These days Norberto Bocchi is in Montevideo (Uruguay), where he is playing with Gabriel Chagas in the 4th South American Transnational Bridge Festival. Fernando Lema, bulletin writer and CSBNews editor, took this chance to interview him. The questions touch on important recent topics, such as Lavazza’s resignation and the absence of Lorenzo Lauria from the next Mind Sports Games in Lille. We here publish a summary of Lema’s interview.
On 30th of May 2012 Maria Teresa Lavazza, Technical Commissary of the Italian Open Team, published a letter on the Italian Federation (FIGB) website to resign from this role. What do you think?
This letter makes all her players sad, and also many members of the Federation, because Lavazza played a crucial role in Italian and world bridge. I think she has been the most successful captain of the last 50 years. We are a bit embittered by her decision, but we understand her choice. Mrs Lavazza thinks this is for the best. Many things will change in the federation, for instance they are thinking of introducing trials: because of this Mrs Lavazza does not want to follow the federation any more. She is a bit tired and thinks there is not as much enthusiasm as there used to be. But this is not the only reason. Many things pushed her to leave a role that has been very important for her in the past 15 years. The success of the National Team is 50% due to us, good players, and 50% due to Mrs Lavazza who put us in condition of achieving these results. Without her we would not have achieved this much.
Can we compare Mrs Lavazza to Carl’Alberto Perroux?
Yes, she is even better than Perroux. Much better than him. Because Lavazza always provided the conditions for us to play well, to feel relaxed, and to have the best team. There have been criticisms because Fantunes did not play: but she always cared only about the National Team. Regardless of what people thought, Lavazza decided not to have them in the team in order to preserve friendly relationships between team members, she always acted with the good of the National Team in mind.
Second topic: is it better to have a selecting captain or running trials to choose the National Team?
I prefer open trials only when there are many strong players to choose from (as it happens in the US): when you have 20 or 30 players roughly at the same level, it is possible to run trials, but in Italy selections are silly now. Everybody knows that there are only 6 players, since Fantunes play for Monaco. The new Federation wants to run trials, but the consequence of this is that trials will favour the sponsors. This system does not promote the good of Italian bridge, but that of the sponsors. I would understand if trials were run with the purpose of promoting young players, training them and pushing them, with a system similar to the Dutch one. In the Netherlands they focus on 4 or 5 pairs that are paid and trained: they are enthused with bridge and carried to win a world championship. This system makes sense, but running trials for the only purpose of running them does not. We will see various sponsors play: Angelini, Vinci, Zaleski, Lavazza herself, Burgay. In this way young players will not improve. Thus it would be best to continue with a selector who picks the best players, and in Italy unfortunately there are only 6 good players. But we could change this to have 8, 10, 12…good players. As we age, young players trained by me, or Versace, or Lauria, or Duboin could replace us. I think the Italian federation is doing it wrong here: we will see another «hole», as we did from 1983 to 2000, a 20-years gap during which Italy will not win.
What are the National Team’s expectations for Dublin?
When we play in the European Championships we always aim at qualifying for the World Championships, because the latter is the target. Of course it would be better to win the European. However I think European bridge is the toughest in the world, thus ending up in the first six is already a good achievement. Obviously Italy has great hopes: we won 8 out of the last 9 European Championships. Even then, things are different now: other countries are lining up better teams, all countries are very competitive. Qualification is within our reach, but we will try to win to thank Mrs Lavazza.
There are rumours about Lauria’s absence from the Team which will play in the Mind Sports Games (Lille). What is the truth?
This has been badly dealt with: open trials have been run, and selectors could not choose players. Lavazza team won, with only 4 players. Thus it was up to us to choose who would join the team as the third pair. In the team lined up for the European Championships we have Lauria-Versace, because in this case trials were not run and the captain picked the six players. On the contrary, the Italian federation preferred open trials for Lille. Lavazza won with the following line up: Bocchi-Madala, Duboin-Sementa. The winning team has the right to choose the third pair. Zaleski played all rounds of the trials, and it is almost certain that Zaleski-Versace will play with us, basically Zaleski is taking Lauria’s place. Zaleski-Versace have proved to be a very good pair, and Zaleski deserves this.
You are here playing the South American Transnational Championships, what do you think of this competition?
I am having great fun, because this competition reminds me of how bridge was played in Italy 25-30 years ago. Let me explain. The level is good, these are some excellent players, especially from Brazil and Argentina, but it is an enjoyable bridge. There certainly are 5-6 good teams. The atmosphere here is the same as in Italy a few years ago: a lot of fun, with very little nervousness. You can feel that people want to have fun and everybody is friendly. I have been missing this feeling for a long time. Those who want to have fun playing bridge should come here…I stress, even though the level is good, you do not feel the tension you get in Europe.
Interview by Fernando Lema [english translation by Laura Cecilia Porro for Neapolitan Club]