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Alfredo Versace remembers Maria Teresa Lavazza

I have known Maria Teresa since I was a child, because I used to spend my summer evenings with her children Giuseppe and Francesca, at my aunt Marisa’s restaurant on the hill, or sometimes in their holiday home in the mountains. When I started playing bridge, Italo Santia spotted my talent and started mentoring me, giving me advice and teaching me the most important things, including how to behave at the table and in life. I was only 15 when Maria Teresa and Italo decided to take me to Italian Championships. We won with Belladonna, Garozzo and Guermani. Initially I was nervous in her presence, but gradually we developed a beautiful relationship.

We had great success as a Lavazza team first and then as the National team. Lavazza was a winner. She encouraged you to be your best; she was a leader. One day I decided to move to Angelini’s team, because I wanted to live in Rome, close to my children, and reduce my commute. These reasons were valid and yet not sufficient to drop her in favour of her main opponent…and she forgave me. Her generosity was second to none.

Our greatest success was the World Championships in Estoril. Ortensi and she got right every single line up; including the crucial final round (against the USA) where she decided to field the youngest pair (Fantoni-Nunes). And what about the Europeans in Ostend, where Maria Teresa insisted on fielding an Argentinian boy who had been living in Italy for a while: this decision was not popular but it proved right. We won thanks to him and all who criticised her shut up. Today, this young boy is considered the best player in the world and I agree: he is Agustin Madala.

Maria Teresa was like that: she was able to spot talent and turn them into champions. From today we will be more lonely: Italian and world bridge alike will miss her. Now I have a dream: to dedicate to her our medal (perhaps the gold one) in the next Championships, together with Massimo Ortensi (her squire, right hand and coach).

Alfredo Versace

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Picture by Elisabeth van Ettinger
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