Giorgio Duboin, you are now number three in the world ranking, but how important is this ranking? Personally I have never done anything to climb the peak: I mean I never played mixed or pairs championships. I have come there almost exclusively with the points made in the national open team and then it’s something that makes me feel very indifferent.
The ranking is very dependent on how many matches a player runs off: for me only the European and World Championships are very important. I think the pairs tournaments something uncertain or random, so I dedicate my time and my bridge mainly to the team competitions.
But is this ranking important for the economic value of a professional player or is it just an image?
The economic value of a player depends on other factors: for example by the continuity over time and the value of the pair, the individual counts for nothing or very marginally. The experts know very well the real value of players regardless of ranking position.
So, what’s the real value of Duboin and Sementa, who can be considered a “new” pair?
I’m very satisfied of our pair who enters now in its third year of partnership. At the beginning of course there were some difficulties with Antonio, also because I had never played with him before. We need some more time to see this pair at the best, but it seems to me that we are getting better and better. We had a satisfactory exploit at the Beijing Olympics where we played very well: Anyway I have to say that everything went very well in that circumstance, but the value of a pair can be measured just when things don’t go that well. We are not yet as a puller pair but we are not definitively the ones who spoil the team. Our ‘ top ‘ is never very high though our ‘ low ‘ is always in reasonable limits. There are players instead with very big gap between high and low performances .
Everybody knows that your quality is regularity. But playing with Sementa is so difficult? I ask you since Mrs. Lavazza said: ”Sementa is a very good player but doesn’t have an easy temper; It isn’t easy to combine with him”. (read Lavazza’s interview)
I can confirm it: Playing with Sementa is not that easy. We have a completely different vision of bridge: Toni would like to win the top of all hands, which is impossible. When something goes wrong he gets nervous. For me playing bridge you can’t consider the results hand by hand: a good pair and a good player should do at least five or ten-year balance. A negative or a successful tournament are irrelevant, the point is being constant and improving over time. I really believe that the key to success in the world of bridge is to be always at the top with a constant level of performance. I’m not an astonishing player, but in my career I have always given good returns. I usually play better when then the opportunity counts. Antonio, irrespective of the importance of the tournament, would like to make top all hands. And when it doesn’t happen, he gets anxious: this is just one of the things we have been working on lately. Quarrelling at the table and nervousness are attitudes that are changing from time to time. Sementa is a difficult player because He is very talented: He makes things always thinking that the pard should understand; even if a situation has never been discussed, He makes what He thinks right at the time not considering pard does not understand. The pair’s strength lies in discussing all situations and not inventing anything at the table. Anyway a pair must have a playing style allowing the pard, even in a new situation, to foresee and understand the behavior of the other. That is not improvise. We are working on this. Sementa is not a difficult pard because He makes strange things: He certainly has “little personal” style in the game, if we want to find a defect in Toni!
But it’s because Sementa is an artist !
He is a real artist, while I am a more regular player: now we are assembling very well, indeed our performance in the last period has been very good.
About couples, whenever I seek on your divorce from Norberto Bocchi everybody tells that this is a natural happening.
For me Norberto was a great pard and an outstanding player. The reason of our divorce really is endemic. We played 18 years in a row: we did a lot of effort in the first few days of our partnership, it was not easy to find a system. Little by little, we have created our bridge on which we worked hard and for long. At a certain moment, after 3-4 years, things started to go better and better. In 1995 we became a really strong pair, we improved for many years getting to top between 2000 and 2004 (I mean from Maastricht to Istanbul). Then we did not go wrong but we did not improve any longer. There was a bit of fatigue, the system was ok, playing together had become a sort of routine but the results were lowering, not so much in important occasions but throughout the year there were periods of fatigue in the pair. Then, there was the double opportunity to find Sementa available and Agustin looking for a pard. I think we made the best choice. Augustin and Toni couldn’t play together: they had tried but they did not menage. They are two players who cannot be together. We decided to change in order to find new stimuli and to strengthen the team and I am convinced that we did the right thing: the pair Bocchi – Duboin could not longer do better then better, now we have two strong pairs and in sure constant improvement.
Without regrets then this divorce?
Absolutely no regrets. Because there was no quarrel but the divorce was a shared choice. Perhaps we had good results but our bridge was no longer the stellar one and a discordant note began to be in the air. The interruption of our partnership certainly caused a personal crisis to both of us: we had to start again, but we also had a new impetus and now we are playing, as individuals, better than how we had done in the last period together. Today we have both discovered new motivations, interests, a new pard. Good results have come and all this has made us feel even younger. I trust in these two newly formed pairs.
Let’s now talk about Norberto and Madala.
It is coming out a good pair. I think Norberto is the only one that can teach Madala: but I do not mean the technique, because technically nobody can teach anything to Agustin. He is a really extraordinary player. His problems are instead experience and personality. He is very impulsive, He immediately fires, sometimes is ticklish but these are defects due to his age. Norberto instead doesn’t love the discussion at the table, He willingly discusses about the system but does not love controversy: this is useful for Madala. When Augustin came here He was very controversial at the table and always aggressive with his pard: Now he is grown and behaves as a high category player must do. However I understand him because we all have been young. I am glad I played with the world biggest champions. I had to face their very strong and aggressive personality. When Agustin came here He behaved like a “cocky man”… Norberto is not as aggressive as the old Blue Team were but at the same time he makes himself respected . Their pair works very well not only from the human point of view but also from the game point of view. I feel fine with Toni as well.
The formation of these two new pairs caused some problems in the National team selection process. The exceptional proliferation of champions that we have in Italy has led to the exclusion of somebody. I refer of course to Fantoni and Nunes — number one and two of the world ranking. In his last interview Fulvio proudly reaffirms his record.
Honor where honour is due!
Do you think the controversy surrounding the team selection had any effect on your performance in Ostend after?
Absolutely not. Playing with a new pair was more stimulating for us, so no regrets on that score. Bocchi – Madala played very well and we all appreciated their performance. Unfortunately in bridge you can only play with a team of six. If we could play with eight, we would probably be still stronger.
On Neapolitan Club, Mrs Lavazza clarified her reasons: essentially trying a new pair to reinforce the Italian team. Fundamentally Mrs. Lavazza claims her selection was optimal for the Italian Team.
We all share Lavazza’s rationale, though I have avoided the fray surrounding the controversy. Personally, I have a good relationship with all the players I have played with at the National level. There were differences between some players and this is definitely not good for team morale. Bringing a much younger player into the team worked well.
In your opinion, was there any exaggeration in the furore relating to ‘Fantunes’ exclusion? I mean, this exclusion may have been overplayed by their fans. Many people have not considered this exclusion like just a routine rotation of the team, and Mr. Angelini himself stressed the unacceptable conflict of interest. (read Angelini’s statments)
Sponsors should do sponsorship, and deal with their team. The National team is the National team and I don’t see why a sponsor should get involved. If the national football coach calls up a player from Inter rather than from AC Milan there is no problem. The CT chooses what’s the best according to him or her. If a team experiences a loss of form then we can blame the coach, if the team does well we can say he or she has chosen wisely, and there should be little controvesy.
The victory of Ostend did not quieten down the furore…
Mrs. Lavazza won because she made the best choice. It’s very different looking at things from the outside, playing bridge on BBO, or being in a team. Many things must work, at different levels, or the team becomes increasingly dysfunctional. The three pairs must get along, they should play in rotation so as to not create an imbalance, their must be trust… There are many factors difficult to explain. People expect to see the same names in the major tournaments, but this is not always the case.
You say: the sponsor must make the sponsor and the CT must make the CT. But this is the problem, if a sponsor is also the CT, can we talk about conflict of interest?
This is the tale of the Fox and the Grapes! It’s the one thing that I hate.
As we confirmed with Mrs Lavazza, a complaint has been submitted to the Italina Olimpic Committee, highlighting the conflict of interest. Mrs. Lavazza, is one of the biggest Italian sponsors, and is also the coach of the national team. Did Mrs. Lavazza have a bias towards her own players?
I find this really absurd. We played for 12 years in a national team with 4 players from Angelini; Fantoni, Nunes, Lauria, Versace and even before that, Buratti and Lanzarotti (when they played with the Angelini team). And even Angelini himself was twice in the national team: is it not enough? Now tell me has Mrs. Lavazza really shown a bias. It’s a ridiculous accusation to make. Mrs. Lavazza has always done what she thinks is best for the national team. For 12 years She called up upon four players from Rome and two from Turin: if now She calls up 4 players from Turin and two from Rome I don’t see a scandal. I repeat, a conflict of interest is a ridiculous charge.
Do these controversies hurt Italian bridge?
They do, but are one-sided. Making controversy or a war takes two sides. Here there is only one person attacking and another that says nothing, at most she defends, telling sensible words. I think that the controversy should end there. The position of Mrs. Lavazza and of players was initially not to comment on the affair.
Many people complained about a lack of communication. But when I called Mrs. Lavazza to respond to the accusations, I must say that she was available and forthcoming with her views, and with great clarity.
Sure. But She was not obliged to do so. Nobody has to explain their decisions in other sports. The couches make the choices they think are best for the team. Those that are making the fuss, I repeat, are totally one-sided. I think I can say this on behalf of the entire team: we have absolutely nothing personal against Fantoni-Nunes nor against Mr Angelini. But we feel under siege from them, after a while, we feel the need to defend ourselves!
After my interview with Mrs. Lavazza, I asked Mr. Angelini for a reply. He took the opportunity and told – his point is clear- that there is an overt and unacceptable conflict of interest. At the same time, we have been given confirmation that a complaint has been submitted to the Olimpic Committee on the position of Mrs. Lavazza… It seems to me that the temperature of the dispute is rising.
As you know, Mrs. Lavazza did not sue Mr Angelini. If he wants to attack Mrs Lavazza and the players, so be it.
What do you think will happen?
I cannot say. I am focusing on playing bridge. As I have played in the national team for many years, i can say this: the Italian team that played in Ostend, was affable and supportive, it was really an enjoyable event, and we had good results. When I played in a team with Fantoni and Nunes we also had good results. The atmosphere was also good. Sometimes they played more, sometimes we did. This decision depends on the status and on the form of the players. We never had problems playing with them. It is clear however that playing in a team with Mr. Angelini is something slightly more challenging.
With Angelini there are always problems in the team. In Pau eventually left us play in four. And then, for obvious reasons: Angelini is a good player but definitely not a player who can compete at the very highest level.
In addition to the conflict of interest, Angelini criticises the selection process of the the players, asserting a meritocratic approach, much the same way his businesses are run. Do you wish to comment?
Let’s see what happens in the US: The trials are an economic issue because the various sponsors compete for the best players. When the best teams do not win, then the USA plays in World championships or the Olympiad making a token appearance role rather than being a major competitor. It has happened several times in the past few years. Many other countries have abandoned the trials system because as a bridge team they are not cohesive. Pairs trials can cause problems in the formation of a team. The best trials technically are teams trials and they may work, they are fine if there is a strict criteria and immediately before a Championships. A pair or a team can win the trials in October and not play so well in June. In bridge form is quite a delicate thing. In fact the national teams are usually decided a couple of months beforehand.
About form, I am curious: why do you not willingly play in the morning?
It is true. Because go to sleep late throughout the year so I never wake up early. If possible, I prefer not to play in the morning. I repeat, it is important to have a team where the various pairs are fully interchangeable and are in agreement. I can also play in the morning, if called upon, but my performance is better if I play in the afternoon.
Thank you because you have been very clear on some points …
The points are simple, in fact, the controversy is one-sided. If they had bothered to ask us, the four players (Sementa, Duboin, Versace, Lauria), we’d have all chosen in a heartbeat to play with Madala and Bocchi rather than with any other players.
And could Fantoni and Nunes play next Bermuda Bowls?
It could well happen. As we’ve won the Europeans I think it is only right that the same team play World championships. But for the future I see no problem. People unfortunately talks without knowing the facts. From the outside things can look very different than they do from the inside. There are players who have public support, but at this time, if I had been asked to be the CT, I would have made the same decisions as Mrs Lavazza.
I have the impression that Fantoni and Nunes are currently isolated from other National Team. I find amongst other players friendship and mutual support. This surprises me, because Fantoni is a very popular player and is a person known for being friendly and affable: I have the impression that there is not great harmony between him and other national team players.
Actually when Fantoni and Nunes played in the National team, they always behaved very well: I am not talking about technique now, but about relationship. It is not correct to say they are isolated: They tend to isolate themselves if anything. For example, we go to restaurant together, they prefer to relax in the hotel. Small things like this. They are a bit bashful and reserved, especially Fulvio: When he plays at international events he tends not to participate in the social life. Claudio is a bit more involved. On the other side, If you ask me about the friendship between players in the current national team, I can tell you that we are all friends and we have known each others for 30 years. Apart Madala, who is mere youngster, but he lived for more than a year in my house and I am very fond of him. I saw Alfredino [Versace, n.d.r.] growing up; I played with Norberto for twenty years, and had met him ten years before that; I played many times with Lorenzo in the 70 ‘s-80 when I was the prodigy and he was already a great champion. Therefore there is amongst us a definite friendship, but above all there is much much much esteem and respect.
But, I do not think this friendship and esteem are extended to Fantunes too.
This in not the situation at all. As I tried to explain to you before, that other people failed to understand, the “famous players” cannot always be the best solution for a team. Let me refer you to the most popular sport in Italy, football. There is a no champion or a star that can win alone: sometimes less showy players can make a better the team. Teammates know whom they truly need and who can give something useful over time. For this I do not give importance to world rankings. Of course if you are the number one, or two or three or even tenth in the world raking you have reached an important level, but what really counts is the esteem and the value that is given to you by professional experts. Very few can assess how Lauria or Versace play: only Rodwell, Meckstroth, Levin, Weinstein and a few others can evaluate them. Those at a lower level would make blunders. The value of Versace, Lauria, Bocchi, Sementa, and Duboin is recognized all over the word. Other national players consider us very highly. Fantoni and Nunes are respected as a pair, not so much as individual players. While we are considered very good as individual players.
With regard to you and Sementa some people say you are undisputed champions as individual, but the pair still has not reached its potential.
Becoming a good pair in bridge and getting to the best form takes at least five or six years. It is clear that our potential is greater than the performances which we produced, excluding Beijing where the performance was beyond our expectation. We did not expect to have such results playing together over such a short period of time. Now we are very pleased about our performances. Remember, time in bridge is really very slow.
Your pair created much excitement in the final of the Italian team club championships in Bologna this year: bidding 5 Club on the last hand, you won the tournament by a single imp, after being at one point -70. Tell me what you were thinking at the time, your thinking during the bidding and the play?
The problem was to bid the final contract. Making the contract was a matter of chances and we played the hand for those. The contract was not on ice. We had good fortune. Anyway even if we had a little luck in this board, I have to say during all the match luck was absolutely not on our side. Sementa and I played very well in Bologna, and in Philadelphia. These days, i am very satisfied with our performance. The style of playing i have with Sementa doesn’t allow us to make constant revisions as I did with Norberto when we won with a vantage of 80 points. With Toni this cannot happen, if the opponent doesn’t permit. But the important thing is always making a positive score, playing well and with few errors.
How satisfying was it winning by a single imp on the last hand?
I was very pleased in the circumstances. I find it quite picturesque playing in the Italian Championships against three Norwegians. There was more satisfaction than the other finals: it seemed to be in “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral!”.
Well, you say ‘picturesque’ but as you know there is a complaint submitted by Varese Team and the results have not been approved yet. Can you confirm this?
Sure. We are also awaiting the decision of the CNG (National Tournament Committee) and maybe we will have to play the final again.
Would you be available to replay the finals? Do you willingly play final again?
Why should not I do so? If we won against a team that did not have the right to play it is correct to play against those who were entitled. We must always remember that we are talking about sport. Sometimes I think people forget the basic principles of sport. The results must be on the basis of the weapons at hand. Yes, I will willingly play the final again. I am a very calm person. Personally, over the year I have called the Director at the table at most a couple of times, if an opponent makes a revoke I let them to play the card again. I think bridge is a sport and I want to win in a sporting fashion.
It’s easy to be sporting at your level …
I assure you it is not that easy. Maybe I am one of the few players that…
Let me stop you: you are one of the few players in all senses!!!
(First Part. Read the Second Part>>)
by Laura Camponeschi
Nov 14, 2010
This interview was also translated into Polish language and published on BRYDZ, the famous Polish Bridge magazine directed by Marek Wojcicki: click here to dowload BRYDZ in pdf format >>