Allavena: How the new Monaco bridge team was launched (interview – part 2)

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The team of Pierre Zimmermann is representing Monaco at the European Championships in Dublin (Ireland). Mr. Zimmermann, a Franco-Swiss sponsor, hired two of the world finest pairs to play on his team: Geir Helgemo and Tor Helness from Norway and Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes from Italy. Pierre Zimmermann and his partner Franck Multon (France) is the third pair. For a long time the issue of residency was an obstacle for the European Bridge League to okay the entrance of Zimmermann and company. So Laura Camponeschi, editor of Neapolitan Club and ’s Italian correspondent, asked Jean-Charles Allavena – the President of Monaco Bridge Federation and in Dublin the non-playing captain of Monaco – to explain how Zimmerman ‘s project was born and which steps were taken to overcome all the obstacles.

 (Second part)

In a private conversation you told me that in the past 18 months (since Zimmermann’s project was made public) a lot of silly or wrong things have been said about this issue. Who or what do you have in mind? Would you like to reply to any of these unfair comments?

The unfair comments were  all about quite the same theme, like: you’ll see, they willget the right to play because they will buy it! It seems that it’s impossible today to try to build something without the comments of jealous or bad minded guys. Do you read anything here above which suggests that we bought our right to play? I don’t!! We have always accepted the decisions, we tried to explain and convince and the end was positive, perfect. If it were negative, we would have accepted it too. And as for the names, you’re the journalist!

After the European Championships, another important event will take place in Monaco, i.e. the Cavendish Invitational. It is a typical American-style tournament,because its structure is in the form of an auction. Now it is becoming popular on the old continent as well: in even numbered years it will take place in Monaco, while in odd numbered years it will take place in Las Vegas. This is such an extraordinary event that only the return of the Pilgrim Fathers to Plymouth would be more surprising. How did this happen? What do they think about it in the US?

I’ve told you that our agreement with Pierre is about the participation of his team in the big Championships and includes a certain number of other points. The creation of new events in Monaco is one of them (not the only one, take the example of Poznan last year where, besides the team of Pierre, a team with the ‘historical’ players of Monaco was completed by a pair provided by Pierre, Bompis-Quantin, with a great result at the end, the bronze medal). The first event we organized was last October the first ‘Prince Albert II Cup’, a team invitational, which was a great success, with the presence of Prince Albert himself at the opening cocktail. We had in mind to organize this year a big pairs’ tournament after the model of the Cavendish, but during the Prince Albert II Cup, Roy Welland, who is member of the board of the Cavendish said to me ‘Why don’t we do The Cavendish here? Back in the US, he presented the idea to the Board who agreed immediately, and so we started with great enthusiasm. It’s clear that the enthusiasm is shared by the American part in particular Bob Hamman and Donna Compton, with whom we worked very hard. They acknowledged that, for many reasons, the US Cavendish was in a difficult situation. So, the idea of organizing it alternatingly in Monaco and Las Vegas was seen as an opportunity for renewal. They hope that many European players, who didn’t play in Las Vegas the last years, willbe back there, and see to it that Monaco be a success. And furthermore, we need them to convince some American sponsors, teams, players, to come to Monaco, and they try to do that. The word is perhaps used too often, but I really think that we’re in a ‘win-win’ situation, and I’m sure that we’ll have a great tournament in Monaco next October.

Given your deal with Pierre Zimmermann, you have a close working relationship with him. What do you think of working with him? How is your relationship with him?

You know, the most important point that I see is that Pierre loves this game, he wants to play and win, but he also wants to organize things, improve some aspects. Of course this can easier be done with money, but money isn’t everything,and if you don’t have ideas or enthusiasm, money is not very useful. Apart from all, Pierre is working very hard on his own business, spends much time with his family, and cannot do all on his own. I believe that we have created a good complementary tandem, we frequently spend one hour or more on the phone around midnight, when his business day is finished, and discuss our projects.I must say that I appreciate the guy, his ability to create ideas and to decide fast, and also his capacity to listen to the ideas of other people: it’s not very easy to convince him, but it’s not impossible!!! I also appreciate the fact that Pierre is totally respectful of our agreements : I’ve said it above, our agreement goes further than the possibility to play, it includes many things, even last year, when it was not so easy to convince the WBF and EBL to accept our team, at no moment Pierre said that we should have to wait before doing what has been signed in favor of the local players of Monaco. Thanks! I really hope that what we have done in Monaco with Pierre will give ideas to other people to increase their role in bridge, and that the official bodies of our game will understand how important these people are for the development of the game: I’ve said it many times during these last 18 months, what we do is not only a huge project for Monaco, but a great project for bridge in general, and I’m happy and proud that some people have understood that.

Well, thank you Jean-Charles. I think our interview is over here…

Let me add something. I would like, staying in the same direction, to send a message of recognition to a great lady of bridge, Maria-Teresa Lavazza. Many years before Pierre, she has been a very great sponsor for a group of Italian players. She has given them the possibility to work on their passion and to live from this passion, and the results have been tremendous for the Italian bridge. We’ve played against them on manyoccasions in the international Championships, they have come many times to Monaco to play our International Teams Tournament (and win!), it was clear that there was a great interconnection and respect between the players and the sponsor, and I believe that here’s the truth. And at a moment when, in Italy, Mrs. Lavazza decides to stop her job of Technical Director, and when I read many negative comments on her action, I really think that people should be much more respectful of all she has done. And what I hope for our new team is to win at least a small part of what she has accomplished with her players.


Co-produced by and Neapolitan Club

June 18, 2012

Read interview first part: click here>>

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