Next February Monaco will host the first edition of European Winter Games, an event organised by the EBL in partnership with the Monaco Bridge Federation and sponsored by Pierre Zimmermann. I called Jean-Charles Allavena, President of the Monaco Bridge Federation, to find out more about this tournament. I took the opportunity to also talk about the recent scandals which upset the bridge world and about the future of the Monaco Open Team.
LC – Next February Monaco will host the first edition of the European Winter games. Can you tell us how this idea was developed?
JCA – Pierre Zimmermann has been having this idea in mind for a very long time, but the priority for both of us was the Monaco Cavendish, so it took some time to build this new project. The purpose is to recreate a great Teams event in Europe, because the new format of EBL Transnationals (European Open Championships) is too short. Our models are clearly the US Nationals as the Vanderbilt or the Spingold.
LC – Will the Monaco Federation or EBL act as organising committee?
JCA – The Winter Games are organized by the Monaco Bridge Federation, in partnership and with the support of EBL. It means that we’ve had regular meetings with the EBL Board (Yves Aubry, Jan Kamras) to take the main decisions, that some members of the usual EBL staff will come to collaborate with our staff and that winners will get an official title and Master points from EBL.
LC – Are the European Winter Games open to all players or to European players only?
JCA – The Winter Games are fully open to all the players of the world and we’ll be very happy to welcome them all in Monaco: for instance, the first Team registered is Chinese, and we hope many others will join, not only from Asia, but from North and South America as well.
LC – What is the tournament format?
JCA – Just imagine that you will play the Spingold AND the Reisinger during the same week, this is what we propose. We start with the “Zimmermann Cup”: this is a Swiss movement for three days of qualification (Friday 5 to Sunday 7), with 16 teams qualifying for the Knock-out phase (Monday 8 to Thursday 11). The teams who do not qualify participate in the “FMB BAM Trophy” (Monday 8 to Thursday 11), where they are joined by those who do not go through in the Round of 16 and Round of8 from the KO.
LC – Could you tell us the confirmed participants?
It’s a little bit early to know, but we’re quite sure that all the big European teams will come and play this new event.
LC – Will this be a yearly event or will it alternate with the Cavendish?
JCA – Due to our partnership with EBL, the Winter Games will be played every two years. We’ve agreed to organize five editions (at least three of them in Monaco). We will then take stock and decide if we continue and where. Based on this, we’ll alternate with the Cavendish, and we’ll certainly move the Cavendish from October to February too.
LC- The prize money is remarkable: 150.000 euros. Is this so regardless of the number of participants?
JCA – Thanks to the sponsorship of Pierre Zimmermann, we offer a remarkable prize-list for this new event: this is the main difference with the usual EBL, WBF or ACBL events, which is another reason why our Winter Games are interesting. We’ve decided to offer this regardless of the number of participants.
LC – Will you introduce measures to prevent cheating (e.g. screens and video recording)?
JCA – Preventing cheating is not a new thing for us. We’ve shown with the Cavendish that we take care of the security of the game, and we’ve not hesitated to take decisions against some players, much before other bodies, in order to protect the tournament. Thus my answer is of course yes, we’ll use screens for all the rounds of all the events, we’ll use video recording on many tables, and we’ll ask our TDs to look carefully at a certain number of things. There’s no reason to fall into paranoia, but we’ll do our job of organizers very carefully.
LC – Which players will Zimmermann field?
JCA – I do not know exactly, certainly his usual team, maybe with a third pair…
LC – Monaco was at the centre of the recent scandals: how are you and Pierre currently dealing with this? Are you confident that the trials will have a positive outcome for you?
JCA – Pierre and I are surprised and shocked by what has been revealed, because at no point in time we had suspected anything. As I’ve said and written it many times, I’ve no problem with the work of police made by Boye Brogeland and his team (I have been saying for a long time that players cannot remain silent about those who cheat, because they are the first who feel and know), but I do not accept the Internet trials, run by people who want blood, by people who do not know all the evidence, by people who believe they understand top level bridge but are very far from it. I’ve seen many videos, I’ve read the conclusions of the “code breakers”, and they seem convincing. But I’ve talked with my players, I’ve heard their words of innocence, I know that they have worked a lot to explain this innocence and to explain the other side of what we see, and it’s convincing too. It is all in the hands of EBL, I know that EBL is fully conscious that a this is a very serious matter, because decisions based on the outcomes of the trials will have heavy consequences: I’ve absolutely no doubt on the quality and integrity of the team behind Eric Laurant, chairman of the Committee. The players, Pierre and myself are at their disposal if needed. Let them work now, good justice needs time.
LC – Will Monaco participate in the 2016 European Championships in Budapest? And in the next World Championships in Warsaw? Who will play?
JCA – Of course Monaco will participate in the 2016 European Championships in Budapest and in the World Championships in Warsaw. I would like to remind everyone that our decision not to play the Bermuda Bowl in Chennai or the Champions Cup in England was not the consequence of any punishment, but only a responsible decision of our NBO, in order to contribute to creating a peaceful environment. The core of the team will be of course Pierre Zimmermann and Franck Multon, Geir Helgemo and Tor Helness, and we’ll decide soon about the third pair: why don’t you start a ‘guess the third pair’ game?