John 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 the latest issue (August 2011) John Carruthers devoted his editorial to some qustions related to juniors competitions. An open letter by Kees Tammens to WBF (World Bridge federation) inspired John’s article. We publish here full text of John’s artcle, excerpts of Tammens’ letter and the WBF President Giannarigo Rona‘s reply.
John Carruthers’ editorial – There is considerable consternation in the camps of the European qualifiers for the next Junior World Championships. Read Kees Tammens’ letter to the WBF on page 15 (and Gianarrigo Rona’s response on page 16) to understand why.[Neapolitan Club below reports excerpts of that letter and the entire answer of Gianarrigo Rona, editor's note]
The crux of the matter is that some of the Juniors who played for the European nations which qualified for the next World Junior Championship will be too old to play Juniors at that time. These European players, naturally, want to play and want the WBF to apply its old rule, which would have allowed them to play if they had played in their Zonal championships a year earlier under the same age-restriction rules.
In effect, this gave some players, mainly Europeans, an unfair advantage over the rest of the world, who for one reason or another, may not have competed in Zonal trials. In some zones, Africa, BFAME [Bridge Federation of Asia and Middle East], South America, CAC [Central America and Caribbean], in some years, there have not been enough nations with Junior teams to hold Zonal trials. In other Zones (South Pacific, North America) there are so few countries to begin with that the nations in those Zones with Junior teams qualified automatically (the USA with 2 of the 3 spots allowed). Effectively, at an age where bridge knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds, some players were a year older than the others.
The WBF corrected this inequity by applying the age restriction uniformly across the board and is to be lauded for doing so. The rules should be the same for everyone. If Under-26 is the rule for the Junior World Championships, it should be the same for all. The current controversy seems to be a European Bridge League issue, (or perhaps an individual NBO isssue), not a WBF issue. If the age limit is 26, the EBL should govern its zonal championships accordingly. If they are played a year before, either make their own players 25, or at the least, ensure they are aware that they are ineligible for world play a year later.
There is another considerations: one year out, there is no guarantee that a player or pair will be in form when the appropriate championship rolls around. Thus, for example, no one would expect the team qualifying for the FIFA World Cup to be identical to the team that eventually shows up in Qatar a year or two later [Qatar actually will host the FIFA World Cup, but in 2022, editor's note]. In sports where one qualifies as a nation, the nation (or the manager, or a committee, or a trials) determines the actual competitors for each championship. Winning one championship does not guarantee participation in another.
In this particular case, the teams from other zones (12 of them) should be allowed the same perquisite if the WBF does allow the Europeans to play – it should proffer the same age-limit rule exception to all other Zones as well.
As a matter of record, the current age rule was formulated two years ago, at the WBF Executive meeting in São Paulo, giving the EBL more than enough time to make the necessary adjustments. If they have done so, the word had not apparently reached the players in time.
OPEN LETTER TO THE WBF (excerpts) by Kees Tammens, Amsterdam – Imagine yourself as a young enthusiastic bridge player. After a tough struggle against your fellow countrymen you and your junior partner win qualification to present your country at the European Championships. A dream has come true; you feel happy and proud.
For ten spectacular and strenuous – and hot – days you fight heroic battles with junior pairs from 21 other European nations…
Your team has earned a place in the next Junior World Championship, competing against juniors from all continents! At the prize-giving ceremony of the European Junior Championships in Albena, Bulgaria, you hear the ominous announcement that you will not be allowed to take part in the eagerly-awaited World Championship. The reason is that your junior age expires the next year…
How is it possible? Why should the organisation accept your participation in this European Championship if you will not be permitted to enjoy your so well-earned prize? The WBF… decision… brings up a lot of questions. Why was the rule that a prize-winning junior can collect his prize in the next year changed? Why was this decision not published prior to the tournament? Can you rob a junior of an achievement he worked and played for so hard?…
I am convinced that the world of bridge needs Juniors…
Above all, we have to give our Juniors sporting targets.…
All right, every person gets older (so said the grey man) with Juniors growing up to become adults and adult bridge players. However, a Junior who qualifies for the most prestigious event in every sport, the World Championship, should get the opportunity to play there!
Gianarrigo Rona’s reply to Kees Tammens’ letter – Dear John, Thank you for your email. In 2009, in the meeting held in São Paulo, the WBF Executive Council stated that, “Starting from 2011:
• To be eligible to play in a Youngsters Championship, the player must not have achieved his/her 20th birthday by December 31 of the year prior to the year of the Championship.
• To be eligible to play in a Juniors Championship, the player must not have achieved his/her 25th birthday by December 31 of the year prior to the year of the Championship.”
The EBL applies this same rule and nobody can play overage. If the EBL and/or other Zones organise their trials one year before the World Championship under the same age rules, it is possible that a player who, because of his age, is eligible to play these events, but, if his team qualifies for the World Championship, he cannot play the following year, being overage at that time. This is the situation with some European players at this time.
Gianarrigo Rona, WBF President.
source: IBPA Bulletin n. 559 (Agosto 2011)