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The Talk That Never Was: The Blue Team Rule
(Page of 21)

The 2018 Gold Coast Congress was held in Queensland, Australia, in February.  The venue, organisation, directing and online resources for players were excellent. I had teammates from Norway; they never imagined an event could be so well-run.

Looking at the pre-event information, I saw that there were guest speakers scheduled to talk on various bridge-related matters.  That struck me as an opportunity; I could give a talk about my new book, "Under the Table (The Case Against The Blue Team)", that looks at the Italian Blue Team and the related actions of various administrative bodies over many years.

Permission to give my talk, entitled "The Blue Team Rule", was sought from Australian Bridge Federation President, Bruce Neill.

Permission denied.

Well, that created another opportunity - a Bridge Winners article!

So, my talk, slightly edited and somewhat expanded, given the new format, follows.

The Italian Blue Team had a most remarkable record: World bridge team champions from 1957-1959 and 1961-1969.  They then retired and, upon their return, won again from 1972-1975.  All of those wins were against USA/North America, bar 1969, when they won over Taiwan.

I am able to find no team and only one individual who can approach such a feat: Heather McKay.

 

From that Blue Team era came the truly world-class champions Giorgio Belladonna and Benito Garozzo and, perhaps a little less talented, Pietro Forquet*.

The line-ups:

EARLY (1957 - 1959)

Avarelli - Belladonna  (Roman Club)

Forquet - Siniscalco  (Neapolitan Club)

Forquet - Chiaradia  (Neapolitan Club)

D'Alelio - Chiaradia  (Italian Natural, switching to Neapolitan Club in 1959)

 

Garozzo joined the team in 1961, replacing Siniscalco**, who withdrew from the Italian team less than two weeks before the Bermuda Bowl, citing civil engineering duties on Italy's east coast. I have questions about Siniscalo's departure and the curious fact that he never played serious bridge again (but kibitzes on BBO); Italian contacts of whom I made enquiries clammed-up as soon as they found out what I wanted to know.

Chiaradia, a weak dummy-player, was booted off the team part-way through the 1963 final after failing in 4XX with eleven easy winners.  He celebrated this event by attacking vugraph spectators.

 

LATER (1964 - 1969)

Avarelli - Belladonna  (Roman Club)

Forquet - Garozzo  (Blue Team Club)

D'Alelio - Pabis-Ticci  (Little Roman, aka Arno)

 

The lineup above returned in 1972, all then playing Precision. 

 

--------------------------------------------------

* Example:

1966 Bermuda Bowl Official Handbook:

[Forquet] had a blind spot, overlooking a cast-iron line of play...

An Italian 4 contract failed when Forquet made one of his rare mistakes...

A big swing to Italy seemed certain... but [Forquet] over-elaborated in the play...

A review of the 1976 Bermuda Bowl and Olympiad (held consecutively) will show that Forquet was not at all in good form.

 

** New York Times, 15 April 1961:

The player selected to replace Sr Siniscalco, a Sr Garozzo of Naples, is not known to American players, so it is difficult to estimate by how much the Italian team has been weakened.

It is a fact that suspicions regarding the fidelity of the Blue Team have been around since the late 1950s.  From the preface of my book:

 

The Italian Blue Team has been the subject of many accusations of cheating. A popular opinion is that these accusations are primarily the product of outclassed Americans and have only been made about “fringe” Blue Team players such as Facchini and Zucchelli in 1975.

From the current Wikipedia entry on the Blue Team:

"The string of Blue Team victories was also followed by some cheating allegations—mainly against “lesser" team members and none against Belladonna–Avarelli, Garozzo–Forquet, or Garozzo–Belladonna."

Not so. Every member of the 1958 USA Bermuda Bowl team* signed a declaration that all the Blue Team players cheated. The 1963 Gerber Letter asserted that every member of the Blue Team was cheating. As for the 1976 Burgay Tape:

New York Times, 30 June, 1977

"The players directly implicated by the Burgay tape, in addition to Bianchi, are Pietro Forquet and Giorgio Belladonna, charter members of the Blue Team, which has dominated world championship play since 1957…"

 

Is there anything to these suspicions?  That is what my book attempts to answer.

 

----------------------------------------------------------

* Becker-Crawford, Roth-Stone, Rapée-Silodor

Consider the following two deals:

1968 Olympiad, Qualifying Round 21, board 20.  Italy v France

Avarelli
K984
AK62
7
J1054
Belladonna
Q10
Q10
J9853
Q762
W
N
E
S
P
P
3
X
P
P
P

 

1966 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 93

Avarelli
KQ652
7432
32
A8
Belladonna
J104
AK98
4
KQ1065
W
N
E
S
3
X
3NT
4
P
P
P

 

Pretty mundane hands, yes? Nothing unusual at all - plain takeout doubles at work. Indeed, plain takeout doubles over pre-empts is what Avarelli and Belladonna espoused in their Roman Club books (1959, 1969).

 

Here is another hand to examine:

1972 Olympiad, Qualifying Round 3, Board 20

West
94
AQ109743
10743
East
AQ853
K8
952
AKQ
W
N
E
S
3
X
P
P
P

+800.

 

Goodness, what a contrast!  What sort of bridgeplayer won't respond to a takeout double, with a good seven-card suit and a void?

Except... Walter Avarelli was West and Giorgio Belladonna was East.  

 

So how is it that Avarelli responded with a five-card suit and a balanced hand (1966, above) and passed with a 2-7-4-0 (1972)?  What was the motivation that drove a 12-time world-champion to choose a call that no other expert, before or since, would ever contemplate?

 

There was a time when that question puzzled me.  Not any more.  Now I think that Avarelli's pass is quite ordinary and barely worthy of comment. The reason why I think that is simple; I know something that perhaps you don't.  It is this:

The Blue Team Rule: 

When selecting a bid or lead, the choice is made by direct reference to....

How does this sentence end? I will disclose that later.

First, a little history.

I was very keen on bridge in the early 1970s, and read all of my father's excellent bridge library.  One book to which I paid particular attention was the Official Handbook of the 1972 Olympiad , where we see that the final was between the Blue Team and the Dallas Aces. That final followed the pattern of almost all world bridge championships played in my lifetime up to that point: Italy gave the US a caning.  At the time, I regarded the US players as inferior and too closed-minded to see that they were outclassed. 

I do not hold that view any more.

Now, let's return to Avarelli's pass of Belladonna's takeout double of 3 with: 

9 4  A Q 10 9 7 4 3  10 7 4 3  --

I saw this deal mentioned in an online posting by Bobby Wolff.  To say that I was shocked is an understatement, the more so given that 4 was going down. It's a simple task to create a plain 4-4-0-5 hand for Belladonna (say, A x x x  K x x x  --  A x x x x) where 6 is excellent and 3X makes.  But that's not what happened - to make an incredible pass was the only way to get a plus-score!

I knew from my reading many years ago that the hand was not in the 1972 book.  This struck me as very strange; why was such a weird action not noteworthy?  Well, it had to be in the Daily Bulletins, then!  No way could Avarelli's pass not be a big talking-point!

The match, Italy v Germany, is written up in the Daily Bulletins, but board 20 is not.  Maybe the other hands were more interesting.

Some research showed that it is mentioned in two contemporaneous accounts; newspaper columns by B J Becker and Steve Becker.  Decades later, it gets a mention in Wolff's posting and Roy Hughes' "Canada's Bridge Warriors." For all intents and purposes, the deal has been kept quiet.

To digress for a moment: I believe that anyone who puts effort into researching Blue Team-related matters is going to find that cover-ups, information-suppression and the falsification of events are commonplace.  I have found many instances of this; they are detailed in the book.

Example:

The 7th Edition of the ACBL Encyclopedia of Bridge writes about the 1976 Burgay Tape affair under "Cheating Allegations":

Burgay claimed the tape contained a telephone conversation between him and Benito Bianchi in which Bianchi had openly discussed illegal signaling methods. According to the tape, Bianchi explained how he and Pietro Forquet had used cigarettes to convey signals during the Bermuda Bowl in 1973 and 1974. The case came to the attention of the WBF, but nothing ever came of it because it was never proved that the tapes were authentic.

This is a lie.

The tape was verified three times:

- Long-time WBF President, Jamie Ortiz-Patiño:

Earlier in my career I had been of some help to the CIA, who had the best resources in the world for this kind of thing. Confident that they would be happy to return the favor, I sent them the tape. Back came the message: ‘The tape is genuine’.

- The Italian Bridge Federation's own expert, a Sr Bacicchi, reported to the Federation that the tape was authentic

- Burgay himself tabled a report from another expert; the tape had not been tampered with

I wrote to an editor of the Encyclopedia seeking clarification and wanting to know the (unnamed) source of the "...never proved that the tapes were authentic" statement.

No reply. 

 

As well, the Encyclopedia's line that "The case came to the attention of the WBF" is a serious understatement.

Chicago Tribune, 27 October, 1977:

The World Bridge Federation decided Wednesday to suspend the Italian Bridge Federation on grounds that it failed to investigate thoroughly charges that its players used smoke signals to cheat in world competition.

Another post by Bobby Wolff recounts that, after the Dallas Aces won the 1973 Bermuda Bowl qualifying rounds, a London bookmaker posted odds for the final.

Italy was 21 to 1 on. 

It doesn't take much knowledge of betting odds to know that this market, in a legitimate two-runner final, is impossible.  Either Wolff was mistaken or we have an "issue" of considerable gravity on our hands.  I pondered the matter for a while and decided to investigate.

The first port of call was an email to Wolff in mid-2013.  Wolff provided more detail, some extraordinary hands and commentary, and advised me to keep investigating, should I find the topic interesting.

Following up, I took the liberty of emailing a few Big Name bridgeplayers; I found confirmation of Wolff's 21/1 (named as 20/1 by one source; the little I know about bookmakers inclines me to think that 20/1 is more likely).

One person with whom I had a long-running email exchange was Mike Lawrence.  Lawrence is in email as he is in book-writing - calm, reasonable and erudite.  We chatted about various matters, mostly Blue Team, now and then.  One day he mused that it would be a wonderful thing if someone sat down with every World Championship book where the BT made the final, and that particular someone made a detailed examination of every single deal.  But, wrote Mike, that was a huge job, and who had time for such a project?

I was, then, residing in a small village in Thailand, totally destitute after having had millions of dollars stolen* from me.  Who had time for such a project? 

I. 

So I wrote to my old china plate, Paul Lavings, who has a large second-hand library of bridge books.  http://www.bridgegear.com/

It took some doing, but I ended up with the WC books I needed. 

And so to work.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Off-topic alert:

This was a relative of mine, by marriage:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Amine_Gemayel

I am currently working on a new book:

The Gemayal Betrayal: How a Lebanese Dynasty Stole a Fortune From My Friends, My Family and Me 

With a large pile of books in front of me, I had to decide where and how to start. Well, the Blue Team's frequent use of off-shape "Italianate" takeout doubles was well-known, and they have been adopted by precisely zero top-class pairs in the last 60 years. Maybe that was a good place to start. And indeed, we see some weird and wonderful things. Here are some early boards.

 

Hand 1.

1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 22.

K 4 K 2 K J 9 7 3 K 9 4 2

Avarelli doubled 1 for takeout.

 

Hand 2.

1958 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 35.

Q 9 2 Q A J 10 7 4 3 A 9 8

Siniscalco doubled 1 for takeout

 

Hand 3.

1962 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 122.

Q 10 6 10 A K 10 5 4 Q J 9 5

Belladonna doubled 1 for takeout.

 

The hands above, and thirteen more, are listed at the start of my "Takeout Doubles" chapter.  No expert has ever chosen to double with any of the hands, while a Blue Team player doubled with all of them.  The Blue Team averaged more than +3 imps/board over those 16 hands.

Would you like to play this style of takeout double at the one-level? Well, I know pairs who, during the Blue Team era, tried this method. They didn't try it for very long - they found it to be disastrous.

Would you be worried, after making a one-level double with the hands above, about being penalised in a silly fit? Blue Team players were not. It never happened*.

 

Here are two numbers that you might find interesting:

- The number of penalties of 300 or more that the Blue Team paid out following a one-level takeout double without screens in the final of a World Championship (1957-1959, 1961-1969, 1972-1974):

Five **

- The number of off-shape takeout doubles made by Blue Team player when behind screens in the final of a World Championship (1975, 1979, 1983):

Zero

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------

* I can find only one instance where the Blue Team played a six-card fit after an off-shape double:

On board 198 of the 1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, Belladonna doubled a Weak 2 with:

10 K J 8 A Q 4 3 K 8 7 6 5 and Avarelli played 3, down three.

Italy, at that time, had an enormous lead with 25 boards to go.

 

** 500, 500, 300, 500 500. None of these were silly fits.

This style of takeout double produced some interesting auctions.

 

1964 Olympiad Final, board 39.

Avarelli
A4
AQ7642
104
952
Belladonna
K8
9
QJ9872
KQJ3
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
2
3
P
4
P
P
P

+130

That was the auction at the table.  No, really.

A recently re-released book attempts to enlighten us about what went on there.  Long-time Blue Team NPC Perroux's book about the Blue Team ("The Blue Team in the History of Bridge", 1960, 1973) has been translated from the Italian by Maurizio Di Sacco.  Here is what Perroux has to say* about the auction:

Many spectators in the Bridge-rama wondered how Avarelli could not bid on to 4 Hearts over four diamonds, but for whoever knows the Roman Club the answer is simple: Avarelli cannot have less than that in hearts to freely bid the suit at the three level, and in case Belladonna had had a couple of small cards in support, his choice would have been between passing or raising. When he bids four diamonds he shows beyond any doubt that his double hinges on a long diamond suit.

 

Consider these two problems, faced by Walter Avarelli, who was West both times.

1962 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 122.

Avarelli
9
AJ7432
876
K83
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
3
?

Avarelli could be facing x x K Q x A x x A Q x x x , which produces an easy slam.

 

At the table, Avarelli passed.  Of course he passed; he was acting in accordance with Perroux's guideline, above.

Did he miss a slam?  No, he didn't even miss a game.

Belladonna's hand was Hand 3, on the previous page - a 3-1-5-4 12-count.

 

1972 Olympiad Final, board 23

Avarelli
A10
108754
10964
Q9
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
?

As we have seen, there is no need for partner to have any more than one heart.

 

At the table, fearless Avarelli, West, bid 3, finding Belladonna with four-card support.

What happened to Perroux's assurance that "Avarelli cannot have less than [AQ to six] in hearts to freely bid the suit at the three level"?

This is very strange.

 

Now consider this problem, faced by Belladonna, West.

1968 Olympiad Final, board 23.

Belladonna
KJ1075
K83
Q72
Q7
W
N
E
S
1
X
3
?

On the previous board (22) of this match, Avarelli had doubled 1 for takeout with a 4-1-4-4 13-count. Keeping that in mind, what do you suppose Belladonna should do on board 23?

 

At the table, Belladonna jumped to 4 and made an overtrick.  This was not a 5-1 fit.  Avarrelli's hand:

A 9 6  Q 7 5 2  A K 8 6 3  4.

Given Perroux's comment, that to bid at the three-level one "cannot have less than [AQ to six]", how could Belladonna bid at the four-level with a five-card suit?  What do you think is going on?

 

Here is another problem; same partnership; Belladonna is North.

1966 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 21

Belladonna
A6
AK10963
K
AQ63
W
N
E
S
?

The Roman Club books are quite fussy about hand evaluation, using point-count and Losing-Trick Count. Roman Club is a hard-line canape system; with a 3-1-2-7 good opening bid, 1 is forced. It follows hands with a long major and secondary clubs are a problem; these are handled by opening two-of-a-major. This is defined as 12-16 HCP and 5-6 losers, five+ of the major and four+ clubs.

With a stronger single-suiter, but less than a game-force, one can open the long suit and then jump in it. That is the systemic treatment for the hand above.

But Belladonna opened with 2, underbidding by at least an ace and a trump.

Avarelli had garbage - a useless jack.

Was this luck?

Not in my opinion, because Avarelli and Belladonna were following the Blue Team Rule.

 

-------------------------------------------------------

* Readers may assign to Perroux's comments the degree of verisimilitude they see fit.  Meanwhile, it seems clear that Avarelli's pass of 4 caused quite some comment at the time.  Other examples of vugraph audiences being startled by highly-successful Blue Team actions are covered in my book.

Avarelli and Belladonna played a method whereby the final double in this auction:

1 suit - dbl - newsuit - dbl

was for takeout (responsive). You can read about this in the World Championship system summaries. You can read about it in the Roman Club books. There is no doubt that this is what they played.

 

Here is this double in action:

1965 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 30

Avarelli
83
75
A1043
AKJ97
Belladonna
4
A64
Q875
106532
W
N
E
S
1
X
1
X
XX
3

Once again we see that a Blue Team player survived doubling an opening 1M with shortage in the other major. They never had a problem after such an action*.

The rest of the auction is quite as one would expect: Belladonna doubled to show both minors and Avarelli supported.

 

Now consider this pair of auctions:

1966 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 45.

Avarelli
AQJ85
65
76
10965
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
?

At the table, Avarelli, West, doubled for takeout.

Danny Kleinman, contributing editor to The Bridge World, has written an analysis of the Blue Team at the 1966 Bermuda Bowl. Of this deal, he writes:

What, pray tell, did Avarelli intend to do over partner's likely 3 next? Never fear, partner had six clubs and two diamonds.

Kleinman is mistaken. Belladonna was never going to bid 3, because he had more clubs than diamonds. He must have more clubs than diamonds, because Avarelli doubled.

 

1968 Olympiad Final, board 21.

Belladonna
73
QJ853
J72
1072
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
?

At the table, Belladonna, East, doubled (the non-psyche of 1) for takeout. He ended up playing 3(!); -50 when the spade finesse lost.

 

Now, I suspect all readers will think that the first auction (1965/30) is quite unremarkable, once we get past the initial takeout double.

Some will think the second auction is most peculiar and the third is downright too bizarre for words. Why did Belladonna compete with such garbage?  Who doubles for takeout with five cards in the unbid suits**??

I don't find the above auctions strange. I think that all the auctions were bid in accordance with the Blue Team Rule.

-----------------------------------------------

* I am aware of some infrequent "challenges" that the Blue Team had when the opponents psyched after a Blue Team takeout double. This topic is addressed in a chapter of my book: "Psyches and the Range Signal"

** As we will see later, the answer to that question is, in addition to Belladonna, Garozzo.

We saw, on the preceding page, that Avarelli and Belladonna didn't pay too much attention to their agreements. This tendency can be found all across their auctions. Their hands often didn't match their system and partner almost never went wrong.

Now, Avarelli and Belladonna's Roman Club has precise rules for handling 5332 hands with 12-16 points. If the five-card suit is of poor quality, the hand is treated as 12-16 flat and opened 1. Otherwise, one opens and rebids his long (non-club) suit or opens a three-card suit and rebids the five-card suit; rules are given for when to do what.

I have a chapter called "Supposed Partnership Methods", that examines every Avarelli - Belladonna hand from the 1957 - 1959 World Championships where they opened the bidding holding that shape and range. They didn't follow their system, they just bid whatever best suited partner's hand.

If the five-card suit is of poor quality and partner has support, it's more efficient to bid the long suit and not open 1. It's fine to pass 100% forcing bids. Responder raises with four-card support when partner has length and not when he has opened a three-card suit, and so on.

The chapter title, "Supposed Partnership Methods", comes from a term used by Danny Kleinman.

Here is Kleinman on Avarelli and Belladonna in the 1966 Bermuda Bowl Final:

In my book “Bridge in the Tower of Babel” I examined their [Avarelli and Belladonna’s] use of [the Roman] system, writing a long chapter I called “Bid with the Romans.” Their bidding deviated from their system so often that I concluded they were either terrible bidders or basing their calls on something other than their hands and their supposed partnership methods. That chapter contains some 77 bidding problems of which the pair got only 8 right, but you need not take my word for it, as you can check the deals and my analyses of them for yourself. You might also ask yourself, “Can conclusive evidence of cheating be obtained from studying hand records alone in conjunction with knowledge of partnership agreements?” You might be surprised.

I have read “Bid with the Romans”. No, I was not surprised.

I was not surprised because I know what Avarelli and Belladonna were doing. They were using the Blue Team Rule.

Now let's take a look at the Forquet and Garozzo partnership at work:

1962 Olympiad Final, board 66

Forquet
Q109
J76
K7
Q10643
Garozzo
AJ865
AQ3
10643
8
W
N
E
S
P
1
1
P
2

A simple overcall by Garozzo, a simple raise by Forqet. Boring.

 

Now consider this:

1964 Olympiad Final, board 56

West
Q95
Q7542
AK7
108
East
KJ104
A3
10643
973
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1
P
P
2
P
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
P

What a pair! Obviously, East is a compulsive overbidder, while West, clearly traumatised by past horrors, will do anything to avoid having to watch his partner butcher the play of another hand.

 

Except... West was Forquet and East was Garozzo.

Do you find this second auction simply astounding? What on earth caused Forquet to pass 1 with a better hand than the one with which he raised? Why bid 2 and never raise the spades??

Personally, I think Forquet's actions are quite straight-forward. I don't find them remarkable atall. That's because I know the Blue Team Rule.

 

Consider the following two hands - same partnership, same opponents (Mike Lawrence and Bobby Goldman), same event.

1972 Olympiad Final, board 32.

Garozzo
A982
87
AQ85
K62
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
?

Garozzo, West, doubled.

 

1972 Olympiad Final, board 80

Forquet
A96
QJ102
642
KJ5
W
N
E
S
1
X
3
?

What should Forquet, East, do, following Garozzo's off-shape double?

At the table, Forquet bid 4.

 

If you think that could not have been a 4-2 (or even 4-3) fit, you are on the way to understanding the Blue Team Rule.

 

Here is another hand; this time it is Forquet's partner who has no doubt at all about suit lengths following a takeout double:

1961 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 136

Garozzo
QJ2
QJ103
752
954
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
3
4
X
?

At the table, Garozzo, West, bid 4.

 

Yes, again this was not a 4-3 fit.

We saw that Avarelli and Belladonna used a responsive double, following partner's takeout double and a new-suit bid on the right. Now let's look at another systemic treatment: Neapolitan Club's responses to partner's takeout double.

Neapolitan used "Herbert Negatives", whereby the next step was a negative response. Edgar Kaplan gives this hand as a minimum 2 (not-negative) response after partner doubles 1: K x x x x x x x Q 10 x x x.

Here is the Herbert Negative in action:

1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 77.

Siniscalco
1074
Q9642
92
J95
Forquet
KQ86
K
AQJ543
K10
W
N
E
S
1
X
P
1
P
1
P
P
P

It is as plain as could be that both players knew that the Herbert Negative was in use. Siniscalco bid the next step with a poor hand and a doubleton, and Forquet didn't "raise" with six diamonds,

From the chapter, "Partner Will Understand":

This auction is in accordance with the stated methods. However, there are some “issues” with using a Herbert Negative; it can make the auction awkward when the responder to the double actually has the next-step suit and some values. What if you have more than a negative but not enough to jump opposite an Italianate off-shape double? How to iron matters out? No problem, partner will understand. Consider this next deal:

1958 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 32

Siniscalco
QJ4
97653
A109
64
Forquet
987
AK10
53
AKJ87
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

Here we see an illustration of much of what is wrong with off-shape doubles. First, note that, on board 35 of the same tournament, Siniscalco doubled an opening bid of 1 on his right with: Q 9 2 Q A J 10 7 4 3 A 9 8

Given that there is no guarantee of heart support, how should Siniscalco respond to Forquet’s double of 1, above? Siniscalco could not jump to 2; that could be a silly fit, so he chose 1. But wait, that’s a Herbert Negative, showing about 0-5, any shape! Bizarrely, Forquet clearly knew that it was a suit and values. How is that possible?

 

As noted on page three of this article, every member of the 1958 US team signed a declaration that the Blue Team cheated. Do you think this hand would have been one of the reasons why?

Now, the Blue Team was famous for its bidding judgement.  Edgar Kaplan, on the 1971 Las Vegas Challenge Match:

But the Blue Team’s advantage was in competitive bidding. With few exceptions, they were in the auction when they should be, out of it when they shouldn’t be…

Kaplan was quite right.  Just how it is that the Blue Team players managed to walk on water, year after year, while playing unsound methods and deviating frequently from their systems, is an interesting question to contemplate.

But don't think they never had bad boards; they did, albeit very few.  And those bad boards were mostly from poor decisions from the weaker players: D'Alelio, Siniscalco, Avarelli, Chiaradia and Pabis-Ticci.  They won 42 combined world championships. They were not strong players.

 

The worst was Eugenio Chiaradia.  Somehow, he is regarded as the Blue Team's primary bidding theoretician, being behind the creation of Neapolitan Club (which morphed into Blue Club, after major reforms by Garozzo, who did understand bidding theory, unlike Chiaradia).

Chiaradia's great contribution to bidding theory was the 12-17 1NT opening, with no 4+card suit other than clubs.  And what should responder do with a flat nine-count?  If you use the Blue Team Rule, that isn't a problem.  Nor was the absence of negative doubles; that wasn't a feature of Blue Team bidding until they were paid to shift to Precision in the early 1970s. 

Chiaradia was a rich source of bridge bloopers. One example: in 1962, Lew Mathe scored 12 easy tricks in 6 while Chiaradia, a level lower, threw away his twelfth trick early in the play; late in the play, he found the following suit too difficult: AJx opposite Kxx

 

1958 Bermuda Bowl Final, boarde 120.

Siniscalco
AJ98
K1042
AK62
9
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
?

 Siniscalco, West, went on to game and was doubled; down one on soft defense. If Forquet’s opinion was worth nothing, why bother to solicit it?

 

By 1972, whatever skills Avarelli once had at bridge had waned. See boards 63 and 85 of the Olympiad final and give them as problems to anyone you know who has read a bridge book.

 

Pabis-Ticci's defence on board 47 of the 1969 Bermuda Bowl Final gets my award for "Worst Defended Slam in World Championship Finals History".

 

D'Alelio was only a little stronger than Chiaradia.

1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 56.

D'Alelio
Q7543
A854
10654
W
N
E
S
1
2
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P

D'Alelio, West, committed a beginner's blunder.  More than a decade earlier, Skid Simon wrote of the wisdom of passing the moment a misfit became apparent.  2 was the last making spot.

 

1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 115.

D'Alelio
97
A8
AKQ7
Q7654
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
P
1
X

D'Alelio, West, doubled 1.

Yes, some American players of that era did equally silly things, but none of them won 13 world championships.

 

D'Alelio did not have a good 1966 Bermuda Bowl.  There are hands where he forgot Asking Bid responses, forgot to open a Roman Two, forgot to canapé, and forgot the responses to Blackwood.  His play to go three down in 6NT was described in the Official Handbook as, "an unaccustomed lapse in dummy play."

It wasn’t.

 

In my book there is a chapter, "On the Lesser Players", that goes into more detail regarding these players.  In that chapter, I provide strong evidence that Chiaradia did not understand how simple Stayman worked.

It is often the case that one must select a bid or opening lead, and the choice is not immediately clear.  Expert players will study partner's bidding to date and attempt to visualise what it is he is likely to hold.

I am going to show you a new way of working out partner's hand. Rather than look at partner's bidding in an attempt to ascertain his holding, look at a player's actions in order to understand what his partner has.  For this to be effective, the partnership must use

The Blue Team Rule:

When selecting a bid or lead, the choice is made by direct reference to partner's holding, in terms of lengths, shortages, range and ace-count.

 

If a partnership uses the Blue Team Rule, from a player's actions, it can be possible to work out what his partner has.

Let's use an earlier hand as an example.

 

1964 Olympiad Final, board 56

West
Q95
Q7542
AK7
108
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
1
P
P
2
P
P
2
P
P
3
P
P
P

 

The auction is simple to analyse:

- Forquet, West, passed 1, therefore Garozzo had four spades and a minimum.

- Forquet bid 2, therefore Garozzo had no shortage; spades was a seven-card fit, while hearts could be an eight-card fit.

You may be unfamiliar with this technique, so here are some problems upon which to practice. 

The question is easy: Given West's last action, what is his partner is likely to have?

You are West throughout.

 

1. 1975 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 82. 

You are playing a 13-15 1NT

Garozzo
K965
KJ3
K864
AJ
W
N
E
S
1

 

2. 1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 126.

Avarelli
64
A9432
85
KQ65
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
X
P
2
2
P
P
P

 

3.  Las Vegas Challenge Match, Blue Team vs Dallas Aces

Avarelli
10943
A109
92
J982
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
3
P
P
3
P
P
4

 

4.  Las Vegas Challenge Match, Blue Team vs Dallas Aces

Avarelli
Q5
8
AKJ10643
765
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
3
P
P
3
P
P
P

 

5. 1966 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 82

Pabis-Ticci
AQJ743
A
AK10
Q87
W
N
E
S
3
P
P
3
P
P
P

 

6. 1972 Olympiad Final, board 64

Belladonna
KJ653
A95
K72
Q9
W
N
E
S
P
3
X

 

7. 1968 Olympiad Final, board 68

Pabis-Ticci
K
J8743
J
KQJ1082
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1NT
2

 

8. 1969 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 72

Forquet
Q
J7654
AJ10532
A
W
N
E
S
2
2

 

9. 1958 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 160

Forquet
Q732
KJ
65
J10732
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

 Forquet led the 6.  What does partner have?

 

10. 1964 Olympiad Semi-final, board 49.

Forquet
Q8743
AK8
KJ7
K8
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Blue Club had no direct forcing raise, so Forquet had to go via 2.

How likely is it that the partnership reached 6 off two cashing aces?

 

11. 1967 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 42.

Garozzo
J
AQ1053
AKJ82
102
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

 

12. 1966 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 75.

Avarelli
J62
652
A932
J43
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
P
P

 

13.  1963 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 9.

Garozzo
A54
1065
KQ32
943
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
3
P
P
3

 

14. 1965 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 23

Garozzo
KQ7
104
9843
A854
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
P
X

 

15. 1961 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 5

Garozzo
QJ1063
A932
A4
96
W
N
E
S
1
P
.

 

16 1958 Bermuda Bowl Qualifying, Italy v Argentina, board 138

Chiaradia
J75
32
J8
AQ10986
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P

Chiaradia led the A.  What does partner have?

You are West throughout.

1. 

Garozzo
K965
KJ3
K864
AJ
W
N
E
S
1

Partner Belladonna has a flat hand with zero points, so it would be silly to open 1NT*.  Bobby Wolff foolishly opened a 15-17 1NT in the other room, and went for a number.  What on earth was he thinking? Opening 1NT when partner is broke is just asking for trouble.

The 1975 Official Handbook had this to say:

Garozzo chose an exceptionally good moment to decide not to open a 13-15 point notrump

 

2.

Avarelli
64
A9432
85
KQ65
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
X
P
2
2
P
P
P

In order for Avarelli to sell out to 2, Belladonna must have a most unsuitable hand. 

A 9 7 2  8 7  A K J 8 2  10 3

 

3.  Problems 3 and 4 are from the Las Vegas Challenge Match of late 1971.

Avarelli
10943
A109
92
J982
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
3
P
P
3
P
P
4

Avarelli bid on to 4, so Belladonna must have an enormous hand.  +130

 

4. 

Avarelli
Q5
8
AKJ10643
765
W
N
E
S
1
1
2
3
P
P
3
P
P
P

Here, Avarelli passed, so Belladonna must have a horrible hand. +50.  E-W will go minus if they bid on.

Avarelli would be missing a sound game and a playable slam opposite:

A J 10 x x  x x   x x x  A x x, but he passed, so Belladonna could not have such a hand.

Kaplan wrote, of Avarelli's performance in that match, "Avarelli’s competitive judgment was particularly impressive."

 

5.

Pabis-Ticci
AQJ743
A
AK10
Q87
W
N
E
S
3
P
P
3
P
P
P

Obviously partner has dreck.  Just as with Belladonna's monstrous 2 underbid on page 9, D'Alelio had a useless jack.  +140.

 

6. I like this hand very much.  I am reminded of Jerome's quote, "I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours."

Belladonna
KJ653
A95
K72
Q9
Avarelli
A984
Q1086
QJ84
3
W
N
E
S
P
3
X
5
P
P
P

With a passed partner, adverse vulnerability, a dead club queen, no shape, and no source of tricks, there was nothing to commend Belladonna's forcing partner to bid, other than the fact that Avarelli had enough to make 4 a fair contract.  Equally insightful was Avarelli's pass over 5.  Some players would make a card-showing double, but, with partner being so weak, it's better to stay out of the auction.

 

7. 

Pabis-Ticci
K
J8743
J
KQJ1082
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1NT
2

Partner has four good hearts.  There is no point in bidding his singleton.

 

8. 

Forquet
Q
J7654
AJ10532
A
W
N
E
S
2
2

See above.

 

9.  It is best to try to build partner's diamond winner while he still has the club ace.

Forquet
Q732
KJ
65
J10732
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

  6 5 4  K Q 8 7  A 9 8 6 5

 

10. 

Forquet
Q8743
AK8
KJ7
K8
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
5
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Of course, the question is absurd.  Forquet and Garozzo bid to 6, therefore, they cannot be off two cashing aces, or an ace and a trump trick.  I show other similar hands in the book.   Old-time Blue Club players who could never understand how to reconcile cueing first-and-second-round controls equally, with no Blackwood past the second round of bidding (unless a jump), can now see how it was done.

K 10 6 5 2  Q J 10 5 4  A 9 3  --

 

11. 

Garozzo
J
AQ1053
AKJ82
102
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
P
P

Spades is a seven-card fit.  It would be silly to advance to 3 without an eight-card fit, so Forquet has three hearts. 

K 9 8 6 5 2  8 6 2  --  K J 7 6

 

12. 

Avarelli
J62
652
A932
J43
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
X
P
P

Partner has to have good diamonds; in this case, K Q 7.  Danny Kleinman, in a report on the match:

…this deal reinforces the impression formed earlier that Walter [Avarelli] is utilizing information illicitly received from Giorgio [Belladonna]. How else can his penalty pass of 1 doubled be explained?

 

13. 

Garozzo
A54
1065
KQ32
943
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
3
P
P
3

Partner has four diamonds and a non-minimum. He will not have a 5-3-2-3.  It would be ridiculous to bid 3 if he had such a hand.

  K J 6 3 A 3 A 10 7 5 Q 10 8

 

14.

Garozzo
KQ7
104
9843
A854
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
P
X

Garozzo's double is for takeout, therefore, Forquet had the majors.

J 10 9 8 4  A J 9 6 2  Q 3

The rest of the auction makes it clear there was no misprint.

 

15.

Garozzo
QJ1063
A932
A4
96
W
N
E
S
1
P

Partner has one spade and rubbish.  Better to be out of the auction.

 

16.  This hand is so amusing (at least to me), that I will allocate it its own page.

Chiaradia
J75
32
J8
AQ10986
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P

 

------------------------------------------------------

* For a similar instance, see page 6 of this article:

https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/more-weirdness-from-the-1971-bowl/

 

Reese-Schapiro, Jaïs-Trézel and the Blue Team players all had one thing in common:

When one pysched, either partner had pure junk, or partner fielded the psyche with 100% accuracy. 

While my research is ongoing, I have yet to find an exception to this statement.

Chiaradia
J75
32
J8
AQ10986
Blousson
964
5
Q107532
J43
D'Alelio
K832
J876
K964
7
Castro
AQ10
AKQ1094
A
K52
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
P
2NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

Chiaradia led the A and gave partner a ruff.  D'Alelio returned a spade; South won the queen and now had his tenth trick.  On the run of the hearts, both defenders discarded their spades; an overtrick resulted.

The lead was more than strange; why not keep club control?  It is entirely possible declarer has a doubleton K; why set it up?  Even if partner can ruff, sometimes he will be ruffing a loser, sometimes he will ruff with a trump trick.

From the book:

And, amusingly, D’Alelio found himself in a pickle at trick three. A diamond exit was sure to be safe (and will break up the double strip-squeeze that will develop after a passive trump exit) if partner can be relied upon to have led a singleton. But, having been delivered what he asked for, D’Alelio could draw no such inference, and so gave the contract away.

 

Opening leads get considerable coverage in the book; the Blue Team was famous for its lethal accuracy in this area.  Here is what Bridge World Editor, Sonny Moyse had to say:

Take the matter of blind opening leads, a department that happens to impress this observer. I have not made a thorough analysis, but for hand-after-hand it was almost uncanny, the way an Italian [during the 1957 Bermuda Bowl] picked out the killing (or if that wasn’t possible, the least costly) lead.

Book chapters examine other deals where a Blue Team player gave a ruff by leading an unsupported ace; the most famous of those is Pabis-Ticci's match-winning lead on board 77 of the 1968 Olympiad.

 

The opening lead to a slam is particularly important.  Garozzo had advice for us in this area.  Here is his 1976 Bols Tip:

Games may be quietly defended, but slams must be attacked.

I have a chapter that examines every Blue Team lead to a bid-to-make slam, where there was a reasonable choice of leads.  The Blue Team players followed an even sounder rule:

Lead from a king when partner has the ace or the queen.  Do not lead from a king when partner has nothing in that suit.

Now, I want to raise a point that I think is important. Consider this quote from Danny Kleinman:

If you suspect cheating... you look for patterns. For example… one partner always seems to know when the other has extra values for his bidding, and when he has stretched.

Kleinman is right.  When considering suspect deals, it is right to focus on, "To what extent is a highly-abnormal action a fine fit for partner's holding"?  Statements about par not being reached, or a better score being available by some other means, are red-herrings.

 

Here is an example of what I mean.

1957 Bermuda Bowl Final, board 70.

Chiaradia
J
KJ1074
52
Q7643
Koytchou
Q10753
98
AJ106
52
D'Alelio
K64
6532
K9
AJ109
Ogust
A982
AQ
Q8743
K8
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
1
1
1N
X
2
P
P
3
P
4
P
P
4N
P
5
X
P
P
P
D
5X West
NS: 0 EW: 0

 

It is entirely possible that 4 would fail (Forquet, South in the other room, made 4 after a heart lead).  I assert that the fate of 4 is irrelevant.  What counts is, Chiaradia made two very strange calls - 2 and 4NT.  Do these calls suit partner's hand, or not?

1NT was natural; there was no reason D'Alelio could not hold:

K 10 x x  x x  K Q x x  J x x . 

 

But he didn't, and playing at the five-level seems a little high in order to find out.

Now,  I can think of some objections that an informed reader might put forward.  Here they are.

 

1.  Cherry-picking.

An alert reader might say, "Listen, the Blue Team played 1,752 hands in world championship finals from 1957 to 1972.  You've shown us a handful that are suspect.  Now show us all the hands where the Blue Team went for a number or ended in a stupid contract, after taking similar actions."

My book has been pruned from some 500 pages down to about 400.  There are hundreds of hands, many with actions beyond bizarre, yet almost invariably successful. 

Kleinman:

It is when bad bidding produces good results that cheating must be suspected. When values turn up in unexpected quantities or unexpected places - that is, where not suggested by the bidding - we may hypothesize that these values may have been communicated via illicit signals.

 

As for the showing of counter-hands: Well, I would if I could, but, for all intents and purposes, such hands don't exist, at least when screens were not in use. As Kaplan said (noted earlier):

With few exceptions, they were in the auction when they should be, out of it when they shouldn’t be…

There are exceptions, but they are very few. 

Anders Wirgren*:

A year ago I got a preview of a coming book...

All serious authors and writers know that there is no shortcut to the truth. You have to go to the sources. So after reading Under The Table that is what I did. I went through all my old world championship books, downloaded PDF versions of the books I missed and read it all over – with new eyes...

I am convinced that the Blue Team players signalled their strength... because their timing was always perfect: they overbid when partner had extra values, but underbid when he had nothing. Always.

It is impossible to have such accuracy, unless you know something you shouldn’t.

 

Indeed, I regard the amazing lack of volatility arising from risky Blue Team actions to be quite a give-away.  In my book, I mention the similarity between the Blue Team and Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.  In both cases, experts blew the whistle, saying that such results were impossible over the long-term; the authorities ignored the matter.

 

Moyse wrote:

...for hand-after-hand it was almost uncanny, the way an Italian [during the 1957 Bermuda Bowl] picked out the killing (or if that wasn’t possible, the least costly) lead. 

That applies to all world championships; the opening leads are nothing short of miraculous. While often not anything like the majority expert choice, they almost invariably are just what suits partner best.  How often did a Blue Team player lose a trick on opening lead to a slam, without screens being in use?  Never.

 

But there is no need to take my word for any of that.  You can check for yourself.  This site:

http://www.bridgetoernooi.com/

has the bidding and play records for world championship finals (without screens) for 1957, 1959, 1962, 1967, 1973 and 1974.

This site has the LIN files, should they be  more to your liking:

http://www.sarantakos.com/bridge/vugraph.html

 

--------------------------------------------------

* The quotes are from an article in that was published in the Swedish Bridge Federation's membership magazine, "Bridge" (No. 1, 2018).  I have an English translation and can post it if there seems to be interest.

2.  What about all the magnificent hands in Forquet's "Bridge with the Blue Team"?  Are these not evidence of bridge genius?

Here's a funny fact: Siniscalco, D'Alelio and Chiaradia won 22 world championships.  How many of these hands appear in Forquet's book? 

One - the first hand of the book, where Chiaradia takes a clearly-inferior line to make 6.  A section of my book discusses why we should have concerns about the fidelity* of this deal.

After all those world championships, Forquet was unable to come up with one legitimate print-worthy deal that any of those three played.  That's no surprise to me: They weren't very good players.  In my opinion, the Blue Team only ever had two truly world-class players: Belladonna and Garozzo.

In the introduction to "Bridge with the Blue Team", Forquet writes:

All the hands used arose in actual competition and are faithfully and accurately reported.

In my book, a chapter, "Forquet's Deal Falsification and Plagiarism", shows that Forquet had no business saying any such thing.

 

3.  If all this is true, why hasn't someone else written a similar work, analyzing Blue Team actions?

Good question.  My book discusses this in a chapter, "Why Now?"  An extract:

Part of the answer may be in the work-load; poring over many hundreds of deals is quite a chore and typing up hand diagrams is tedious**. But I suspect the real answer is that to demonstrate that world bridge has been corrupt for several*** decades would have been plus de trop; too many people would simply refuse to accept such a proposition and potential authors feared being pooh-poohed and sneered at, à la John Swanson and Bobby Wolff.

What changed the public mindset to being much more willing to entertain the idea of wide-spread high-level cheating was Boye Brogeland’s 2015 release of video-based evidence showing the cheating of top European pairs. As I wrote in chapter 1:

It can no longer be considered a laughable delusion to suppose that world-class pairs have engaged in formal collusion to cheat at the bridge table. It is fact.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------

* Another suspect Chiaradia deal is from the 1960 Olympiad, Italy vs USA Vanderbilt 2, where B J Becker failed in 6, after finessing and losing to a bare king with:

A Q J 9 8 2 opposite 7 5.

Chiaradia dropped the bare king; his "reasoning", when asked why, is gibberish.

When I first saw this deal, I thought that Chiaradia just didn't know any better; the suit was too hard for him to work out.

Alan Truscott, in a New York Times article, supplied a different reason: an Angolista.

 

** I see that prisoners in US jails are organising a strike, protesting about being paid cents per day for their labour.  I am considering organising a similar movement for bridge book authors.

 

*** Parts of the book consider the case of the Austrian team of the late 1930s.

4. If all this is true, why didn't the authorities do something?

The topic of the inaction of the authorities (WBF, ACBL, EBL and FIB/FIGB) in response to many grave problems, is discussed at length in my book. It is clear that an unofficial WBF policy of cover-ups (in Ortiz-Patiño's words, "minimize the scandal") was firm policy from 1958 onwards.

 

1958:  All members of the losing US Bermuda Bowl team signed a declaration stating that the Bliue Team players were cheats. The ACBL did nothing. The ACBL did not ask the newly-formed WBF to investigate. A cover-up.

 

1963:  A letter from Italian experts, detailing the Blue Team's cheating methods, was read out to all NPCs and journalists at the 1963 Bermuda Bowl in St Vincent, Italy. The WBF did nothing and no journalist ever reported on the matter. A cover-up.

 

1975:  Bruce Keidan, a US journalist, was the monitor for a match of round one of the qualifying, 1975 Bowl - Italy vs France. He recorded six hands where Facchini and Zucchelli, members of the Italian team, used foot signals under the screens.

Ortiz-Patiño:

The World Bridge Federation resolved that Facchini and Zucchelli be severely reprimanded for improper conduct...

...in the absence of any concrete proof against the Italians I felt I could not vote that they were cheating...

Keidan observed six boards that involved foot-tapping. Two are known; boards 3 and 7. The details of board 7 leaked out via an Oswald Jacoby column; this deal shows evidence of the use of an illicit signal. None of the six boards appear in the Official Handbook or the Bulletins.

 

At no time did the WBF answer these questions:

What are the other four board numbers?

What are the details of the other five boards?

 

Has this information been suppressed on the grounds that cheating was apparent? 

If Facchini and Zucchelli were not cheating, why were they barred from future WBF events? 

If they were cheating, why was this finding not made public and why were they allowed to resume their partnership in Italy*?

 

1976:  Leandro Burgay handed a tape to FIB (Italian Bridge Federation) that detailed cheating methods used by Forquet, Belladonna, Bianchi (Forquet's Bermuda Bowl partner, 1973-1974) and more Blue Team players.

Ortiz-Patiño:

I understood the tape well and was in little doubt of its authenticity, the background noises and such like being thoroughly convincing... In places, my jaw literally dropped. The media would have loved it: smoke signals, pauses, commonplace words with coded meanings... Burgay told me his partner had gone into hiding

The WBF demanded an enquiry and a report. 850 days later, FIB had done nothing other than produce baseless exonerations. There is evidence that FIB doctored the tape in order to insert false exonerating statements by Bianchi. The matter vanished via a truly astounding statement from the WBF President regarding "necessary administrative changes" and ignoring the question of cheating entirely.

Ortiz-Patiño:

We all felt thoroughly convinced that the WBF and FIB could go forward together in the spirit of reconciliation. The WBF was now able to write to the new FIB President withdrawing the threat of suspension

 

At no time did FIB or the WBF ever answer these questions:

Did the tape detail cheating methods of the Blue Team, or did it not?

Did FIB ever produce a report?

If so, where is it and what does it say? 

What did the tape say?

Who has a copy of the tape or a transcript thereof?

What happened to the copy that was handed to the WBF Executive Council?

 

More information about these events, especially about the Burgay Tape, is found in my book.

 

5. Do any top-class authorities share these views?

There are some endorsements from leading players in my book. Here are two extracts:

 

Bart Bramley:

A page-turner on the controversial subject of Blue Team cheating. Regardless of your previous opinion (if any), you will find Wilsmore’s arguments compelling and his conclusions provocative. This is the most thorough deal-by-deal examination ever done.

 

Anders Wirgren:

When I took up bridge in the late 1960’s, the Italian Blue Team impressed me immensely. I never understood how they could find so many extraordinary bids and plays which nobody else could match, so I supposed they knew something an amateur like myself did not. After reading Avon’s well-researched book, I understand why I was so perplexed back then. Read it yourself and you will find out why the Italians were so successful!

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

* Facchini-Zucchelli won the 1984 Italian Open Teams with D'Alelio & Pabis Ticci!

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