40th World Bridge Championships 2011: interview to Jan van Cleeff

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It’s The Netherlands turn. We have made an interview with the Dutch bridge journalist, publisher, writer, player (whatelse?)  Jan van Cleeff. Of course the focus is on the upcoming World Championships in Veldhoven and on BridgeTopics.com, a website Van Cleeff started last year together with Eric Rodwell and many others.


The 40th World Bridge Championships in Veldhoven are coming. Jan, will you present Dutch team for Bermuda Bowl to our readers? I mean, will you draw a profile of the pairs and the players?

Happy too. First of all Sjoert Brink and Bas Drijver. Young and eager. Won already important international championships like European Bridge Cup this year in Izmir, Turkey. They play a souped up natural 2/1 system. They are contributing a lot of new gadgets to existing bridge theory.

Then we have Bauke Muller and Simon de Wijs. As a Bermuda Bowl winner, and (with Simon) two open European Championhips and the European Bridge Cup behind his name, Bauke is arguably the most successful Dutch player of all times. Recently Simon showed great table presence with a successful jump psych playing against Fantunes contributing a juiceful 18 imps on the board and the victory in the 3rd Elite Cup in Beijing, China. Wijsmuller play Tarzan Precision, a sophisticated relay system.

Last but not least Louk Verhees and Ricco van Prooijen. Winners of an open European Championship and of a NABC (Spingold). Their system is very complex: strong club designed in cooperation with the Americans Russ Ekeblad and Ron Rubin. The three pairs are hired on a regular basis on the American pro tour. Coach is Anton Maas and non-playing captain Eric Laurant.


 It seems to me that this is a happy moment for the Dutch bridge, right? Many experts think The Nederlands could be the winning surprise in Veldhoven and according international bookmakers The Netherland is the favourite to win, behind Italy and US1.

That is exactly how I feel. In my magazine IMP, I predicted 1. Italy, 2. USA1, 3. Holland. Like Italy, The Netherlands have a very balanced team of three equally strong pairs.


Explain us how the team that will represent The Netherland has been selected. There is a particular sort of trials, isn’t it?

We don‘t have team trials. Their is a selection group of five pairs. The team was picked right after the Open EC in June. The coach and npc do the picking. They closely follow the five pairs through the year. They take into account all important matches and the traditional Friday sessions, when the group practices. The two other pairs are Huub Bertens-Berry Westra and Jan Jansma-Gert-Jan Paulissen.


In Italy we have no trials. As you know, the team selection by TD Maria Teresa Lavazza for Ostend 2010 stirred considerable controversy because of the sensational exclusion of Fantoni and Nunes (number one and two in the WBF Ranking). To tell the true then Italy won the title and now we have the same team at Veldhoven. In USA the trials led to exclusion of Rodwell – Meckstroth and Zia – Hamman which are some of the world’s strongest pair. So according to you: What system provides the best representative? Maybe the Dutch approach?

As said above you can compare the Dutch selection best to the undemocratic Italian situation. It is hard to state which method is best, the Trials or the Dutch-Italian way. The interesting point is that we have to accept that with both methods world class pairs run the risk of dropping out, like indeed Meckwell, Fantunes, Ziaham, Berwest and Paulisma.


In Veldhoven many strong top players will not play: Meckstroth and Rodwell, Zia and Hamman, Fantoni and Nunes, Helgemo and Helness… Many bridge fans may be disappointed. What’s your view?

 As to Helgeness I think it is a shame that the Norwegian team, that won the 2007 Bermuda Bowl, is not competing in the Veldhoven BB. Still, all the stars mentioned have the opportunity to participate in the WC Transnationals in Veldhoven. And most of them do, fortunately.


And now… what’s about Italian team that will play in Veldhoven (Bocchi-Madala, Duboin-Sementa, Lauria-Versace)? Which is your forecast for the next Bermuda Bowl?

I seriously predict the Italian team to win the Bermuda Bowl. The team is a unique mixture of individual class and well trained, experienced pairs


Jan, you are a journalist very active in the field of bridge. Which are your commitments in the next World Championship?

Quite a few. I am engaged by the World Bridge Federation as one of the on-site Vugraph commentators. I will make daily reports and video’s for BridgeTopics.com as well as for www.imp-bridge.nl, and of course I will make a report for the IMP Veldhoven Special.


You are a journalist and a bridge writer as well. I’d like to put a question about your last book “The Misterious Multi”, written with Mark Horton (2010 Master Point Press). In this book you touch little of the ethic question. Bob Hamman said in Marc Smith’s “World Class” (1999 MP Press): “Too much of the emphasis at the moment is on devising methods that the opponents cannot possibly prepare to deal with. Multi 2 is a perfect example of the type of convention that causes problems”. Please, comment it.

Which proves once more what a brilliant gadget the Multi is. Even a great player like Hamman considers it as difficult. The funny thing is that to play or to defend the Multi in fact is not difficult at all. If you are prepared to invest a little of your time for study, the Multi is open to everyone, even to Bob.


 Finally, last year you launched a new website: bridgetopics.com, in which you publish daily news and bridge topics edited by Eric Rodwell. How did the year turn out? How successful was you initiative?

I am very happy and satisfied the way BTC develops. We have a lot of traffic due to the daily news we publish. So far the international bridge world lacked a CNN type of news web site. We have the ambition to fulfil that role. That is why I founded a global network of correspondents. We have a enthusiastic team and we are very happy to cooperate with people like you.
The circulation of our Newsletter is growing by the day and we sell quite a few subscriptions to Eric’s Topics. We just finished our first year and by now already we see people buy back-copy bundles of the first cycle of twelve months.


So what you are going to offer readers the next year?

As to the Topics we offer a mix of existing theory dealt with in dept by Eric and exciting new theory like Optional Kickback. And we plan to do a lot more with video and of course our Grand Tour, a circle of international tournaments and bridge festivals is rapidly expanding. Right now we have already some hundred events in our system.

Thanks a lot, Jan!


Laura Camponeschi  

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