHRENBERGPONDERING HIS PLAY, Fishbein is observed by Referee Julius Rosenblum.PHOTOMYRON EHRENBERGTOP ITALIAN PAIR consisted of Giorgio Belladonna (above) and Avarelli.PHOTOMYRON EHRENBERGBRILLIANT ITALIAN Walter Avarelli represented Italy for third straight year.