Roman Club (Italian: Fiori Romano) is an artificial bridge bidding system devised in the 1950s by Giorgio Belladonna and Walter Avarelli of Italy's Blue Team. They used it to win twelve WBF World Teams Championships, three Olympiads and numerous European and National titles. A variant, Little Roman or Arno, was played by their Blue Team-mates Massimo D'Alelio and Camillo Pabis Ticci.
Once radical, Roman has long been superseded by more advanced relay systems, but it was remarkable for the ideas it introduced or fostered in the bridge world. So was teammate Eugenio Chiaradia's Neapolitan Club and its offspring, Forquet-Garozzo's Blue Club.
Roman Club can be classified as a "small club" system, where 1♣ opening bid has a wide range of meanings. In Roman, it includes weak balanced hands, stronger hands with secondary club suit, and very strong hands. Other 1-bids are made in strict accordance with canapé principle (shorter suit first).
Roman is notable for its emphasis on distinguishing opening hands into groups by distribution and responding hands by strength. The general opening bid structure is:
The general responding structure divides hands into:
Like opener, responder may make their first bid in a 3cs to prepare a canapé.
The strong emphasis on distribution of openings simplified the bidding structure in many respects but did not overcome the classical weakness of canapé, where it is very difficult to distinguish strength range as easily as in a long-suit-first system. Opening three-card suits was also an obvious exposure in competition.
Unlike many other artificial systems, Roman does not use 2♣ bid for hands with primary or secondary club suit (2♥/2♠ offer some compensation though). As result, some hands with club suit are difficult to bid (e.g. both 1=3=4=5 and 2=2=2=7 hands have to be opened 1♦ with rebid in clubs).
The Roman bidders used a negative double only up to 1♠ overcall over their 1♣ opening, and not elsewhere, making the balanced structure also vulnerable to interference. Nonetheless, the emphasis on distribution was a lesson well-learned by later theorists in relay systems.
Some other innovations Roman collected into their system included:
Roman's supposed weakness in competition promulgated by advocates of the bidding systems widely promoted in North America (particularly 2/1 enthusiasts) have emphasized the supposed difficulty of clarifying strength in canapé and complain of the sheer complexity of the system (much greater than the contemporary Schenken or later Precision) led to its present obscurity in ACBL-sponsored events. Along with Blue Club, the other major Italian system, Roman has remained popular in European countries. In the 50s and 60s it was ground-breaking in its strong hand classification, artificial sequences and asking bids, which laid foundations for the Relay and Forcing Pass systems that succeeded it. Under the guidance of Benito Garozzo the basic system has undergone several major revisions which have improved its deadly accuracy in game and slam bidding.