Antonio Sementa talks about… (interview)

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Antonio Sementa, let me start by congratulating you on your Reisinger Cup victory. It’s a major event, I think it represents an important moment for your partnership with Giorgio Duboin. I have now been playing for close to three years with Giorgio, and we have enjoyed many successes: I would say that this victory is especially important since I have only recently joined the Jimmy Cayne team.

 Is there a special moment from the Reisinger that you can share with us?

As a tournament it is relatively short, unlike most Nationals it lasts only three days. We came very close to being eliminated on the very first day, we were hanging on by the skin of our teeth before we went onto to win.

 Is your collaboration with the Jimmy Cayne’s team going to continue?

Certainly. I have a contract for at least another year. Then we’ll see. Anyway I am happy since I get to play with two national team mates, the two Romans, Lauria and Versace.

 It’s must be a relief to know that your team mates at the other table are Lauria and Versace?

Yes indeed. I have played with Lauria and Versace for many years, both in the Angelini and the National Team. It’s a pleasure also to partner Giorgio Duboin.

 Let’s talk a little about your partnership. You and Duboin were recently described by Versace as the best players in the world: your individual abilities have never been called into question, but as pair you have had some highs and lows. The departure at the Beijing Olympiad was stellar, but then some performances were less brilliant. Do you want to tell me how was this partnership born, and your plans for the future?

Our partnership is not in question. It takes a few years for a pair to become world class. Anyway I can say that more experienced partnerships have some lows. Maybe we were not at our very best during the Europeans, but otherwise it seems to me, especially in 2010, we won everything in sight: it’s hard for me to speak about lows!

 Are you pleased with the progress of this partnership?

Absolutely. There is a difference on how we approach the game, I have always taken a more natural approach, while Giorgio, playing with Norberto (Bocchi) has played a far more complex bidding system.

 Duboin is known to be an extremely disciplined player, you have the reputation of someone who is more inventive…

No, no, I do not invent! But of course I have never played such a complex system. Giorgio is very disciplined, it’s true, but this quality has only helped me, and finally we are beginning to gel.

 Why didn’t you get on so well with the young Agustin Madala?

Let me challenge the premise of your question. I really did get on well with Madala! The fact is that with the breaking up of the partnership of Bocchi – Duboin, this led to a realignment of the partnerships within the Lavazza team, a squad that I had been playing in for four years. After my first year the totemic partnership of Bocchi and Duboin dissolved, this event changed everything. We had only been playing for eight months, we quarrelled over some hands, it is true, all in all, I was pleased with how thing were going.

 But you and Agustin had already agreed not to play together?

Agustin is a young man, coupled with my character traits, things had been a little difficult. However we are good friends. Certainly at the table we had our differences. He is South American and has a strong character. But if we had continued I think we would have become a very strong pair.

 So the separation from Madala is due to the breakup of Bocchi-Duboin and not because you two were not getting along?

Certainly, Agustin and I split because Norberto and Giorgio separated. As I said, there was a realignment. Let’s say that my divorce with Madala was forced by circumstances. That of team strategy.

 What do you think about Bocchi and Madala?

They began to play together when I started playing with Giorgio. At the very beginning I think they might have struggled a little bit more than us, but now they are really playing very well, and have always brought back the goods. The only problem is that Agustin still can’t play in the USA. I think this pair is very very very good indeed! At the Europeans, they played very well, they were the ‘rock’ that the team depended upon. In this last year they have been truly outstanding.

About you, Antonio, many say you are an artist at the table, the same thing is being said about the young Madala, in Argentina he is already called ‘Agustin the Magician’. What are your thoughts?

Agustin plays very well, he is very young, and is the greatest talent around today under 30. Since he arrived in Italy he has improved in so many aspects. He certainly possesses a natural gift, there is a dirth of new talent around . Today it is not easy to find a player so young and already playing so well. He really only has to moderate his temperament, something I had to do as a young player.

 Could you just touch upon the exclusion of ‘Fantunes’ from the last European Championships? Perhaps the point is mute since the team went on to win…

The problem is that there are four pairs and one had to stay behind. All were good enough to play. The choice had been made by the selector and coach Mrs. Lavazza, who decided to bring Bocchi and Madala, for the first time, as a pair in the national team. I don’t think she was wrong because, as I said previously, Bocchi-Madala were the ‘rock’ in the European Championship. As for the rest, Mrs Lavazza chose to keep Lauria and Versace, a pair that would get in to any team. The choice was then to choose between us, Duboin-Sementa or Fantunes. We had just won the Olympiad in Beijing playing very well and Mrs. Lavazza decided to keep us in the line-up. I think the furore since then has been simply misplaced. A very hard choice had to be made, that is all.

 How do you assess the reaction of those excluded? The reaction of Angelini and Fantunes seemed very strong.

Yes, because Fantunes seem to have decided that the team had something against them, this was not the case. It’s just that it is a team of six, not of eight, therefore someone had to stay behind.

 Did you expect this sort of reaction? There was an interview by Fantoni and Nunes, on, in which they claim that Mrs. Lavazza favoured “her players”, and Angelini spoke of an unacceptable conflict of interest by the coach.

These positions might seem wrong. But everyone reacts depending on how he sees the situation. I really do not understand how it is possible to attack Maria Teresa (Lavazza) in such a manner, after all, she has led our national team over the last ten years to many victories, including the Europeans, the Olympiads, and the World Championships…

 Have you discussed this situation with Fulvio and Claudio?

Yes, I’ve spoken with Claudio and Fulvio before the Europeans. I have known both them for many years. I have played with them as team mates for some time in the Angelini team. I tried to reassure them that there was no preclusion against them, and that perhaps they could have been called up for the World Championships. I said to them what I have just said to you, that partnerships will be picked on circumstances and form, that they should remain calm. Obviously, they did not listen to me.

 Have you not talked since?

 I haven’t had a chance to talk to them.

 Mrs. Lavazza has repeatedly stated that her choices were determined by the desire to create a good atmosphere within the team. In your opinion, would the inclusion of ‘Fantunes’ affected the team spirit?

Well, Fantunes have never objected about anything when they played for the team, and from that point of view they are a perfect pair. But when they were not called up, they have helped create this controversy…

 Is it true that when ‘Fantunes’ played in the national team there wasn’t such a good atmosphere amongst the players?

This was in reality connected to the former relationships within the Angelini team. I mean between Lauria-Versace and Fantoni-Nunes. Mrs. Lavazza didn’t want the internal problems of the Angelini team affecting the national squad. I think that those problems were highlighted when Lauria and Versace left the Angelini team.

 We have since heard of the decision of ‘Fantunes’ to ask for residence at Monaco, and to play for the Zimmermann team. What impact did the exclution from the national team have on this outcome?

I do not know this matter well and I think for now these are just rumors.

 Actually the news was broken by Tor Helness, who explained in some detail the planes for the team, and since then, Fulvio Fantoni has confirmed that he has already requested residence in Monaco … Several articles on this matter have been published and have not been contradicted. Maybe they could change their mind.

I really do not know how to answer, I find the course completely outside of what I would did. It is something that I would never have done.

 Let’s change topic, I wanted to talk to you about the trophy ‘ Città di Milano ‘ formerly the Campari. A tournament that you won by a substantial margin.

I think it is still the best italian tournament, considering the number of teams and participants and the level of play. We won easily, also playing with an altered lineup, because my partner did not feel well: Agustin and Norberto played really well . I played without any difficulty what so ever with Guido Ferraro. It was a very pleasant tournament.

 The next appointment for you and your teammates will be the Italian Spring Championship. I think the Lavazza team will start as favorite. Anyway this year, in addition to Angelini, the new Zaleski team will enter. We have little idea what kind of team Angelini will deploy, we know very well the Zaleski line-up: Zaleski himself will play with Versace, Lauria with Valerio Giubilo. Of course you know Valerio Giubilo well: tell me, what kind of player is he?

Giubilo has been for many years close to Alfredo and Lorenzo. He is a player who has now learned to play at a high level and he knows the Lauria- Versace ‘s system well, so he is interchangeable with all players.

The new Zaleski team will give you a hard time?
Absolutely. Alfredo and Lorenzo always give you a hard time. Lorenzo seems particularly attuned to the computer that distributes the hands in Salsomaggiore (laughing ed), He is always a tough opponent! Alfredo and Lorenzo will be our enemies at the table, but they will always have our friendship.

 And who do you think will play for Angelini in the Spring Championships?
I think Angelini will take foreign players. He certainly intends to win and will recruit a very strong team. I suppose he will play with Brogeland. However I do not know anything about the line-up that will be deployed.

 Are you still on good terms with Mr. Angelini?

Yes, of course. He is a friend of mine, and will remain so.

 The old Angelini team crumbleb : He fired Lauria-Versace first, and now Fantoni – Nunes …
Let’s me say that first of all Angelini fired me! (laughing ed), then one pair after another. In competition these things happen. Frankly I was surprised by the decision of Claudio and Fulvio, I mean that if they have decided to go to Monaco, especially after Lauria and Versace left, I thought that ‘Fantunes’ would remain with Francesco (Angelini) it never occurred to me that it would all come tumbling down, believe me!

Do you think there was a chance that Mrs Lavazza might have called them up for the next World Championships? In our last interview, Mrs. Lavazza had declared that she had not yet decided the line up for the Bermuda Bowl and that all four pairs were still in the running.

It now seems that Fantunes themselves have decided the line-up for the Bermuda Bowl: if they have left Italy I think the line-up is obvious. Besides, Fantoni-Nunes, I do not think there are any other pairs who can compete at the World Championships. As I say, I do not believe that there was any sentiment for or against them, now or in the past. They have played for the national team for many years. In Pau they did not play in the national team, giving up their seat for their sponsor Angelini.

 Has Mrs. Lavazza ever said to you, or to your teammates, that she never intended to pick ‘Fantunes’ for the World Championships?

No. There has never been, I repeat once again, any preclusion towards ‘Fantunes’ playing in the World Championships. Now, it seems they have decided for themselves to leave the Italian national team and play under a foreign flag. In doing so, they really have cut themselves off.

 I wonder how can we let go two such strong players: Could not the Italian federation do something to hold them or to convince them to stay?

I don’t know what the Federation could do. But I believe that it’s a question related to personal interest: I can’t really believe that ‘Fantunes’ leave to be the standard-bearers of Monaco.

 Before saying goodbye, let’s go back to the Italian Clubs Team Championships in Bologna: You won on the last hand, beating Angelini’s team by a single matchpoint. Who could forget that 5 Clubs!

This is not the first time that this tournament has been decided on the final or penultimate hand. I still remember a contract of two Spades a couple years ago, also on the last hand, where we lost the title, fortunately this time we won.

You are certainly well aware of the complaint submitted by the Varese team against the participation of the Angelini team, what are your thoughts about overseas playings entering?

Certainly. I find it strange that the Federation allowed three Norwegians to play. Frankly I do not know all the rules governing this competition, but I think it would have been better not allow them to play before starting rather than disqualifying them at the end of the competition. I believe that the Federation was caught off balance by this complaint. No one expected Angelini to turn up with three players from Norway. Personally, I would like to see a change in regulations, I would like to see a more open championship with players from all over the world competing.

 What will your next commitment?

Before March I do not believe there will be a major event, apart from the initial phase of the Italian Clubs Team championships: I do not know now if I will play and which rounds I might play because there are so many players in our team (Lavazza).

 Well, we are waiting anxiously for the Spring Championships to start so we can see you play! Many thanks for your time and your answers.

You are more than welcome, I hope to see you soon!


by Laura Camponeschi

December 28, 201o

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