The U.S. prepares an assault on bridge Italian style

The Italians are favored to win the upcoming World Olympiad, but they must beat a strong American team which uses psychological warfare
April 13, 1964

Italy has completed its selection trials for the World Olympiad, which begins in New York on May 1, and the results will not cheer the other 29 competing nations. Italy's six-man team is, with one exception, the same as the one that won the Bermuda Bowl for the sixth straight time at the world championships in St. Vincent last June. Back again is Pietro Forquet, always impeccably dressed and cool under pressure. His partner is Benito Garozzo, short and dark-haired, whose tinted glasses give him a misleadingly sinister look. Massimo D'Alelio, a veteran of many world championships, will pair with Camillo Pabis Ticci, who, as the team rookie in St. Vincent, was properly serious and surprisingly consistent. The new man on the team is not really new at all. He is Walter Avarelli, a Roman magistrate, who has returned to the bridge wars after a year's absence, replacing Eugenio Chiaradia. Chiaradia, who at 52 was the oldest of the Italian players, was shaky in St. Vincent. His replacement, Avarelli, will play with Giorgio Belladonna, perhaps the most important player on the team.

Belladonna is 40, a plump, jovial man with large, saucer eyes and a bushy mustache. He might easily pass as a waiter in the neighborhood pizzeria. But Belladonna is a bridge pro, and in bridge circles it is justly said: "As Belladonna goes, so goes Italy." Belladonna is not Italy's best player; Forquet, as precise as a machine gun, is. But Belladonna is what is known as a swing-maker, a player given to big wins and big losses. He takes chances and, more often than not, he succeeds.

Although it is a good team that Italy will send to New York for the Olympiad, it is not unbeatable. In the first Olympiad, played in Turin in 1960, Italy finished sixth with much the same team it will present next month. France won the title that year, with England a close second. Italy also failed in the European championships last year, as England won with an incredible 100 victory points out of a possible 102. And even though Italy won the world championship in 1963, it had to rally to overcome a U.S. lead on the last day of play.

This year France and England are favored to reach the four-team final round along with, of course, Italy and the U.S. The Italians respect France and England, but they have good reason to believe that their big battle will be with the U.S.

Giorgio Belladonna, for instance, knows that sooner or later he probably will have to sit down at the bridge table with Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson, and the thought must bother him. Jordan and Robinson are the only holdovers from last year's U.S. team. Jordan. 36, is a bull, gruff and aggressive, perfectly willing to dislike an opponent if that is what is needed to win. When not playing bridge, Jordan sells cemetery plots near Philadelphia. Robinson is 27, almost frail and given to nervous stomach disorders during tournament bridge. He has a quiet sense of humor. Driving one day through the Alps high above St. Vincent, Robinson saw a villager toting a huge bale of hay on his shoulders. "Look at him," Robinson mused. "I'll bet he never has to worry about a takeout double."

Jordan and Robinson were continually pitted against Belladonna because, of the three U.S. pairs, they were best acquainted with Belladonna's system of bidding, the Roman Club. They handled it well. Both Jordan and Robinson are inveterate cigar smokers, and they had been told that Belladonna dislikes cigars. From the first hand to the last, the game was played under a cloud of blue smoke. Belladonna coughed and scowled, but Jordan and Robinson smoked on. They also played some first-class bridge, such as the hand shown at right, which upset Belladonna far more than the cigar smoke.

When the hand was played in the closed room, young Jim Jacoby opened the East hand with a one-heart bid, so that the singleton heart lead by Bobby Nail insured the defeat of the five diamond contract. Perhaps Belladonna should have led his lone heart even without a heart bid from his partner, but he did not, and Jordan took full advantage.

Jordan ducked the club lead in the dummy and ruffed in his hand. He laid down the diamond ace and led a low diamond to the king. As he did so, the Americans in the Bridge-O-Rama room groaned. Jordan was obviously down. He had to lose two heart tricks and the queen of diamonds, no doubt about it. But Jordan wasn't through. He lit a fresh cigar and went to work. First he cashed the club ace, discarding a heart, trumped a club, crossed to dummy's spade queen and ruffed another club. Next he played the ace and king of spades and trumped his fourth spade in the dummy. Belladonna had to follow helplessly as Jordan trumped still another club for his 11th trick. Belladonna was left with the dubious pleasure of trumping one of his partner's good heart tricks. The result was a combined gain of 450 points, worth 10 International Match Points to the U.S. team.

But it was Belladonna who had the last laugh. When the tournament was over and Italy had won, all the players gathered for a victory banquet. During it, Belladonna produced a big cigar, lit it and calmly blew a cloud of smoke in Jordan's face.

PHOTOLOOKING DISTURBED, Italy's Giorgio Belladonna ponders play through wafts of smoke. PHOTOLOOKING GRIM, Robert Jordan puffs on his cigar as he brings home a difficult contract.

West dealer East-West vulnerable


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


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


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


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

The bidding, open room:




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

(Pabis Ticci)



1 [Diamond]
2 [Spade]
4 [Diamond]
5 [Diamond]

Opening lead: 10 of Clubs