Maurizio Di Sacco talks about… (interview)

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Last Sunday (May 27, 2012) Maurizio Di Sacco  was a guest of the Bridge Live Show, broadcast on BTCC ( Channel), the new web TV produced by Neapolitan Club and Mr Di Sacco is chief tournament director of the World Bridge Federation and chief td of several zonal federations and countries  such as the European Bridge League and Italy. The interview was hosted by Jan van Cleeff and  Laura Cecilia Porro. We publish here the full text.

Jan van Cleeff: We start with five dilemmas. All our guests will have to pick a word out of two, to his liking. He only has to pick one word. The first dilemma. What do you prefer: playing bridge or managing bridge tournaments?

Maurizio Di Sacco:  Playing bridge.

JVC: We know that you are an expert in foreign languages, but I am not sure on your expertise on the two following languages and where is your preference: Russian language or Chinese?

MDS: Chinese.

JVC: Another question: Lille or Dublin?

MDS:  Tough question, Dublin.

JVC: Next dilemma, what do you prefer to be confronted with: cheating or non cheating? Suppose you have a tournament and nothing is going on, there is no cheating at all, or you are the manager of a tournament where there is some cheating.

MDS: Definitely the former, not cheating.

JVC: That’s very politically correct. I do not share this opinion but I am too much of a journalist. Final dilemma: what do you prefer, to have or to have not appeal committees?

MDS: Strongly not.

JVC: I am a little bit surprised by your last answer that you strongly prefer not to have appeal committees could you explain it a little bit.

MDS: First of all what we need is not a further opinion but the best possible opinion, the best possible ruling, this necessarily comes from tournament directors who are expert on laws, other than appeal committee guys who may know the game but normally have a knowledge of laws which is not comparable to the one of tournament directors. Obviously I am talking about situations where the tournament directors have followed the correct procedure, interviewing players on the way to come to the final ruling, but given that tournament directors have followed correct procedures, consulting among themselves, interviewing players whenever a technical opinion is required, then there is no comparison. Appeal committees cannot do any better than tournament directors, and often -the history proves it- do worse.

JVC: That’s a clear answer. Maybe you are at the same level of opinion as Jeff Meckstroth, I think he hates appeal committees as well.

MDS:  Meckstroth has officially requested for appeal committees to be crossed out and actually there are a few countries where appeal committees do not exist anymore. Italy was the first one to cancel them in 1988.

JVC: I am sometimes a member of appeal committees and to be honest I do not know too much about the rules and you rightfully stated that tournament directors know everything about that so there is much more expertise with the tournament directors. But what about the play at the table: are tournament directors in a position to have a good opinion on that?

MDS: The code of practice clearly states that whenever a technical analysis of the hand is required tournament directors must interview players. Actually I am not completely against appeal committees, I am in favor of them. I would like to reintroduce appeal committees in Italy but not for them to analyse the merit of the decision, but only whether the correct procedure has been followed or not. What the appeal committees should do is to wonder whether tournament directors have followed the correct procedure. If they conclude that the tournament director did the right job then it’s the end of the story, tournament director’s decision is the final one. Unfortunately appeal committees tend to judge the merit of decision which is very wrong, in doing so they often forget about the laws, too often at least.

JVC: For what concerns the new Monaco team, Pierre Zimmermann has hired two of the best pairs in the world, Hegelness and Fantunes. They thought being resident for two years was enough to represent the country, play in the European Championships to qualify to the Bermuda Bowl. First EBL forbid and later allowed Zimmermann to represent Monaco in Dublin. Can you explain why and how did EBL changed its mind?

MDS: All comes from the need to adequate the EBL policy to the WBF policy, because they were different. Actually it was already known that according to WBF regulations Monaco team could play in Lille and could definitely play in Bali next year, so the problem is that it was thought to be rather odd that they could play in the final stage of the event, to be held next year in Bali, but not in the qualification stage of the same event, so the EBL decided to have the same regulation, actually the same interpretation of the regulation as the WBF, that was the first problem. The second problem was to decide whether all six members of the Monaco team fulfilled the requirements of the WBF and EBL regulations, because there were some problems on some members. Two of them actually could not fully prove at the beginning to be living in Monaco enough time.

JVC: I am sure those members you refer to, who could not prove that, were not Fantoni and Helgemo because Fantoni last year showed me a picture where Geir Helgemo helped him move a big television to the Fantoni’s apartment in Monaco.

MDS: They were not the two, again just two weeks ago at the EBL meeting it was decided to accept them, I honestly do not know the details of the decision.

Laura Cecilia Porro: This July in Italy there will be elections for the new President of Italian Bridge Federation (FIGB). What do you think the FIGB new president should focus on?

MDS: Are you talking about organizational problems or other issues, Laura?

LCP: Not bureaucratic problems, I mean bridge issues that will affect players rather than bureaucracy.

MDS: Other than bureaucracy you may know that I wrote a list of things that I would like the new president to observe, what I wrote is all about full attention to ethics, in all senses, not just at the bridge table but in the administration of the federation. When I use the word ethics I understand it 360 degrees, meaning especially hiring people only because they are real experts and not because they are friends of someone. This is the first topic I wrote in my list. As for what the federation should do in practice, there are many issues to be addressed, of course the first one is to help the bridge clubs around Italy who are really suffering for many reasons. Many years ago the federation was perhaps less prosperous, but bridge clubs were much better. The blame is not on the federation, there are historical issues, one of them for example is that nowadays the centres of the cities are much less accessible than they were in the past so finding places where to have a club is much more difficult and much more expensive than it used to be. How to help the bridge clubs is the main issue from the organizational point of view, and where the new board has to focus on.

LCP: Norberto Bocchi recently raised the issue of the US being able to send two teams to the Bermuda Bowl. Do you think this is wrong and should be changed or not?

 MDS: Since we aim at being a sport we definitely have to get rid of that regulation. In no sport a country has two representatives, so I believe that Norberto is definitely right on that matter.

LCP:Now a question from a spectator. Psychics: in Italy psychics are completely banned, how did this happen, and why it is unique.

MDS:  First of all it is not at all unique, there are other countries where it happens, it is also false that we ban psychics at all, we ban them only at the club level. The reason for that is that psychics are probably the most annoying thing for beginners or weak players in general. Whenever an expert psyches against the weak player he or she feels abused, that’s the reason, it was a measure taken back in 2005. I have to stress that it applies only at club level and nowhere else.

JVC: This is a very interesting statement. You said you have the feeling, or organizers have the feeling that on a club level people get annoyed when there is a psyche at the table, so for that type of level they changed the rule to forbid psychics.However, as far as I remember when I started to learn bridge, and I was more or less a beginner, I was intrigued by psychics, I thought this is wonderful, what a freedom, so for me it seems a bit paranoid because of the annoyance that you are being cheated, and I do not agree with that at all. I am just curious how the discussions between the lawmakers were made on this.

MDS: You are a good player: you do not feel offended whenever someone psyches against you: we are protecting the weak ones.

JVC: When I started playing in my first year I had no clue what I was doing -maybe some people still say that of me after 40 years of playing- believe me when I was in my first year I was a complete beginner, I did not understand anything. Even then when someone psyched against me I did not mind at all, I thought it was intriguing and interesting.

MDS: I have no problem at all when someone psyches against me, but I fully understand the weak player who feels abused, who feels that the others are cheating, I definitely understand them. And anyway we are talking just at club level, whenever there is tournament or championships at higher level you can psyche as much as you want.

JVC: Even at club level only a special type of person, more or less a paranoid person, thinks that they are being cheated. I do not think we should underestimate the intelligence of beginners.

MDS: Maybe it is a matter of culture, you live in the Netherlands, I live in Italy. As you very well know on matter of systems, alerting policy, this kind of regulations each country has all over the world its own regulation because the feeling is different from country to country.  For example French do not like psyches at all, they have a feeling rather close to the Italians. We were together in Cuba: the world French pair who kept complaining because opponents were psyching, but they were pretending the opponents were psyching when opponents opened 1NT with 14 points, very minor deviations from the system, but they got annoyed and they called them psyches, the feeling on the matter is very different from place to place.

LCP: Last question, back to Italian elections. Maurizio did you get any reactions to the letter you sent to the candidates to the presidency of Italian FIGB?

MDS: I referred to that letter before, I just mentioned the first principle that was written there. Only Gianni Medugno signed, the two others, because at that time Bernasconi was still running, did not sign it. At the moment only Gianni Medugno signed the principle contained in that letter, while Roberto Cambiaghi has not.


Jan van Cleeff & Laura Cecilia Porro for BTCC

June 2, 2012


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