Lorenzo Lauria, let’s start by talking about your new sponsor Romain Zaleski and your future participation in the Italian championships with Cannottieri Roma. Exactly, Zaleski has founded a new club but there is an agreement with this Roman team that will permit us, as Team Zaleski, to participate in the Spring championships.
Therefore Zaleski’s initiative gives rise to a new very strong pole able to contrast the two big Italian sponsors, Angelini and Lavazza?
Very strong? Well let’s say that first of all there are us, Lauria and Versace, who previously were in the Angelini team. And as before, Versace played not only with me but also with Angelini, now he will play with the new sponsor. We also have Valerio Giubilo who will be my partner when Versace plays with Zaleski. As you see we must always make room for the needs of the sponsor. And Zaleski is in any event a good player. Soon we will be going to Vilnius in Lithuania, this tournament will represent a sort of experiment for us.
Can you also anticipate the third pair of the team?
Certainly, for the Italian championships we have contacted Intonti (from Rome) and D’Avossa (from Milan). The rest is still to be decided, the contribution of Intonti and D’Avossa for the moment is tied only to the Italian championships.
It seems a very competitive team ..
Let’s hope so!
Do you know how the Angelini team will prepare for the Italian championships?
I know that they were contacting a Norwegian pair but frankly I don’t know any more at this moment. There will be news soon.
I don’t think a pair like Lauria/Versace is easy to find ..
That’s what you say.
Basically the Angelini team without you will be weakened?
That depends on whom they take on. If they get a couple of the caliber of Helgemo/Helness for example, I would say that it would be a highly competitive team. However I repeat I don’t have definite information nor indiscretions to give you.
Does the participation of the new Zaleski team mean the end of the “duopoly” Lavazza/Angelini?
I think it will undoubtedly make the Italian championships more interesting. You see we are an unknown quantity, the Angelini team depends on the third pair (the pair replacing Lauria/Versace), the Lavazza team on the other hand is the one which has remained intact and therefore should be a favorite for the next championships.
Regarding the Lavazza team, at the European championships you had occasion to see the “recently” formed pair Bocchi/Madala close at hand: what impression did you get?
At the beginning I was not very optimistic. I didn’t like them much in previous competitions, but now I must say that at the European championships objectively they were the best pair.
Even better than Lauria/Versace?
As regards results, yes. You see the results may depend on many factors: on the hands you get, on the opponents, on your form. It’s not surprising if a pseudo new couple like Bocchi/Madala obtains the best results. However they are very strong players, it’s no surprise.
On the other hand, the pair Sementa/Duboin was a bit deluding?
Deluding no. Let’s say they played below expectations. But even Versace and I didn’t play at our top. If all the pairs had played their best, not only would we have won but we would have exceeded everyone and won at least one turn earlier than we did.
On the other hand, what happened against Croatia?
Maybe we were a bit relaxed, convinced that it was not an influential game. It was played a bit superficially.
Is it true that in this circumstance you were a bit …angry?
It’s normal. Following the game on BBO you can become a bit nervous because you realize that your team companions are not facing up to the game as well as they could, you understand what’s happening and you would like to intervene in some way. I then asked them to be more careful. On paper it seemed to be an unimportant game, instead because of a series of results and because of the formula, it became significant.
Now let’s come to a thornier subject: your “divorce” from Francesco Angelini’s team, who was not only your sponsor but also one of your best friends. How did this separation come about?
Angelini carried out a policy which Versace and I did not agree with 100 per cent. He is a very exigent person and demands maximum loyalty from his bridge group. There were some contrasts. Angelini entered into contrast with the Federation, questioning the role of Ms. Lavazza as Technical Director, and he wanted selections to be carried out. From his point of view he was not wrong, let’s be clear.
Does the exclusion of the Fantunes pair enter into this?
No, this isn’t the problem. Angelini protested also against his own exclusion. Angelini likes to play and in the last few years he always has won a lot, therefore he expected a chance with selections. He didn’t demand to be convened, but he wanted selections.
This divorce from Angelini however arose with the convening of the European championship team which he didn’t like. Did he ask you for solidarity with the team?
This in any event later. I repeat, Angelini didn’t want Ms. Lavazza to carry out the role of Technical Director, while he favoured selections.
And why did this lead to the divorce?
Angelini wanted us all to support him in this battle which he intended to carry out against the Federation. At this point however, Fantoni and Nunes foreseeing that they would not be convened, decided to support Angelini. On the contrary Alfredo and I let it be understood that for us to refuse the national team would be a great sacrifice. That was sufficient. An unpleasant climate was created which obliged us, in a certain way, to change teams.
Were you discharged by Angelini, or did you resign?
It’s the same thing, we were put in a condition in which it was no longer fitting for us to be on that team. A climate different from the previous one was created and for us it was no longer opportune to stay. In addition Angelini was more annoyed with Versace who was his partner: there were no longer the elements to continue to play together. Finally an agreement was reached, resignation from the contract was negotiated. But I repeat, Versace and I were put in a into a difficult position by Angelini’s policy, perfectly legitimate from his point of view, because if we look at the team results Angelini has won everything in the last few years. But for us it was not practical. I am 63 but Versace is only 40, he is much younger than me. How can you enter into contrast with the Federation and renounce playing on the national team? Not to play on the national team would have meant a loss of image and also of money, and a devaluation on the market. You see the value of our pair depends also on the results we obtain, as well as the tournaments in which we participate. It’s quite a complex thing. Not to go on the national team would have damaged our image, and also damaged us financially.
Is it true there wasn’t a relationship of great friendship between you two and the Fantunes?
Consider that Fantoni doesn’t do the same thing we do. He doesn’t only do competitive bridge, he does commercial bridge.
What does “commercial bridge” mean?
Fantoni organizes and participates in various manifestations and in the past years he has somewhat neglected the competitive aspect. He hasn’t dedicated the time he should have to improving his system, often he is not present at the team’s training sessions. Let’s say that Versace and I have taken them to task for neglecting the team in favor of their own interests. In these years we have complained about the Fantunes’ behavior. Up to the point that their interests did not affect ours, it was tolerable. But we began to see that their results worsened and that often they made mistakes, and that they didn’t study to improve their system which we thought lacking, and for this I believe we lost some competitions…
I must stop you: what competitions do you mean?
On the national level the Fantunes have always had good results, I am referring to team tournaments. You asked me about friendship within the Angelini team and I am explaining why our relationship was not idyllic. We took them to task about lacking in seriousness, and they were annoyed. That’s all. I repeat, there is nothing else. If you devote yourself to another activity, you can’t do competitive bridge. Or at least, you neglect important aspects such as studying and improving your system continually. Someone who has another activity, tied to bridge but which is a different form of professional bridge, according to me over time will surely lose something. This was the cause of dissension. Our disapproval fractured the relationship.
You however not only leave a sponsor, but also a friend, Francesco Angelini.
We are friends on a personal basis, we call each other often. Mine is not the breaking up of a friendship, it’s only an incompatibility which arose on a bridge level, an incompatibility which was more with Versace, but I play with Versace and therefore … But on a personal level we are still in contact, we call each other often, recently I was at Francesco’s home.
At this point I submit to you a part of an interview recently granted to Jan van Cleef for MPI Bridge Magazine, which will soon be published also on line by the new magazine which Van Cleef has founded with Eric Rodwell.
JvC: Still, Lauria-Versace are, like you, members of Team Angelini. Why did Mrs. Lavazza pick them and not you?
Fantunes: Several reasons play a role. First of all, Lauria-Versace were fired by Francesco (Angelini, the other big Italian sponsor; JvC). They now are members of Team Lavazza. Secondly, Alfredo Versace always had close links with the Lavazza group. He was born in Torino (the home town of Mrs. Lavazza), and – as a junior – he played with Bocchi and Sementa. And last but not least, there was never good chemistry between Lauria-Versace and us. Though we played on the same team (Angelini), you could hardly call us friends.
How would you comment this?
How can you ask why they took us and didn’t take them? What reasons can there be? We are a much stronger pair and much more successful, that’s all. The rest are idiocies. In fact these declarations shock me: they are declarations of ingrates because apart from what I stated before, we have always defended and we have also been on the side of the Fantunes. We brought them into our group and we made them win, we took them to win in the national and we have in the past helped them with Angelini. I really didn’t expect these words. I find the Fantunes’ statements superficial, because I think they owe us a lot and that considering what Versace and I have won, the Fantunes shouldn’t even feel they are in competition with us. And I must point out one colossal error: now we are with the Lavazza team? We played with Lavazza many years ago, now as you well know we play with the Zaleski Team.
Lauria, your statements are quite strong.
It’s what I think.
Now it only remains for me to thank you for the time you have given us, and say, good luck for your coming bridge adventures.
Good luck to you too for your editorial initiatives.
by Laura Camponeschi ( translated by Carol Sims)
September 9, 2010