Japan Senior: The Ecstasy and the Agony

The four members of the 2021-22 Japan national senior team who won the (domestic) Japan national open Swiss teams competition (for the Asahi newspaper cup) in January 2022. From left: T. Maeda, M. Ino, R. Geller, A. Omasa. (The other two members of the 2021-22 Japan senior team were T. Imakura and K. Yamada.)

After several postponements, the Asia Pacific Bridge Federation (zone 6) championships were finally held from Dec. 22 to Dec. 28, 2021. I was a member of the Japan national senior team. In case you’re wondering I’m an American, but I came to Japan in 1984 to be associate professor of seismology at the University of Tokyo (I retired in 2017 and am now professor emeritus), and I am also a permanent resident of Japan. So my case is a bit different from the Monaco guys (just kidding!).

The competition was online, on the LoveBridge site. But all players had to be present physically at their federations’ playing site, and all players were proctored by their own federation. Everyone used custom tablets with just the LoveBridge app, and nothing else (no mail, no chat, no net surfing…during a session). Needless to say, digital devices (cell phones, PCs…) were strictly prohibited in the playing area.

The players on the senior, open, women, and mixed teams all were in the same room, in four separate seating pods. All four wests, for example, sat side by side, but each competition used different hands. As far as I know everything was clean everywhere. After a couple of hands there were no major problems using the tablets. There were lots of minor connectivity issues, but it was easy to get reconnected.

Each competition was a double round robin. There were seven NBOs in the seniors: Chinese Taipei, China, China Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan (my apologies if the official English names of the NBOs are a bit different). The first three finishers qualified for the world championships in Italy this March. At the end of the first round robin we were fourth, but we finished strongly and wound up a close second behind Chinese Taipei, with China in third. So we were on our way to Italy, or so we thought. Ecstasy! Four of the six of us (including me) also won Japan’s national open Swiss teams (Jan. 8-10) by a big margin, so we were on a roll. More ecstasy!

But then we came face to face with reality. Getting into Italy isn’t so hard these days if you’ve been vaccinated and have a negative PCR test within 72 hrs of departure. But Japan‘s regulations for returnees from overseas require a 14 day “quarantine at home” on return, even if you test negative. That means we would have had to leave Japan on March 24, play, leave Italy on April 10, get back to Japan on April 11, and then be confined to our respective homes until April 25. Unfortunately that was a deal-breaker for several members of our team who have work or family obligations. So, I’m sad to say, we had no choice other than to withdraw our hard-earned entry. Agony! (I don’t know the details, but I suspect the Japan open team had to withdraw for much the same reasons.)

Anyway, we hope to see all of you soon at the next world championships, and we hope the games in March are a big success!

Just for the record, this is purely my personal opinion and doesn’t officially represent our team or our federation.

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Robert Geller (Tokyo) for Neapolitan Club

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