My trip to Ostend: lights and shadows. I love the European Open Championships. The atmosphere is unique: all of a sudden a town is invaded by hundreds of bridge players. As you walk around you see people wandering with their badges and unavoidable championship bags, and you hear them talk about spades and trumps. In these circumstances I always think: I wish this would last forever. I wish all bridge players moved to a specific place and all lived there, just talking cards 24/7. But invariably the championships come to an end, we all go back to our places, and for some of us normal life kicks in again and bridge gets relegated to the hobby place. It is thus time to think about how it went, what was good and what was not, and to start looking forward to the next EOC (Tromsø, Norway, 2015).
What was good? I enjoyed having a chance to go to Belgium. Ostend is a nice seaside town, and is a short train trip from the lovely Flemish UNESCO site of Bruges (I wonder if anybody got time off bridge to see it!). Moreover, it is great fun playing against the big guns, whom one does not normally have a chance to meet.
Unfortunately, a few things did not quite work out as expected. On the very first day, Saturday 15th, the start of the competition was delayed by roughly 30 minutes, and 45 more minutes delayed the start of the second round. Apparently, the program failed to recognize five pairs, and the movement and scores could not be calculated correctly. This happened because the staff did not have a chance to test the system in advance, since they were summoned to Ostend later than it has happened in other championships. This issue generated a few unwelcome consequences: we only had time to play 40 boards out of 50 on the Saturday, and the scores were partly inaccurate until midnight.
Organizational hiccups are possible and the organization, aware of players’ dissatisfaction, decided to let players enter the side events for free (on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th). I thought this was a good idea and, together with many others, appreciated the gesture. However, I was a bit disappointed to see that the side events were run in an unprofessional way. The movements were not called promptly, players were allowed to get up before the end of the round, and players were allowed to start playing the next round before the end of the previous one. Moreover, the hand records had no double dummy analysis, and one TD did not know the type of scoring used on Tuesday 18th (sic!). Small things, maybe. Nonetheless, these are European Championships, and even if there is nothing at stake in the side events, they should be run with the highest standards of professionalism.
I think that these issues raise a few questions: Why were there no money prizes in each event? How much was raised? Where did it go? Why were side events introduced and why were they poorly attended (e.g. on the 21st of June there were only three and a half tables)?
Ostend was a success and I am sure that the vast majority of those who went there will also attend the next EOC in Tromso. Good luck to the Norwegian Bridge Federation, which has the tough job to organize a complex event and which everybody expects to deliver spotless championships.
Laura Cecilia Porro