Giovanni Donati & Bill Gates, Hawaii 2018
Giovanni Donati is the number one 2019 of the Italian Pairs Championship. The formula for success? Maximum concentration and abstraction from the outside world. Ride a bicycle through the streets of its ancient city (not in these days of forced enclosure), discover hidden corners of architecture, breathe the sea wind. Giovanni Donati from Rimini is young, he is twenty-two years old, and since he was nine he is a bridge player. And what a player! National champion of the 2019 Italian Pairs Championship (with twenty-five year old friend from Livorno Giacomo Percario), Mixed Teams Italian champion with Federica Delpozzo, top player of the ancient card game that Giovanni learned by listening to his dad, while explaining it to friends. At the age of ten, Giovanni begins to participate in tournaments, first local, then national, and finally international, in a path that has led him and will take him after the forced interruption of these months, to travel around the world to demonstrate that the Italian tradition of bridge has good and tenacious heirs.
Donati at the table
Talking to Giovanni, I chatted with a nice boy, a product of the Romagna land he rightly boasts of, remembering his unforgettable fellow citizen Federico Fellini. Giovanni Donati has framed his life on the imagination of the great director and on his intelligence, which partly takes place in Bologna where he attends the faculty of letters. His dad explained him the fundamentals of this ancient game, which derives from the whist practiced in the sixteenth century in England, and from the nineteenth century spread throughout the world as Whist-bridge, a card game with four players in two pairs, then codified in the early twentieth century by a Italian: Eugenio Chiaradia, Neapolitan professor of history and philosophy, who studied and invented the bidding system of choice and first game declaration, world champion with the legendary Blue Team from 1957 to 1963, as well as European champion, and creator of that language detail that belongs to the world of professional and non-professional players. A language that seems to the uninitiated to the uninitiated and that for over ten years Giovanni has internalized through precise rules: in addition to a natural predisposition to reason according to certain schemes, the mental organization and the connections that compare bridge to the world of chess are fundamental, besides to the “sense of competitiveness and of the game for which I was and I am naturally inclined”, declares Giovanni, who since he was a child even though he was not a mathematician has developed a great speed in calculating.
Giacomo Percario & Giovanni Donati
This is why Giovanni, as he approaches the gaming table, transforms himself, maximum concentration and abstraction from the outside world, attention to remembering the cards, predicting the opponent’s moves… In short, a mental leap into the near future, and an immediate ability to adapt and understand , harmony with the partner and intuitive psychology towards the opponents. Opponents who know each other well in the most exclusive world circuit, and for this reason Giovanni declares that it is certain that it is normal to be aggressive, as it is normal to have a certain psychological affinity with the partner who is beyond the “curtain”, as happens for example between Giovanni and Leonardo Cima with whom he is currently partnering in international tournaments. A force that allows you to concentrate with the utmost attention even when the opponents “cheat” by throwing signals with rhythmic coughing or pen ticking on the table to communicate the game to the partner: actions that today are finally punished thanks to the closed circuit of tournaments, with the jury supervising and disqualifying, as happened recently for a couple from a nation that believes they are never wrong … “Playing fraudulently is not good”, declares Giovanni. And we would miss him: he is young, he believes it, he engages with the mind and also with the heart. Along with many certainties, Giovanni has various regrets, related to the particular alarm moment Covid-19: the suspension of the world bridge championships that would have been held in Salsomaggiore in August, and with them all national and international tournaments, including the three tournaments that Giovanni should have played in the United States with his sponsor. Among these tournaments, also the Olympics, which are held every four years as expected, since the bridge is inserted by Coni in the list of games of the mind. For now the young champion trains online, in the evening with distant and close champions, and the game of bridge fully summarizes the meaning of his name: a game that creates mental “bridges” between people, and in these current dramatic circumstances it’s a crack. Rimini with its Grand Hotel can be an ideal bridge with another Grand Hotel that over the decades has seen prestigious international bridge tournaments take place: the Excelsior hotel on the Lido of Venice, and its golden years with the big stars of the game and of cinema, Omar Sharif in the lead. Two years ago the international tournament in Venice was organized again after a long pause. Last year Giovanni landed in the Lagoon to try his hand at the Excelsior, I reminded him that the Grand Hotel in Rimini and the eclectic construction of the Lido are more or less contemporary and represent a unique architectural and historical icon in the Italian panorama of the twentieth century: “True, Giovanni replied, this is also part of the story.”

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