Federico, can you tell us the line up of the Angelini Team for the upcoming Spring Italian Championships? Which players and what partnerships? This is the line up: Fantoni-Nunes, Garozzo-Cima and Angelini-Primavera, with the possibility of exchanging players within the team, with the exception of Fantoni-Nunes. I have been playing with both Garozzo and Angelini for quite some time and I feel very comfortable with both.
I have a high regard for them as people and consider them friends who I have the greatest respect for, something that is essential for a successful bridge partnership. Francesco Angelini and I have been working on a simple but aggressive system. Playing with Benito the system is, naturally, more sophisticated, a culmination of many years of hard work.
Could you please tell us something about your experience to date with the Angelini team?
The friendship with Francesco dates back to 1987 when I had given up chess for bridge. After a few months, just after turning 17, I joined the junior squad. Francesco had it in mind to build a very strong bridge team, a project that came to fruition several years later. I did not enter immediately into the team. The line up was more or less complete and consisted of well-established players. When Antonio Sementa, my former junior partner, took the road to professionalism and formed a very successful partnership with Francesco Angelini. In 2000/01 I played a few times for the Angelini team in several tournaments teaming up with Garozzo and Nunes. Then Fulvio Fantoni, who chose to become a professional player returned to the team to play with Claudio Nunes. Both before 2000 and after 2001, I had many work commitments that kept me away from Rome and bridge. For the past four years I have been coming up to speed, with regular training sessions with both Francesco and Benito, with whom I often practice with on the Internet.
Your team lines up the mythic Garozzo: can you tell us something on your trainings? An anecdote?
Of anecdotes there are too many. Benito is for me a great friend and a father, and I think he’s the greatest genius of all times in bridge, and, also, a brilliant man in life and very funny. Since decades (I don’t know how many), he dedicates most time to bridge, and still in age of 83 yo he’s searching the best convention for any situation, looking still sure that in bridge it is possible to reach the perfection.n the last 3-4 years we have played very much together, often in Partnership Bidding Room in BBO, bidding hundreds of hands and experimenting, at table, the BF (Benito-Federico) System. It is a ‘Natural’ 5CM, but with very little of natural. About this system, there is a very funny anecdote that I like to tell. When I was junior, Benito (he was the trainer), wrote a ‘natural’ system that Versace called ‘the monster’: it needed a bag, not a folder, to contain its three volumes. The system contained several experimental conventions; between these, one was the sequence 1♦-1M; 3♣…The Opener by this showed solid diamond, but under 17 HCP, and a three card support in the Responder’s major. Two years ago I remembered to Benito this convention, and he replied at once: ‘Who did invent this foolishness?’ And I: ‘You did, Benito: who else, otherwise?’. And he insisted: ‘No, it’s impossible, what are you saying?!’. In brief, I don’t know who invented or who approved, just we today play it. This notwithstanding, every time a convention doesn’t work or it’s too difficult, Benito says: ‘You invented this one’, or, in the best case: ‘you suggested to play this’. At the tenth time he said one of these sentences, I ceased to smile and decided, at least for a little, not to make changes to the system, so if something doesn’t run the fault is him, as he changes twice a day (before and after the meals).
And can you tell us any fine hand played with Angelini?
Also with Francesco Angelini recently happened an analogue hand, very interesting. Vuln vs love, I had:
♠Axx ♥AJxx ♦xx ♣KQxx.
My LHO opened 3♦, Francesco overcalled 4♣, RHO barraged to 5♦, I bid 5NT; this invited Francesco to bid seven if he had diamond void. The opener raised to 6♦ and my partner, that overcalled with an hand not strong but very unbalanced, accepted the invite, but bidding 6♥, his second suit. At this point was easy for me to bid 7♥ over RHO’s 7♦.
The hand of Francesco was: ♠xx ♥KQxx ♦ — ♣AJxxxxx. Playing in 4-4 trump the spade loser vanished.
Can you tell us something about the position of Fantunes? Will they renew their contract with Angelini or will the venture created by Zimmermann for the Monaco national team lead them to say a fond fairwell to their Italian sponsor?
What I can tell you for sure is that Fulvio and Claudio will play in the Angelini team and will take part in several competitions throughout this year. This includes national and international tournaments. What I understand is that they will now play for the Monaco National team in the future, but probably not this year (2011).
The exclusion of Fantunes from the National team that played at the Europeans in Ostend has attracted controversy: Please give us your perspective on what happened?
Fantunes were excluded by Mrs Lavazza, I am not entirely sure why. I do not think it is as simple as it seems. I remember when Maria Teresa Lavazza denied Versace the opportunity to play with me in the European Junior Championship. Mrs. Lavazza, in my view, damaged the Italian Junior National squad, who were one of the favourites to win the title. We had to wait another two years for the return of Versace to win the gold medal under the good offices of President Rona, who had tears for joy after our eventual victory. It had been a long wait for an Italian team to win a World Championship in any catogory. I could make many assumptions about the last-minute changes made by Mrs Lavazza with regards to Fantunes, but It seems clear then that playing in the Angelini team was a crucial factor when it came to selection for the national team, especially when the relationship between the two major Italians sponsors (Lavazza – Angelini) was at such a low ebb. I can assure you that Angelini has done nothing to engender the breakdown in the relationship between the two teams.
But Mrs Lavazza has clearly explained her decision: She referred to the harmony of the team…
I find it a bit hard to justify the exclusion of a pair by referring to the harmony of the team. In the past the most successful national teams have not always been composed of a bunch of bosom buddies. Just think of some of the relationships among the members of the original Blue Team! When I won the first European Junior Championship, there was a team member who was at odds with me. Our relationship improved enough when we played in the MEC tourney few months after. In that competition we finished in second place: One might say that we could have won without the reconciliation, which might have brought us bad luck because, well, to cut a long story short in a national team there are nearly always some disagreements amongst pairs that really has little if no impact on how they actually play. What is important is how well you get along with your partner, no one wants to play with an individual who is unpleasant.
What do you think of the prospect of two of our strongest champions (Nunes and Fantoni) playing for another national team (Monaco)?
I think that if I had to play in a team where Mrs. Lavazza was involved or even if she were visible from a distance, I would rather go to work in the mines. I think Fantunes probably agree with my view, and I therefore consider that the national team of Monaco is a more viable alternative. Their solution is far better than mine, gold instead of coal.
In the upcoming Spring Italian Championship you will meet two very strong teams: Zaleski and Lavazza. Which one do you think will be the more difficult?
Both the Lavazza and the Zaleski teams are very good. The first has the advantage of having no playing sponsor. Morover Lavazza has Agustin Madala, a young player already very strong and improving all the time, and a very talented and mercurial player in Sementa. However, Zaleski has the pair that is theoretically the best, Lauria-Versace. Lorenzo Lauria for several years, in my opinion, is the best Italian player when he is in shape (He actually can do it alone as recently demonstrated in the mixed championships). Fantoni-Nunes (as demonstrated in the final of the Club’s Team Italian Championships when we were ahead by more than 60 imps against Lavazza), I think they are better then any pair in the Lavazza team and right now they are playing even better than they were a few months ago. Fantunes have not really got the results they deserve because their team mates, Helgemo-Helness, in my opinion, are playing far below their best form.
Will you make a forecast for the upcoming Spring Italian Championships?
Lavazza is definitely the favorite. For us, the podium would be a fine achievement because we have not yet had time to train. I’m satisfied with the preparation I have so far achieved with Francesco and with Benito. In addition, the pair Garozzo-Cima is training diligently on the Internet. Although it is very difficult to play with Benito at times, I believe that Leonardo, who has studied the mechanisms of the system, will play better and better as he gains confidence in the bidding. Angelini and I have not had the chance to play every day because bridge is not our core business and we have other work commitments outside of Rome during the week. Nevertheless I think we have formed a good partnership and play a fun aggressive system that has been created by Francesco himself more than 20 years ago. The system was later refined by Versace, Brogeland and myself.
Varese’s complaint which was upheld in the last Italian Club Team Championships against your team: A.S. Angelini resulted in disqualification because of the inclusion of three Norwegian players who did not have the residential qualifications evidently needed. We found it quite strange, how is it possible that Mr Angelini did not know the regulations, or at least without first ascertaining the necessary agreement from the Federation? Tells us the facts as you see them and how Mr Angelini reacted to the news of the disqualification.
A.S. Angelini, to avoid surprises and any doubts, asked the Federation before the players left Rome and Norway for permission to play the three Norwegian players, Helgemo, Helness and Brogeland. From what I understand, the Federation responded that they could play as long as they play only two of the three Norwegians at any one time. A.S. Angelini at this point claimed the high costs of hiring the Norwegians and the team has always played with no more than two Norwegians at the table (so much so that Fantoni and Nunes did not miss a single turn). Then when the complaint of Varese arose and incredibly the suspension was imposed. I can not understand how one can allow players to travel from Norway, allow them to play, and then disqualify the team. The thing that saddens me most about this was that the protest only arose after the event, when we were actually playing against Lavazza, at the time,we were 60 imps ahead, with two sessions to go. Lavazza, as you well know , then went on to win by only one Matchpoint!
In your BBO profile you say you are a reader of Neapolian Club. We are very happy to read this, of course. What are the things that you value most about Neapolitan Club? And conversely what is it you dislike most about our publication. What suggestions would you give to our staff to improve the product?
I’ve always liked those magazines in which you are free to express your views without fear of censorship and it is a good thing that people know what is actually happening in Italian bridge. This is much more important than a technical article on a double squeeze. Doubtless, all can always be improved, but the publication you offer to bridge players is at present not only of a high quality but also refreshingly different.
Laura Camponeschi for BridgeTopics.com (2011, 27 April)