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John Carruthers: Monaco Cavendish

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John CarruthersJohn Carruthers is a Canadian top player and a well-known bridge writer. He is the currently Editor of IBPA (International Bridge Press Association) Bulletin. In issue of September Carruthers devoted his editorial to the Monaco Cavendish.

The Cavendish Invitational is a wonderful event which started in New York City in 1975, moved to Las Vegas in 1997, and then, in 2012, moved again, this time to Monte Carlo. The original idea for the tournament was the brainchild of John Roberts who, incidentally, produced and bankrolled the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. The tournament is not quite unique in the world of bridge as there have been many imitators, though all on a smaller scale. When the Cavendish Club in NYC closed its doors in 1991 for lack of membership, the tournament hung on there for a few years before packing up and moving to Las Vegas.

Unspecified problems there caused World Bridge Productions (then the organisers) to seek other locations and with the assistance of Pierre Zimmermann and Jean-Charles Allavena, Monte Carlo was selected. The original idea was to alternate between Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, but that plan seems to have gone by the wayside.
Since coming to Monte Carlo, the Cavendish has introduced two great innovations. They added a third event, the Women’s Pairs (okay, they call it the Ladies Pairs, a throwback to the past century) and they introduced a qualifying/final format (three sessions, then two, with partial carryover) to reduce the impact of ‘shooting’ by pairs out of or just-barely in contention.

Interlude: no mention of the Cavendish would be complete without noting Stevie Weinstein, a single-handed Blue Team/Aces in the event. He has won the Pairs seven times and has come second twice and third once. After the John Roberts Teams was introduced in 1983, he won that four times and had three second-place finishes. These placings have been earned with three different partners, Bobby Levin (chiefly), Fred Stewart and Zia Mahmood. It is an incredible feat in an event more geared to big boards than any format since total scoring. That Stevie is an extremely-successful poker player may have something to do with that. Or vice versa.

This was a segue into the issue of the composition of the most-recent field in the 2014 Cavendish, just completed and reported on next month. Although the field was very strong, there was not a single American pair in it. Additionally, there were no Asian, South American, African, or ANZ pairs. There were a few players from some of those Zones, but no pairs. From Europe, none of the top Italian pairs competed (Fantoni/Nunes took part, playing for Monaco), none of the top Swedish pairs entered, and only one of the top Dutch pairs (Brink/Drijver) took part. This means that the field included just two world champion pairs since 2008, Fantoni/Nunes and Brink/Drijver.

If the Cavendish is to survive as the prestigious event it has always been, this situation needs to be rectified. Money seems to be the driving force at the top of the bridge world. The Cavendish needs to make it more attractive for Americans to fly to Monaco to play. Even more problematic is that the Italians are within easy driving distance. Whether this means reduced entry fees or increased prize money for the players, as opposed to the auction bidders, is an issue that needs to be discussed with players such as Stevie Weinstein, Norberto Bocchi, Jeff Meckstroth, Peter Bertheau, Fred Gitelman and Bauke Muller. Find out what it would take for the top pairs to compete. It might also be beneficial to contact Nick Nickell and Maria Theresa Lavazza, among other sponsors, for their opinions. Pierre Zimmermann and J-C Allavena have not yet put a foot wrong in their association.Let’s hope this continues.

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John Carruthers

IBPA Bulletin No. 596 September 7, 2014

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