I still feel a bitter taste: Interview to Alfredo Versace

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Alfredo Versace  (photo by Fernando Lema)The Club Team Championships, the divorce from Angelini, the interview that Fantoni has released to Jan van Cleeff: these and many other topics have been discussed in a bright and sincere interview with Alfredo the Great.


Alfredo Versace, first of all we are interested on what you think of the Club Team Championship recently held in Bologna.

It has been a fine match, a very high quality bridge: it has ended only in the last board, very tied. The winner team has been the “Italian” one, i.e. the Team Allegra which, in final, lined up all players of the Italian National Team (Bocchi, Madala, Duboin, Sementa), whereas Angelini had two Norwegians players. Furthermore, Lavazza has won even though one segment has been played by the “third pair” (Buratti-Comella), making up in the last segment for the defeat in the preceding.

 Did they deserve to win?

Yes, they did. However, when a match is so tied, there’s of course a bit of luck, but the Team Allegra’s victory has been sure deserved.

 By the way, talking of “Italians” and “Strangers”, do you know that Varese has complained to the three Norwegian players in Angelini Team?

I have heard about this, but I don’t know the matter. I have played the qualification round robins of these Championship in Angelini Team: well, when you go to play in Castel di Sangro and Pescara (Abruzzo), Ascoli Piceno (Marche) etc, you feel yourself playing a typical Italian event, then the strangers players attendance, in such kind of contest, sounds off the tune. But I’m talking only of the Club Team Championship; in other tourneys I say first that the strangers are welcome. More strong and stranger player we’ll have between us, in the next Spring Championship, more we’ll be glad, and this internationality sure will be of use for our bridge.

The Norwegians, actually, have substitute you and Lauria. Have they been up to you?

Yes, they make a very strong pair, sure they have been equal to.

 What about the pairs who have played the finals in Bologna?

I have seen good bridge by all four pairs. In the last segment, two big mistakes by a pair of Angelini have been relevant, two mistakes that have caused their defeat despite a large leading: they were thirty points ahead at sixteen boards to the end!

 Are you alluding to the 7D (short of one), of the Norwegians in the thirteen board of the sixth segment?

No, I’m talking of 6H doubled. It has been astonishing.

Then you’re referring to Fantunes, which have bidden the heart slam lacking trump’s A-K and another ace.

Yes, I’m talking just of that hand: the Norwegians’ 7D is a bridge mistake, the Fantunes’ 6H is an huge misunderstanding.

 But how could have happened such a misunderstanding in an experienced and trained pair as Fantoni-Nunes?

We all can have misunderstandings. It needs to say that this incident clashed with the other part of the match, that has been at high level, at least from my viewpoint. I must say that, for what I have seen, it has been a very good match, and well played by all.

 Which pair has been the best?

All have been good, but the best, for me, have been Bocchi-Madala. Also I say it because I’m fond of Agostino.

Why do you have such affection for him?

Because he’s a young man now entered in the National Team, and he feels the load of such a responsibility. Furthermore his entrance has happened trailing a tail of unbelievable controversies, then I support him, also because he’s really a champion.

 Someone says that Madala resembles you when younger…

No, he’s stronger.

Let’s now move to a more thorny land, i.e. at the Jan van Cleeff’s interview to Fantunes, in which Claudio and Fulvio talk about their expulsion from the National Team and about their terms with you and with Lauria. Lauria has reacted to in harsh and clear way. What’s your reaction?

Sincerely, I have found those words oddly enough because I don’t think that the pair Lauria-Versace could be discuss by anyone in the world. I don’t feel me attackable in this side. I don’t think that my call in National Team could be said because I’m from Turin [Maria Teresa Lavazza, the coach, is from Turin. L.C.], or because I’m friend of Bocchi or Sementa. My victories with Lauria in so many years talk enough. That I can say is: I have had a strange feeling seeing two Norwegians taking place in the team we borne at the top or world bridge. After so many Champions Cups, Italian Championships, Italy Cups, six of seven Club Team Championship, if I have counted well…to see another pair sitting our place has been…let’s say…moving.

 How much does sadden you the divorce from Angelini?

Enough to me. When are right reasons, the parting is acceptable, but when you cannot understand the reason, it become difficult. But I’m very glad now of my new Team: we are starting a new experience and Mr. Zaleski is a very delightful and enthusiastic person. But I still feel a bitter taste for a divorce that hadn’t serious reasons to be. Indeed, cannot be found serious motives for it.

Lorenzo Lauria has explained to us these motives: the Angelini’s politics toward the Italian Federation and toward the Coach.

Yes, but aren’t enough. That a player…a player who only has made this in his life – to play bridge – and who has played for Italy in the last twenty years, and who still do: Is this motive enough for breaking? I don’t think this is a valid cause.

But can you better explains these reasons? If you don’t tell it, we really have troubles for understanding.

 The reasons have been well explained by Lorenzo just in his interview to you: the team had switched in another direction, it didn’t follow the Federation plans. When we have said “No, we want go to play the European Championship” it has created high disagreement inside the team, and our teammates didn’t support us. For this, I think, Lorenzo had the controversy against Fantoni and Nunes.

Did you expect solidarity by Claudio and Fulvio?

Well, after so many years…I have red things that have disturbed me, as that we never were friends: sincerely, this is not true. I play with Claudio Nunes since circa thirty-five years: we have played in a junior championship when eleven yo. Still I remember it…

Summing up, not only you felt disturbed, but also you expect solidarity.

Absolutely. Moreover by Claudio, that hasn’t even phoned me.

Even many bridge supporters have been disliked by your absence from the finals of Club Team Championship of this year…

It has been anyway an high level match, I wondered to see so fine bridge playing, and I’m glad even because four players are my teammates in National Team. This has fill up me of joy, in facts I have sent messages to all!

 Talking of your teammates, this year Norberto Bocchi has obtained an extraordinary number of winnings.

He has played very well, and should I single out the best in the field, maybe I would say him.

Do you think that Bocchi is coming back tho the stellar level that he reached pairing with Duboin?

Yes, sure. He has faced hardships when the pair with Duboin broke up, a pair that dominated the world of bridge since so many years. There was certainly psychological repercussions.

Shall Bocchi together Madala reach the levels that had when pairing with Duboin?

I think so.

You have been today sincere and little diplomatic, Versace: our readers will be glad. I would you reply to another question with the same sincerity: being you the coach of National Team, who would you call, apart Lauria-Versace.

Why apart Lauria-Versace? I’m for the trials. I wouldn’t pick up not even Lauria-Versace but I would make a selection for all. This also for revive the bridge out the group of the “four” pairs. The trials would give room to the young players and, maybe, the opportunity to find more sponsors. The sponsors in Italy are less than in US, but the sponsors could be attracted even so, giving the chance to play trials. Who knows if, by the trials, some sponsor will come out? We have many young players that stand out the junior category but cannot play in professional teams, then they must do their work. Let’s see in the pair D’Avossa-Intonti, which shall play in our team, one is a lawyer and another one is an engineer.

 By the way, how is going with Zaleski? What happened in Vilnius?

We reached the semifinals, where we have lost against a strong team. But it was the first time I played with Zaleski: we had several misunderstanding moreover in the first day, despite the fact that we had trained ourselves. But it’s not easy build a bridge pair, it needs years. However it has been better than we thought because we were fourth in a difficult tourney: weren’t many teams but there was countries as Russia, Poland, Sweden, where the bridge is much played and there’s a good bridge culture, then are hard and difficult tourneys.

Then Team Zaleschi, under the insignia of Canottieri Roma, in the next Spring Championships will enter the field…

…We’ll enter the field as outsider.

Eh, no! This cannot pass: with Lauria-Versace you cannot be called outsider!

Oh, well: can we say luxury outsider?

 I think that we’ll see great bridge…

Very great! I have heard that Angelini has offered an engage to Meckstroth and Rodwell. But, I repeat: are only people voices.

 In short, after the Norwegians, the Americans are coming: is so difficult to substitute Lauria-Versace?

Well, it becomes a fine championship. More are strong players, more funny it will be!

 There’s the possibility that in the next Club Team Championships (2011), Lauria-Versace should make a team with the other four National mates from the Team Lavazza?

I don’t know, but it could be because we still haven’t an engagement in the Club Team Championship, whereas we have our team for the Spring Championship (Zaleski- Canottieri Roma).

 Are the relationships with Angelini so bad that it’s impossibile come back with him?

No, the relationship aren’t bad. I think that Francesco Angelini too has the bitter taste I was speaking before. We’re friends and we remained friend. I think that “a bitter taste in the mouth” is the right way to define the situation. Anyway I cannot reply to your question. I repeat that we aren’t busy in the CTC and we have to find one team, but which one I still don’t know.

 Do you rule out the comeback with Angelini?

I rule out nothing, as in sport it’s impossible to know what could happen. Look the case Ibrahimovic in the soccer: the player follows the market.

Versace, I give you a great In the wolf jaws [Good Luck] for Philadelphia, and thank your availability: you’re always so kind…

Thank you, but you’re so sweet, too much!


by Laura Camponeschi

October 1, 2010

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