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A champion and a friend (interview with Giulio Bongiovanni)

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Hi Giulio, I would like to start our talk remembering the many high points in your career as a bridge player. Well, as you know, I am the captain of the Miroglio sponsored team based in Alba, for whom I have been playing for close to two decades. A special partnership has born between us and a couple of Polish players thanks to the mediation of the now departed Italo Santià. He was a professional player who played for the Lavazza Team and taught me to play bridge.

 When we decided we wanted to compete at a higher level, naturally, I turned to Santià and he introduced me to Apek Kowalski. Besides our bridge interests, I have with Apek a real friendship: We have built a team that has, with a little luck, done very well. We won several events: Venice, Milan, Monaco and especially dear to my heart was the bronze medal at the First European Open at Menton, followed up by the result at Tenerife, winning the silver, losing to the Dutch national team in the final. Recently at the Sanremo European Open, 2009, as we have aged just a little, we played in the Senior tournament with the inclusion of Buratti and Comella – our Italian-Polish team won the gold medal.

As well as Kowalski you have often play with Jacek Romanski.

Sure, Jacek and I have enjoyed good results. In Tenerife we reached the final session playing against the strongest players in the world. Then we played at the World Championships in Verona where we were after two thirds of the tournament in 4th place: unfortunately I contracted pneumonia from the air-conditioning and I had to leave the table for the hospital!
Because of your record in international events, BBO gave you the honour of a star, an honour bestowed upon those players who have represented their country. However do you not like to play om BBO with your  official ‘uniform’ preferring the curious nickname of  “Cecia” . It’s the nickname of your ex-wife…
Yes, my first account on bbo was ‘bgiulio’ and for my ex-wife I created an account using the nom the plum “Cecia” she never used. So i started using it with my friends and now they recognize me as Cecia.
But now everybody knows who is behind Cecia..
Not everyone! Some think that I’m a woman… LOL

I wonder why you have this reluctance to play without the star.

The star indicates a category, it’s a virtual thing. What’s most important is being able to play at a consistently high level, never easy.

When I first met you on BBO, I sent you an invitation to a special event organised by our web tv “RadioBridgeindiretta” and Rosalba Carbonetti, the Director of the Monday BBO Italia Tournament and President of “Amici del bridge online” Club. An event devoted to Norberto Bocchi, one of the champions who has always shown great willingness and kindness to our initiatives. You readily accepted, having known of our web radio and Mrs.Rosalba: now you are a member of her club and participate regularly in our tournaments and also at our meetings. Could you tell us a little about this experience?

I was immediately intrigued by your initiatives and especially by Mrs. Rosalba, who I have since had the pleasure to know personally: a women who is truly exquisite and passionate in whatever she does, she is mythic… a legend indeed! I work all day and in the evening I like to spend a few hours of joy with a carefree manner on BBO: I am delighted by this fine group of people who have come together online to play and by their fun activities. A friend of mine, “bennix”, told me about the last meeting of the club. I decided to go and I was really glad I did: I met some very nice people and I really enjoyed it, but above all – I hope – I have also given the group my complete availability. It’s ‘clear that professional bridge is another thing, but, as i just said, I have been really happy because I have had the chance to meet some interesting people.

As you know the club’s motto is: “Rosalba’s friends who ALSO play bridge.” Its purpose is to have the opportunity for socialise. It seems to me that you have embraced the spirit of the club. Through our initiatives we want to also bring the champions and professional players to the public and vice versa. In our tournaments amateur players have the chance to play with great professional players like you.

I think it’s interesting for amateurs to play with the professionals and I must say I really like the web radio, I find it very amusing. Playing bridge on BBO can be overly virtual: The web radio is a nice initiative because it is ‘live’ and therefore more interesting.

You are indeed a very social and gregarious person, you like to mix with people and are always available, and have a friendly manner. Unlike some players on BBO, you do not boast of your honours and in no way could you be described as a bridge snob.

Good players have a duty to the game and the many participates, it is the interested amateur that is the life blood of our game, this beautiful game we love to play. Professionals owe a large debt of gratitude to the players who turn up at many events, at the very least we owe them our respect, really, they are to be cherished. It is they who embody the true spirit of the game.
  In an interview recently, Fantoni said:

Even though I am a professional bridge player, and play with the greatest commitment that I can muster to competitive bridge, I believe it’s also my duty to promote bridge at all levels and in all its forms, therefore not necessarily competitive, but above all, as a game and as a social and formative activity.”

Fantoni, with incredible enthusiasm always participates in our initiatives, and has a mission to make bridge a’ popular’ sport. Do you agree with his point of view?

Fulvio, is a myth: there are not two Fulvio’s! Certainly I agree. I know him and I can tell you that even in fierce competition he is a friendly person and never wishing to take an unfair advantage. I do believe that he such a willing participate to these initiatives in which you and Rosalba involves him because it so important to what he believes.

Another star that is often present in our tournaments is your great partner, Apek Kowalsky. I wonder if Apek understands Italian and has captured the spirit of our group …

If he did not understand Italian, he would die! I have been speaking Italian with him for twenty years: I guarantee you that he speaks it very well! He understands perfectly the spirit of your initiatives: in fact, like me, when Apek plays at Rosalba’s tournaments, at the table he is never ‘condescending’ to people. Clearly Apek and me play Rosalba ‘s tournaments in a spirit of friendship and fun, not to win.

Yeah, but then you win very often …

We’re a pair that play together in professional competitions and have a precise system. So we have an advantage: we know defence signals and hardly give any tricks to opponents. We have some technical advantages over other amateur players, and it is quite normal for us to score 70%+.

Which system do you and Apek play?

A natural five card major system with several gadgets.

What are your next commitments ?

I’m going to Salsomaggiore for the mixed pairs with Mrs Rosa Tamburelli.

So good luck to you and Rosa, your very good pard!


by Laura Camponeschi
November 11, 2010


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