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Don't forget the Italians!

Posted By: Jake Jacobs
Date: Sunday, 22 March 2015, at 2:21 a.m.

In Response To: Don't forget the Italians! (Casper Van der Tak)

The Blue Club was one of the earliest. They also used Roman Club and other systems over the years. The earliest one club system was proposed by Harold Vanderbilt, the fellow who invented Contract Bridge back in 1925.

The Italian Blue Team had at least three of the greatest players of all time, Benito Garrozzo, Giorgio Belladonna, and Pietro Forquet. From the late fifties (1957, if memory serves) until 1975, the team (with various lineups) won every world championship it entered. They skipped a few years in the early seventies, when Ira Corn's Dallas Aces (with Jim Jacoby, not Oswald) won. Two of the later members were observed to be using foot signals, but the American captain, Lew Mathe, let the cat out of the bag before they could be officially snared. There were rumors of earlier chicanery, though I think of the big three Forquet was the one that was suspected. Perhaps because of a notorious hand in 1968 where he led 4th from a four-card suit instead of a five-card one to beat 3nt. (No clue from the bidding for the lead he made.)

Still, they were an undeniably great team, and their bidding was ahead of its time (Though no one plays those systems today, while still playing systems in use then.)

The major cheating scandal of their era actually involved the English pair, Terence Reese (another candidate for G.O.A.T.) and Boris Shapiro, at the 1965 championships in Buenos Aires. That one resulted in a rial in the British courts, and two books, one by Reese, one by Alan Truscott. Truscott will persuade you that they cheated. Reese will persuade you that they didn't. Read them both.

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