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Lose the Bermuda Bowl With Me
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What can I say? I ain’t Meck. But we are off to the Bermuda Bowl, for better or for worse. And actually, it will be worse because we are going to party like it is 1957. We’re starting there because that is when all this “Blue Team stuff” and the Italian legacy started.

Avon’s article had references and resources. So I decided to start board by board and get more background.

Team USA in 1957 was (by last name): Charles Goren, Boris Koytchou, Peter Leventritt, Harold Ogust, Bill Seamon, Helen Sobel. This team had three ACBL HOFers. It is apparently fashionable to dump on Goren’s ability and yet he had 80% as many open NABC Titles as the rest of the team combined. Sobel had the most total titles with 35 to Goren’s 32. 20 of her’s were mixed or women’s. Four of Goren’s were mixed and one was Men’s. Goren was also the only World Champion in our group, having won the BB in 1950.

Off to play the Bermuda Bowl and visit New York City in 1957. Under the threat of Sputnik and the Red Menace. Is there a Blue Menace too?

Shuffle & Deal!

Bd#1

Only 223 after this one. In 1957 the match was scored in total points. It was also divided in unequal segments. Go figure.

All white, RHO opens 1 and we hold: J 9 3 ♥ J 5 ♦ A K Q 8 ♣ A Q 8 3

This is annoying. Except, don’t we have those patented Italian off-shape doubles? So you double, completely unprepared for hearts (not that majors are important). LHO raises to 2 and partner offers a freebid of . . .

Three diamonds. What a guy! No, they wont screw you by bidding hearts. That is why these off-shape doubles work. Opener passes. Looking good now. If partner is short in spades - and that seems likely - we can easily have a game. Do you raise?

Of course not, why look for game at IMPs?

Bd#4

♠ K 9 3 ♥ A 8 2 ♦ A 10 7 3 ♣ J 7 6

You are N, all vul. Lets say you pass in 2nd seat and partner opens 1 in 4th. P-? No Drury in '57, so what is the plan? How about 2NT? A bid which your partner who opened in 4th with only 10 HCP can pass because there is no game? (Who cares about 5-3 spade fits?)

Bd#7

You hold, all vul: ♠9874 ♥A854 ♦53 ♣A75. Partner opens 1, RHO overcalls 2 you bid 3 and LHO calls 4. P-P-? I posted this bidding “problem”. https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-e9gbx40vk3/

So far it is 100% to pass. Actually 101% if you count my buddy Marshall’s added sarcastic comment. (Finally a 1%-er, Marshall Embarassed)

But that is not what happened at the table. At the table this hand DOUBLED 4 and set it. Opposite no game. Recording slip anyone? Scream for the TD? Ask Marshall to describe what he thinks of the action so you can learn some new vocabulary words?

Furthermore, at the other table, 4th seat passed, opener passed and the preempt bidder bid spades again(!) Vulnerable at IMPs against a partial. And this turns out to be RIGHT! Passed hand partner has perfect fitting values!

How can anyone expect to win a match when just seven boards in, someone might have seriously cheated on three of them?!

Except. . .

These actions were all taken by the Americans.

Bridge Back Then

On board #1, 1 was opened at both tables.  Both Boris Koytchou for USA and Siniscalco for Italy doubled. So maybe those “goofy” off-shape doubles are not so unique to Italy in 1957. The difference was Siniscalco thought his hand was worth a raise, partner went to game and went down one. The American with 17 HCP passed his partner’s free bid. First blood to USA.

Board #2 appeared in John Swanson’s post about USA psychs. We wasted no time. Boris opened first seat favorable with 1 holding 965 K652 432 J108. Second seat overcalled 1NT. This was doubled and passed to Boris who ran to his 3-card club suit.

From the E&O Department - I am just working from the file record. John in his post wrote: “After East ran to 2♣, West was justifiably suspicious of the opening bid and declined to raise clubs immediately, or even compete with 3♣, after North’s 2♠ balance came back to him.” My file copy indicates that South doubled 2. (♠AQJ10 ♥A4 ♦AJ96 ♣Q65) So it appears it was not a balance of two spades but a response to the TO-X. Maybe even less likely the American West is ever bidding.  Not sure who is right.  I do know on a later hand, John's hand diagram (6NT by Belladonna) has to be correct and the file source shows the A to be with West.  But if that were true, the result is an easy 13 (plus actual) tricks.  I can only report on what was recorded.

Goren & Leventritt got to 4 in the other room and went -2. Going through the match, Team USA’s other problem besides being bad at slam bidding was being bad at game bidding.

Bd #3 Goren held ♠ 10 8 6 ♥ K J 9 8 5 ♦ 4 ♣ A Q 8 7 in first seat. My man Chuck opened 1 like a real bridge player. I always like to tell people who pass hands like sissies that Goren would have opened it. (“But it is not rule of 20!”)

Next hand passed over 1.. What do you respond with: ♠ A 9 2 ♥ Q 6 ♦ A 9 7 6 3 ♣ 10 9 6? This is a forcing 1NT for us today. Probably, back then, a 10 point 2/1 2 response. Somehow, Leventritt found a 1 call. (What if partner raises?)

Over to 4th seat with the best hand: ♠ K Q J 7 4 ♥ A 4 3 ♦ K Q 10 8 5. So he found one of those patented off-shape Italian doubles. You know, the kind that Forquet is supposed to always field. But when Goren passed, Forquet bid 2 - partner's singleton. So I guess they did not field it. Leventritt hits this and Siniscalco ran to 2. Leventritt is even more happy to hit that. So now East bid 2. In theory, N/S can hit that too and get 300. But now it gets amusing. First, USA stopped playing Whack-a-Mole and passes.  2 was not doubled.  Good thing, too.

Goren must have thought they had more spades than the opponents. So he starts with spades, not the diamond for a ruff. North ducked, declarer won, played a club. Goren hopped ace and continued spades. Making for Italy (!?).

In the other room, South and West both passed. North opened 1 in 3rd seat. So vul holding ♠ K Q J 7 4 ♥ A 4 3 ♦ K Q 10 8 5. What does one do?

You Double

Because you are off-shape, not prepared for clubs and your second suit is theirs. Apparently, the Italians weren’t the only players who routinely made these doubles. This was an American eschewing a simple 1 overcall.

South bid 1, Ogust passed his KJ fifth of clubs which might be construed as “fielding” the off-shape TO X if he was Italian. (He was weak).  Boris bid 2. D'Alelio now bid two non-making clubs. This was passed to Boris who insisted on bidding two non-making spades.

D'Alelio found one of those “unbelievably accurate” Italian leads - the singleton not led by Goren at the OT - and they collected +100 for down two.

Regarding Bd #4, perhaps you might not have opted for 2NT. But what do you know? Both tables duplicated the auction of P-1S; 2NT-P. Both tables missed the 5-card spade it. The Italians made an overtrick. Yeah, Roth complained those Italians never gave up an OT.

In this case, the Italian pair leading From K 10 9 8 5 and hitting partner with AQ32 managed to take the first five club tricks against 2NT. Declarer guessed the majors and took the balance. (Maybe the 8-card major suit fits matter). However, for USA, Boris played K at trick three, perhaps expecting an unblock given the 10 lead. But that did not happen. So USA blocked the club suit and Italy made the OT.

Bd#5

West
AQ3
J853
Q107
K94
North
J1096
K92
KJ
A532
East
K42
AQ10
9862
J76
South
875
764
A543
Q108
D

Chiraradia - who BTW passed his flat 12 count in first seat white on the previous board when his partner had 10 HCP, now opened flat 12 count + 1 DP as North when his partner held a flat 6. So if you are looking for “evidence” that they are signaling strength on opening decisions, this is not it. They played their 4-3 spade fit (such as it is) for -200.

Leventritt passed this hand. This went around to Forquet who opened 1 in 4th. North passed and partner raised to 2. This was either making or going down depending on the club guess for a small win to USA. But Leventritt decide to be a hero and balance at unfavorable, IMPs opposite PH partner with double (Even Larry Cohen might have passed at IMPs but I do not know for sure.) Goren became declarer in 3 and went down four tricks when he misguessed the clubs.

Bd#6

West
KQ8652
QJ3
KJ64
North
Q109542
J103
AK107
East
K83
A4
952
109752
South
AJ76
97
864
AQ83
D

For USA, Ogust opened 2 with W after P-P.  North overcalled 2, E passed and Sout bid game.

At the OT, Forquet opened 1.  North overcalled 1 and E bid 2.  This seems strange to me.  I don’t know much about the bidding methods (never been into antiques much) but I suppose since 1 could be canape, 2 is willing to play a longer minor or 2.  Sitting S, Goren bid 3 and Forquet rebid 4. Leventritt went to 4. Forquet - at unfavorable - still did not let it go and bid 5. This got whacked and should have been +800 for USA.

However, Goren started A which was ruffed. Siniscalco played a heart to the ace and tried to sneak the 9. Goren hopped ace. Leventritt played 2 on the first and 4 under the A. Goren continued spades and Italy escaped for -500.

 

Bd#7

Leventritt found the double of 4 that no one else did. Goren, holding K 2 ♥ Q J 9 6 3 ♦ A 8 6 4 ♣ Q 6 sat for it and they collected +200. If the partnership was named Leventritti/Goreno this likely gets classified as cheating.

At the OT, Ogust opposite a PH partner decided to bid again after his preempt. This was doubled. The Italians apparently didn’t signal well enough to NOT lead the heart. The A lead was ruffed, the king in dummy providing a discard to negate a club guess. Partner had K and KJ so this was +930 for the USA.

It’s easy to make claims of “secret” Italian communication. So here is a hand later in the match,. P-P and favorable partner opens 4. RHO overcalls 4 and you hold:

♠ QJ10874 ♥ J874 ♦ — ♣ K63

Do you double? What if they run to a less costly (even making?!) five clubs. I don’t care what you decide to do. My question is if it goes pass-pass-5-WHACK is this partnership actually using prearranged signals? Probably not.

The 5 bidder was Forquet and he held - / Q109 /AKQ108642 / 74. Maybe only USA gets it right when they preempt and bid again.

Look, I am certainly not saying the USA was cheating. What I am saying is you can look at batshit-crazy bidding and pretty much see what you want to see. Because, if you go back far enough, that is how even top players often bid. Seat of pants and sometimes batshit-crazy.

 

Bd#8

Take the very next board.  What do you see?

You, as North hold: ♠ K 10 5 4 ♥ A Q ♦ A 6 3 ♣ 10 6 5 4

Situation #1. West opens 1. What is your call?

Situation #2. West passes. What do you open?

When Ogust opened 1, Chiaradia doubled. Another off-shape double. But this one worked out pretty well. East bid 1NT and South bid 2. All pass. USA took their four tricks.

But curiously, when Forquet passed West at the OT, Leventritt opened 1. Now there are two ways of looking at this. One is that their pair is cheating because he hits his partner with FIVE diamonds and get to play from his side protecting the lead. The other way of looking at it is North simply made a tactical bid intending to deflect a diamond lead in NT, obscure his shape if spades after 1-1-1-Raise, or take away a diamond overcall. (I know plenty who do this.)

People tend to see what they want to see. BTW, what I saw is Italy pooch an overtrick on defense. (I guess Al was wrong again.) Siniscalco tracked a heart with Forquet holding 9 high - (so where is the Italian gold strike “hitting” 3rd hands?).  The Italiancould have led the unbid suit to push the board instead of giving up a free finesse.  Contraindicator, anyone?

Now, I am not saying that it is impossible the Blue Team did not, at some point, do a Barry Bonds. For those who do not know American baseball, Barry Bonds was an incredibly talented player who late in life showed up at training camp with a head two hat sizes bigger and huge muscles. He suddenly had a slugging % 80 points higher than Babe Ruth and almost hit more home runs in the last few years of his career than his Dad (a great player) hit his entire 23-year career. His Dad was in top 10 HR total seven times during his career.

So things can change.  But right now I am in 1957.

Thing Do Change

Team USA-1957 was composed of top players in America at that time.

A dozen years later, team USA would have 6 HOFers: Eisenberg, Goldman, Hamman, Kantar, Lazard & Rapee. My opinion is these guys would win handily against our ‘57 team. Probably as handily as our ‘57 BB team could whoop Culbertson’s original team.

This is not to disparage earlier players.  Bridge changes. And comparisons across time are not always valid. In fact, our six HOFer team did not even beat Taiwan in 1969. The team that did win the BB in 1970 was Eisenberg, Goldman, Hamman, Jacoby, Lawrence & Wolff. Some serious firepower. This team has only FIVE current HOF players because one of the many gobsmack things I discovered in trying to fact-check everything is that Mike Lawrence is NOT in the ACBL HOF.

Seriously, what is with that? Member of the Aces. Three World Championships, 16 NABC Titles. An entire library of great - and pretty much required bridge reading - has been penned by this man. Yet he is not in the ACBL HOF. At first I thought maybe Lawrence was born in Canada. But he wasn’t. So maybe Mike is friends with Joey Silver and that makes him almost Canadian.

Anyway, my main point here with time is that players - and their game - don’t likely stagnate.  Certainly one cannot stagnate and remain on top.   The game evolves, the players evolve if they are to stay as champions. TGBH got better over these years.  That might be hard to believe - is better really possible for Hamman?.  But I am merely paraphrasing  his own writings.  Ira molded players.  All players can improve.  No reason to believe the Blue Team could not improve over time as well.  Though I cannot say whether they did, I am looking right now at BB 1957.

But Here is The Deal:

If Belladonna “cheated” on the 10 from K108x, then the Blue Team was cheating from day one. That is not me saying maybe that they hired Barry Bond’s Russian trainer. This is others making statements about his first Bermuda Bowl.

So lets look at the data. 244 hands is quite bit. (I know, I am blurry-eyed). So lets keep to the slams for now. The first slam was Bd#17. Both rooms in 6.

You are on lead with ♠ 7 ♥ KJ62 ♦ 10843 ♣ 9642

Belladonna led the 2 and hit partner with Q. The only lead to set it!! Ogust, led his singleton and the contract made.

Ha! PROOF @ LAST!

Or is it? Lets consider the bidding. USA (opening on your left) bid:1S - 2D; 2S - 3C; 4C - 4H; 6S.

Make your own judgments. This is what I hear. Declarer never raised spades even though opener rebid bid them. So 0-2 spades. Opener didn’t bother to Blackwood over 3C. He bid the slam over the cue bid, which we (virtually) know to be the ace. It sure sounds like opener is 6214 with potential source of spade tricks, n’est pas?

Here was the Italian bidding. 1S-2C; 2S-3D; 4C-4H; 4NT-5NT; 6C. In the Neapolitan System, 4NT was DI. (Sorry, the derided Neapolitan System because Chiaradia didn’t know anything and ("cheating") Garrozzo modified it into the Blue Club. Since it was modified with experience that must prove the original system was idiotic. Afterall, NO ONE EVER MODIFIES BIDDING APPROACHES WITH EXPERIENCE.) I know that I am a genius and got my club system perfect.  (F/D  "Like Joe Izuzzu, that is a lie")  Anyway. 4NT promised two aces as was a slam try. 5NT showed interest in a grand slam. Ergo: two aces. So the American decided to try to set a small slam, after a grand slam try, by leading dummy’s long suit to get a ruff that could never happen.

I will leave it to the reader to make your own judgment about which side was thinking and which side was pulling cards.

I will point out that the the Italians did check on aces and the Americans did not. This wont be the last time this happens either.

Bd#25

Was a grand. 7 was bid at both tables. Forquet’s choice of the seven from: 8 4 3 ♥ 8 5 2 ♦ Q 10 7 ♣ 10 6 4 3 looks odd to us, today.

And the CT’s will add that Forquet hit his partner with J. But, in fact, the auction starter 1-3; 3. So diamonds was the unbid suit. Responder jumped to 4NT got one ace to Blackwood and then one king to 5NT. Then bid 7.

Sure we auto-lead trump against grands today. You sure you want to do that on this auction  back when they cannot check on the trump queen? The Italian’s had a 4NT/5NT sequence and I am not sure what options the weaker hand had over 5NT. Sobel did lead a trump and I think that she was just more certain the Italian’s we confident of the trump position. Their auction went 1-4 (slam try, club control) 4 (heart control, no diamond control). 4NT-5; 5NT-6; 7. I have no idea if 4NT was Blackwood or DI. Often in Italian systems, even if 4NT is Blackwood, 5NT was DI.

Bd #53

Ogust led from KQ10 of spades against Belladonna’s 6 contract. The lead didn’t matter because there were 12 on top in hearts or NT. The lead cannot be compared, really, because USA was in 3NT at the OT. You will see that it has been fortunate thus far for USA there have been just 3 slams in 53 boards.

Bd #59

This was another 3NT by USA, 6 of a suit () by Italy. So we cannot compare leads, but the play is interesting. You are to play 6, no opposition bidding on the Q lead (rotated)

North
QJ7
A943
932
865
South
AK985
K8
AQ
KQ102

I know those miscellaneous Italians were “mediocre”. I find that depressing because I doubt I make this hand at the table. (Best name for a bridge book, ever.) Chiaradia won k and played 9 to dummy, then a club to the K which held. He then played the 8 to dummy and 4th hand followed with 10. He played another club. Goren hopped ace and played J. Finesse or no?

Chiaradia went ace. He then played his 5 to dummy’s seven and played another club. When Goren played low, he played the ten and it held(!)

So Goren “missed” giving Leventritt a club ruff for the set. OTOH, that was likely because the play record shows Peter not petering (3 then 4). So why did Chiaradia get this “right”? Apparently, he did not get the memo that Goren was a chump. The spades cannot be 3-3 when Goren follows low because a real player would not have hopped A second time.

Me, I never get these right because I am playing at the club Wink

I think I saw this had written up someplace and a comment that Goren could have broken up the squeeze ply playing a heart back.  Leventritt is dead in the end position, squeezed in the red suits. However that comment is what is known as “totally wrong”. Chiaradia was careful with his entries. Win A, ruff a heart high, 5 to 7 and because he played the hand more carefully than the commentator did, 9 is good, then hook the club.

If you want to argue ATB or technique, I don’t care. I am done with this hand. Bad time not to give partner count.

Bd 82

Both rooms are in 6. Opened on the right with 1. You bid 5. LHO bids 5NT (pick?) And opener bids 6. You hold: – / x / QJ109xxxx / xxxx

Does the club look tempting? Maybe partner can work out a spade ruff?

Well one room led the Q and set this slam two. The other tracked a club and declarer came home easily. So lets play: "Guess the Cheating Eye-talian!"

Wrong!

USA finally gets a slam swing. Leventritt led the Q. East held A1063 of trumps. The 10 was pickable but now we are playing NT. Declarer finds out you are void in spades. The spades don’t work, he knows the clubs are 4-2. So he hooks the club needing the 12th trick. Partner started with Qx and cashes a spade for insult.

Siniscalco started a club.  That picked the suit for declarer and now the slam easily made instead of off two.

Certainly not evidence of the alledged laser-accurate Italian leads.  Though I think the club was thoughtful choice.

 

Bd #83

Well, since USA got finally some points on a slam, it might be a good thing we are not waiting so long for more action.. Against clubs, on lead with: ♠ J 8 3 ♥ A 10 7 5 2 ♦ K 8 6 ♣ 10 4

Leventritt judged to lead a trump. D'Alelio led that aggressive 6 and those Eye-talians GOT ANOTHER SLAM SWING!!!

Oh. Full disclosure. D’Alelio fished an OT leading INTO declarer’s AQ10. (Like that cute girl says on the TV show: “Not looking good for the myth”.) So why was this a full slam swing? Because USA was in 3, Italy was in 6.

 

Bd #97

Belladonna was on lead against 6. 2NT-3C; 3-3; 4-6. Holding:7654 / 8 / AJ983/ J76 he led the ace. This was ruffed and the king in dummy was now an overtrick. Poor Al Roth just isn’t around for this stuff, is he?

BTW, Sobel made the same lead, same result.

 

Bd#109

D'Alelio - Chiaradia bid to 6. Bill Seamon cashed his A and waited to claim his k since this was the bad 50 side (if Italian) of the 50-50. Sorry, actually worse than 50%, the hands do not fit.

USA had no hero here. They stopped in game! And when I say no hero, I literally mean, no hero. This was a push. On a deal with every game making, Koytchou - Leventritt bid to their Moysian in 4. Peter opened 1 on xxx / AJxx / - / AQJxxx. Boris responded a spade and Peter raised. Boris jumped to 3NT and for some reason Peter bid 4. Boris held a 4333 16 count and bid 4 only spades.

One thing that has been happening is the Americans are constantly changing partnerships. And it shows. What was 4 opposite a limited hand? (Answer: pulling the easy, laydown contract). Boris went off one in 4 to push the board. He could have made it, the play was complicated to do so and after 100+ boards I cannot be bothered to decide whether USA misplayed the hand to go along with the obvious misadventures in bidding. It appears that he probably played OK, but it sure helps to be in a sane contract.

Bd#122

Passing the halfway point in the match. If you hope the red, white & blue are making it up on games you’d be rather disappointed.

Against 6 with ♠ K J 9 2 ♥ J 10 9 4 3 ♦ K 5 ♣ Q 5 both the true Blue American and that good fer nuttin’ Eye-talian led the . (Again, no surprise). The 58% slam comes home at both tables.

Bd #124

Siniscalco led a spade from his doubleton against 6NT slam and hit Forquet with the AQ!

See?  See!?

OK, F/D time again. Leader held 108 / Q976 / K962 / J93. Now if the reader is thinking: wow, that is a lot of stuff to hold leading against 6NT and partner has AQ of (J too), well you’d be right. The USA pair has morphed back to Ogust - Koytchou and both of them lost their minds. Harold opened 2 on a bal 23 with KJ. Then jumped to 3NT over 2. I find this interesting because they open 21-22 2NT. Boris bid 4 on xx / A10xxx / xx / xxxx. I have no idea what that was and apparently neither did Ogust.  He bid 4 with two aces and KJ tight of hearts(??) Boris now invited the heart slam with 5. Ogust tried to sign-off in 5 not making NT. Boris bid 6 and now it was 6NT. The K was protected. So the answer to the lead problem is ANYTHING and EVERYTHING works/

You can even lead the K into the AQ and they still cannot make this ridiculous contract. 6NT with 23 opposite 4.

My kind of lead problem!  Anyway, Italy never got higher than an easy 3NT with 23 opposite 4 and no fit.  (How is that possible without extranbeous communication?)

 

Bd#133

Both teams bid to 6 and this was a push. Forquet led the A from AQ109many and if you think that is suspicious, so did Helen Sobel at the other table.

Bd #140

This was a 5/6 deal. South has Q8xx / AQxxx / xx / xx. If you lead the spade, you hit partner with KJ(!!) And one player led the spade, the other led the A.

Time to play: “Name That Cheating Italian” again!

Wait.  Cue Emily Litella.  "Nevermind."  It was the American who led the spade from Q hitting partner's KJ.  Forquet led the A.  But both leads seem normalish since Boris was trying to set five clubs and Forquet leading against six.  Even with Kxx in dummy on the A lead, there was no 12th trick and Italy gained another swing,

Bd#149

Good news for the Red, White & very Blue at this point. Koytchoe raised Ogust’s favorable 3 overcall to 4 with 109xx / 108 / 84 / K7432. Ogust persisted to 5 and was doubled for -2. At the OT, Leventritt opened 1 (Belladonna with 1) holding: xx/AKJx/KQ10x/10xx. Goren responded 3 (whatever that is, I suppose a SJS with x/Q9xxxx/A/AQJx). After 3, opener passed. So Chiaradia had a nothing hand and had no idea what the opponents were doing. Goren now bid 4. Leventritt still didn’t know what was going on so he bid 5. Goren now bid 6. There were off 13 HCP, but not two aces. Another USA hand with no Blackwood, but no disaster here.

Bd#152

O & K reached 6NT. Randomly from the “right” side. 1C-2NT; 3H-3NT; 4NT-6NT. So another no check on aces for USA. Avarelli held Q9 / KJ109 / 432 / 7642. No, Belladonna did not have a heart honor, but then hearts were the suit rebid by dummy. (Make of that what you will, but who ever leads a heart here?). A low club was led.

The Italians also blasted but the OT was sort of funny. With a start of:1-(P)-1-? Goren put in a heart overcall on the 6-point hand with KJ109 (Go Charlie!). X then 3NT; 4-5; 6. The Q is in dummy, so this is a hero overcall, right?

Nope. Leventritt let the 5 from J10654.

The good news is since they were in 6, declarer can still make on a heart lead. The even better news for USA supporters is this is conclusive proof that the Americans don’t have secret lead signals. Hell, they won’t even lead partner’s suit.

Bd#155

OK, partner opens 2 and we are on lead against 6 with K J 2 ♥ 6 ♦ Q 10 9 8 5 2 ♣ 10 7 5

Belladonna led a diamond and Avarelli ruffed it. At the OT, Goren opened 2 on a ten-high suit! (Yep, almost 70 boards to go and it is panic time already). So THIS time Leventritt lead Goren’s suit.

It was 12 & 13 tricks. But some days you can’t win for losing.

Bd#157

Cheater alert! On lead against 6 with Q / Q7652 / 109 / J7432. The Eye-talian led a heart, k and hit in dummy and leader’s partner had AJ over the king.

How does one spell evidence? N-o-t-t-h-i-s-h-a-n-d. Everything sets this slam.

Two hearts were not cashin. Declarer had bid both minors, dummy bid and jump rebid in spades and hearts was the unbid suit. (Have no idea if X would have asked for a spade lead.) Partner hand held both major suit aces. So it is impossible not to hit partner. Leventritt jumped to 6 over Goren’s 4 preference bid with x/x/AJxxxx/AKQxx. (No Blackwood again). This was down two when clubs went 5-1.

Belladonna - Avarelli were in 5 down one. Boris led the Q from Q / Qxxxx / xx / Jxxxx but then again, he was trying to set five.

Bd#158

Italy made a normal lead against 3NT. Boris led !A against 6 with Qxxxx/Axxx/xxx/--Another swing for Italy.

Bd#160

This is getting scary, but a push with an OT in 6 for both rooms. The Italian led 9 fromQxx/Jx/98754/762. Dummy had opened 2NT. 3 by responder was apparently natural. The Italians opened 1 in the OR and the American led from Qxx. Either leading like an Italian or simply because that was the unbid suit.

Bd#177

7 in one room, 6 in the other. Thirteen top tricks on any lead. This was a victory for USA. Helen & Charlie (about time!) are now playing. I think they had about the only old-fashioned auction to get to seven. Sobel opened 1. Goren jumped to 2 and Sobel raised. 4NT got an ace and 5NT got two kings. As long as one was the K, you have good play for 7. (Run 5 in each black and AK/A) This was before (Roman - yes, “they” invented it) keycard Blackwood, so USA finally has a slam sequence I can give a gold star (and some badly need points).

Siniscalo’s diamond lead did find Forquet with KQJ. He was leading against a grand with:976 / J7652 / 432 / 54 with both black suits bid and raised. Pretty sure it is scary leading a black suit in pre-RKC days when they have no way of find if the suit is running and USA is swing for the fences. Belladonna got a diamond lead at the OT, but it was from KQJ as the hand was played other way around in 6.

Bd#178

Back to back slams. Forquet led his singleton and got a ruff. The OT was also in 6. But from the other side. Avarelli opened 1 on Q / KJxx / AK9xxx / xx. Leventritt overcalled 4 at favorable and Belladonna bid 4 with AKxx/xxx/Q10xx/Ax. This seems like a pass or correct catering to whatever hand type opener holds. Avarelli had the canape hand so he bid 5 and G.B. raised to slam.

Koychou, on lead with J10xxx/AQ1098/J/J8 actually found the A lead! But the American’s have nothing in the luck department. Deuce in dummy, stiff 3 with Leventritt. Bad day to be playing standard attitude. Boris shifted to a club and the slam came home with a later heart finesse.

Proof positive the American’s aren’t collusive signaling. Peter’s heart had to have sunk when Boris shifted.

Bd #188

Helen Sobel is now playing with Bill Seamon. I think there were 19x2 unequal sets in the match.. Bill made a jump overcall in spades in the auction. Helen was on lead against 6 holding: ♠ 6 5 ♥ J 10 9 4 2 ♦ 4 ♣ A 9 6 4 3

She found the A and when Bill followed with the 8 she played another club and gave him a ruff!

This perhaps looks suspicious if you are Italian. But we have conclusively proven the American’s cannot be cheating (and producing these results).

Siniscalco led the spade to Forquet against 5. Making six. 1- (1S) - 2 - (P); 3. Then a rare Blackwood bid by USA, stopping at five off an ace. Spade seems right against five, Sobel’s choice seems right against the slam. Nothing weird here, IMO though USA did hit pay dirt.

Bd#209

Leventritt, now playing with, Sobel was in 6 after 2NT-3; 3NT-5; 6 (One does not take Helen out of 3NT with her 22 HCP and play 5 only of a minor.) The contract basically needed picking up the J if no opening club ruff. So not bad.

D'Alelio, holding ♠ 9 8 2 ♥ 9 7 6 5 2 ♦ J 5 ♣ 7 5 4 led a non-trump card and “hit” partner. But that was not very surprising because every lead “hit” partner, who held QJ of spades, K and AJ. The actual lead was 6. Peter picked a pickled jack and posted a win.

Ogust opened 1 at the OT with the above hand. It was his turn to bid again. If he chose two open a weak 2-bid, I wonder if that is the good suit version given sometimes it is 3-cards :)

The record says Avarelli overcalled 1NT. If that is true, they probably just changed their NT overcalls to handle the constant American psyches. Belladonna jumped to 3 with:10x / J / Q10987xx / K10x. Avarelli now bid 4. Belladonna bid 5. It made an OT. But they played their 8-card, rather than 9-card fit. So if the Italiansy had an unauthorized way of showing lengths, not sure why clubs with a 7-card suit not in dummy.

Bd#210

Italy played 4 making 12 tricks and Italy was in 6 making six. The Italian - “as always” - hit partner’s suit. In this case the ace. Of course he was also leading from KQ965 so the lead is hardly surprising. The slam needed a slotted diamond king and not 3-0 trump the wrong way.

This time the Italians got their finesse. There were no more slams.

The Game Contracts

So far (one Bermuda Bowl down, many to go, but I have been up for two days straight now, please pardon the any errors) it seems to me that this first one totally fits the Italian description of the event. The Italians had regular partnerships. The Americans had players.

It showed. There was a game contract where Bill Seamon went down a couple in 3NT on a hand Billy-Bob makes by taking a finesse. Bill was a player even in the ‘70s towards his end. He played the hand great. Stayman was doubled. He was in 3NT with just one club stop. They drove out the ace and their carding indicated the defender had the A for the entry and set. Bill ran the diamonds, got the count on the spades. He took the odds and went for the squeeze. Unfortunately, the Q was onside with the 3 spades, not off with the 4.

So was this bad luck? The Italians were in five cold diamonds. You decide.

The American bidding was sometimes a bit weird. Some might want to compare Italian “methods” over many years to attempt to show variance. But can’t that easily be “we don’t play that way anymore because we decided it was wrong”?

That is usually what it is for me. For all of us actually. I posted this “bidding problem”. It came from the ‘57 BB. https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-pl0awq8dnz/ There was only Bridgwinner polled who passed. But that was the table choice of the American player. North held five spades, 13 HCP and the worst possible diamond holding: A642.

But USA won the board. Belladonna/Avarelli bid without any interference to their vul 3NT game. Now, I don’t pretend to understand the Italian auction. GB’s 2 response is probably conventional with spades, maybe something else. But it certainly seems that Italy has methods and their bidding actually makes more sense to me than team USA at times.

I often have no idea what the American methods - if any - where. Even if double is “penalty”, is opener supposed to pass on a vul game for -4 in a 2-level contract? Hardly. But South had “the wrong ace” and 8 tricks was the limit. USA swing, no one in America bids like that no more,.

But if someone wanted to take some of these good result by USA, I could completely see how someone else might be suspicious of the beneficial result. Certainly no one from Italy was going to cast any stones because if you look at the match, if USA was cheating, they had to be the worst cheats of all-time.

What seems evident, early on in going board by board is that barring an act of God, USA was never winning.

Bd #45 - Italy is in 4H+1. USA sold to 3 down three. I have no idea what the Italian 2NT opening was. It looks like minors and a normal opening. It produced a swing when USA stayed silent.

Bd#65. P-P-1-? Ogust held xxx / Axxxx / - / AKQxx and doubled. (Really? Would anyone do that today? But an American DID double. Ugh.) It went 1S-P-1NT so now he bid 2 - all pass. Forquet-Siniscalco breezed to 5. It was made easier with a 1 opening in 3rd by Sobel, Too bad Ogust was bidding, that might have been thought to be a psych.

Bd#75. None vul. Partner opens 1 (natural). You hold:95 / Q109 / J10864 / Q85 pass or bid?

Ogust bid 1. Fair enough. But when B.K. rebid 2NT Ogust decided to bid 3NT on his five-count for a NV game. That was down two. The match was only 1/3 the way through. Italy (different connotation to the 1) went 1-1D; 2NT-3. Making an OT.

Is this next result cheating or counting points?

Bd#42, USA bid to 5 (All) and were doubled for -200. This was technically a phantom. Except, at the OT Belladonna was to lead against 4 holding:5 / 94 / AQ65 / KQ10972

What is your choice? Hint: partner bid spades in the auction.

Except Belladonna decided to lead a trump. Maybe the Conspiracy Theorists think this a F/N “brain-fart”. Or maybe Giorgio simply wanted cut down ruffs to play in no-trump. Sometimes the best llaid plans do not work.  Four hearts made. Belladonna gave the game away on his lead.  Someone wanna count that one too?

Bd#78 was yet another American disaster. ATB time.

Goren passed white holding Q10975 / - / KJ96 / A1097 (OMG, Charlie, you are just breaking my heart!). South opened 1. Peter L. passed and Chiaradia bid 2. Goren X’d. Alielia bid 2. Now Peter gets in with 2. North cues and Goren bids 4. P-P and Chiaradia holding: x/QJ9x/A10/KQ8632 took the push to 5. Making without breaking a sweat.

In the other room, Forquet opened 1. So it is Boris’ turn holding:Axx / AKxxx / 9xx / xx What is your call?

The American DOUBLED. Really. You know, that off-shape double that “only the Italians use”. WT-Heck doubles with this hand? It now goes 3-4 back around to Boris. So he doubles again because what else does one do now? 4 is cold for the double game swing.

Bd#128

Here is a cute deal: (Rotated).  After the Italian-flavored auction, they lead a low spade, RHO plays the K. What is your line?

North
72
AKQ
A9864
K98
South
A10
642
K103
A10542
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
?

You looking at which minor to start and hope to get lucky? Belladonna played a card before you started thinking. He played back the 10(!) He knows the opponents do not know his shape. He can have a 4CM major on this auction. Now “normal” mortals like me never think this way, because the club players always return partner’s lead. But this was no ordinary player. This was supergirl Helen Sobel. She worked out that her side “obviously” needed diamonds which had not been raised. So Helen returned a low diamond from QJxx and Belladonna ran it to the 8. He then played a diamond back. Things got worse for America when Bill pitched a club from Jxx. Giorgio now had three(!) overtricks.

Team USA had no chance of making their game.  They decided to play FOUR NT.  

The bidding at the USA table is a mystery to me. 1-1; 1NT. BK with his 16 balanced opposite minimum opener decide to reverse into 2. Ogust bid 2NT. And now BK bid four NT. That is right four. I learned more about the Italian system looking at the bids than I did about the Americn methods. What was he thinking over 2NT? If opener is a max, we can try for a really bad slam? This is only half-way through the match.

But I would panic too. If not before, certainly after this hand. If their best player can do that to our best player, our team is in big trouble.

Bd 153 was an American psych which I don’t believe covered by John Swanson’s post.

Belladonna opened 1 and it was doubled. That, is not the psych. Though technically, since this wa the first 4441 TO-X that I can remember from team USA, maybe it should be. The auction continued a bit with E/W playing 4.

When Leventritt opened 1 and that was doubled, what is your WvR call with:♠ 10 8 4 ♥ 6 4 ♦ 10 5 ♣ K 9 8 7 6 5

Well, if you looked at your short major and bid 1 - as Goren did - that reminds me of the bridge of my youth. The next hand bid 2 and P.L. with a 15-count and AKQ7 bid 2. Goren passed over 3, but Peter could not take a joke and bid 3. Chiaradia hit it. Goren ran to his escape pod in clubs. But now this was at the 4-level. D'Alelio hit that and it was another bad-timing award for USA since opener was 4423. Down three doubled versus air.

Any American collusion is downright impossible. But it seems to me that our team could at least agree what their bids mean. Maybe use Blackwood to avoid getting to slams off cashing aces. And when I see a pair get to 4NT on 27 combined flat points, I have no idea whether to be sad that the contract has no chance or happy because the last time they were in 6NT.

I almost wish I never looked at the data. This was our star players, playing a World Championship on their home court before the local fans. And they just stunk. We all find a way to stink up the room at some point. You just never want it to be like this, not on this stage. But, and I don’t think I exaggerate at all, saying if that is how they played again me and three friends, we’d beat them too. Seriously. (But then bridge has evolved.  Bidding naturally improves).

Another deal:

RHO opens 1 (All). Lets say, holding: ♠ A J 3 2 ♥ A Q 10 6 ♦ 4 ♣ K 4 3 2, you find that patented Eye-talian off-shape TO double. LHO bids 1, partner doubles and it is over to you. Now what?

Obviously, you pass and collect the pot for setting three tricks against not quite being able to squeeze out a game in 3NT.

THERE IT IS!

Oh wait, that was Belladonna.  And he opened a 4234 11-count opposite a partner holding just 3 HCP. USA made the offshape X, they had an eight card fit at the one level and it was “right” to sit for the double with a singleton. If Italy is signaling hand strength, this is (yet anohter) a contra-indicator

A Hand a Couple Decades After 1957

This hand is getting ahead a little bit on the time-line (almost two decades) but it was one of the first that got me thinking about other possible explanations besides conspiracy. The hand comes from the 1976 World Olympiad, USA vs Italy match. Behind screens.

WvR RHO opens 2 and you hold the dreaded off-shape TO-X. ♠AT32 ♥T9 ♦43 ♣AKJ83. I wondered some 42 years later what percentage of players would act. So I post a bidding poll.

https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/bidding-problem-2-v4cvskddjs/

One of the things I like to do in bidding problems is guess which players take what actions. (Yeah, I like to do recon work. But don’t stop answering polls or start lying. I ain’t that hard to beat.) If I do post a bidding po,ll I like to guess what players likely to answer my posts will do. Bob H. was so guaranteed the double, Vegas would not even make a line for me. And I thought - (news flash!) - and was completely wrong - that there was “no chance” Peg Kaplan would do anything other than pass. But she DOUBLED!!

See? Players do change. Her comment even indicates a change of mind on these hands. So Peg is like my new idol. She hangs with Warren, plays with Bob, bids like Giorgio. Some people have the life, I am telling you.

Just 1 in 4 posters doubled (only swing action, 3 does not get it done). Maybe some things - you know like thinking - can produce swings.

Now, F/D time - this writing is just my observations of 1957. I have many more years to review. And that is going to take a lot of time.  Maybe forever. Oh, some words on “odds”.

Vig

What bookmakers care about is making a profit. The money line for odds simply reflects how much money has come down on both sides. If a bookmaker is opening the line, they look at past history. So if the bookmaker looks at the history and sees team A has never beaten team B, expect long odds on team A.

However, if people see that line and start betting on team A, the odds will shorten. All the bookie cares about is getting as the same amount of money bet on each side so his cur is risk-free profit. This is why one can bet on virtually anything. So, perhaps a top bridge player might be miffed the market on his winning the finals is the same 20:1 you could get for Justin Timberlake entering the arena at halftime on a dogsled (actual bet). But the bookies have no f-ing clue what Justin is planning to do. This isn’t "THE GAUNTLET". That was just a movie.

Speaking of Odds

A variation of this argument is “coin-flips”. How can it always come up “Team B” so many times in a row? The problem with this argument is it is a form of circulus in probando. The hidden assumption in the premise is that A=Bso the argument is cirular.

If there are two major league ball teams, one team cannot always win. Right? Well, in the case of the Yankees vs the Boston Red Sox, the Yanks went on a 29:1 run in AL. Yes, Boston had major league caliber players. Yes, they had some of the greatest players of all-time. Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Yaz and a guy named Ted Williams. But the conclusion rational people draw from the data is the Yankees were better than the Sox. A <> B.

Time, Pastimes & Time Past

Britain beat us in 1955, France beat us in 1956. Italy claimed the Bowl in 1957. Sputnik is claiming space. Other obstacles for America lie ahead. Japanese cars and electronics, high gas prices with lines. Chinese bidding systems. Mexican notrumps and way too nice Canadians. (Wait, Canada and Mexico are North America). There will be players South of our continent, Vikings all over the place - Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Poles who need to buy a vowel and waves of Italians. (Aussies and Kiwis too, but everyone loves them.)

It is 1957. But Hamman is about to win his first skin to add to a pile to 2-cent pieces. Jeff and Eric are being born. (Puts TGBH in perspective, huh?) A guy from Texas is going to put together a posse of gunslingers. Other sponsors are going to contribute to and maintain bridge professionalism and continued success in the future.

We’re down, we’re never out. This is America. With think we invent everything - including bridge. So in honor of our creativity in America, let me steal a line from the German girl:

I LOVE THIS GAME!

It was interesting looking at this small slice of history. If I find anything in 1958 & later, I might post it in the future. But right now, not miles to go before I sleep.  Just a few feet.

 

Apos for the typos

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