Whenever the Italian team wins the world contract bridgechampionship as it did last month and five straight times before that, there is an uproar about the superiority of their highly artificial bidding systems. And whenever I pooh-pooh this alleged superiority, as I continue to do, I hear the complaint: "Goren is trying to alibi his own system."

First, let me point out that there really is no Goren system. There is a system called Standard American which uses my point count and the general principles I follow in my own bidding. But I do not insist, as Culbertson used to, that members of my team play my way. In fact, my teammates, Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt, have used an artificial one-club system for about two years.

Second, let's admit that, in general, Italian slam bidding is much better than ours. But in a long match far more points are won and lost in part-score and game hands, and on these the flamboyant Italian methods often backfire. Here are two examples from the championships:

North-South vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH
(Belladonna)

1 [Heart]
2 [Heart]
PASS

EAST
(Robinson)

PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

SOUTH
(Pabis Ticci)

1 [Spade]
2 [Spade]
ALL PASS

WEST
(Jordan)

PASS
PASS

Opening lead: king of diamonds

From this hand, one might suppose there was nothing artificial about the Italians' bidding. This is not so. The opening heart bid is forcing, and does not necessarily show hearts. South, required to respond no matter how weak his hand, bid a spade, showing not spades but a minimum holding. The usual rebid by North would be one no trump, but in the Roman Club system this would show that his real suit was spades. Thus North had no choice but to rebid two hearts. Hopelessly entangled, South rebid two spades to show he really had a spade suit. By this time the Italians were well over their heads. When Arthur Robinson doubled, his partner, Robert Jordan, was delighted to pass for a penalty.

West led the diamond king and when East signaled by playing the 3, West shifted to a club. East won, returned a low diamond so that West could lead another club. East cashed his queen of diamonds and led a third club. Declarer ruffed and led a heart. East won with the queen, led the ace and a third heart. This gave West two sure trump tricks. In all, South won only four trump tricks, going down 1,100 points.

In the other room, the American South, bidding normally, was able to pass his partner's opening heart bid. When West doubled and East passed for the penalty, South rescued with one spade. It was difficult for West, who had already strained to double one heart, to judge that a double of one spade would pay a big profit, so he passed. East-West eventually played the hand at three clubs. With all the cards perfectly placed, East-West made 12 tricks, but scored only 170 points. The 930-point overall gain was worth 14 IMPs to the U.S.

The following hand revealed another weak spot in the Roman armor.

As played by Schenken-Leventritt, the artificial opening bid of one club is used with all hands of 17 points or better. Leventritt's one-diamond response was a denial of strength. Three clubs was forcing, and three no trump again denied strength. When Schenken bid four hearts, Leventritt returned to clubs.

The opening club lead eased Schenken's problems. He captured the club king, and eventually trumped a heart and took the spade finesse, making 12 tricks.

When the Italians held the North-South hand Belladonna opened with a heart, for in the Roman Club system, a bid of one club shows, among other things, a balanced hand. North responded one spade, showing a weak hand. When Belladonna jumped to three clubs, North was glad to pass. Belladonna also made 12 tricks, but failure to bid game cost his team 10 IMPs. So, you see, a highly specialized system is fine at times, but its imperfections can hurt.

ILLUSTRATION

North-South vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

WEST
(Garozzo)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Leventritt)

PASS
1 [Diamond]
3 N.T.
5 [Club]

EAST
(Forquet)

PASS
PASS
PASS
ALL PASS

SOUTH
(Schenken)

1 [Club]
3 [Club]
4 [Heart]

Opening lead: 3 of clubs

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)