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My way – Bocchi’s Column (no.4 ): We need solid rails to put bridge back on the tracks

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Let’s join forces. My idea is to institute an international body for those who are professionally involved with bridge like players, tournament directors, teachers, organisers. It is pretty obvious that more and more we need to find a way to effect a constructive and fruitful line of communication between bridge professionals on the one hand and National Bridge Organizations, Zonal Bridge Organizations and the World Bridge Federation on the other hand. In my opinion such a body is the way to go.

As to the perception of bridge as a sport or as a mind game a couple of things are clearly wrong at the moment. Yes, we have good trains, but in order for bridge to head into the right direction it is imperative to have solid rails as well. Bridge is all important for millions and is big business for a lot of us. Still, I feel like I am on a rollercoaster which is about to derail any moment.

Recently I had a chance to discuss my views with a couple of players and with others who are professionally engaged in bridge. We feel that there are quite a few issues that have a negative impact on bridge world wide. Let me permit myself to name a few.

The “2×1” – Is there any other sport where a country enters with more then one team in international competition such as a World Championship? Only in bridge that is possible. USA is allowed to send two teams, thus doubling their chance to win, where other countries field only one team. Would it be a good idea for instance to allow Brasil, which has a vast territory and a big number of high level professional players, to join the World Cup football with two teams? I don’t think so.

Doping – Is there a sport that we know of where the anti-doping norms are so restrictive for athletes who are older then fifty years of age? Bridge is a mind game and therefore can be played by over-fifties still at the top level. However, this group often has to take medication. According to the IOC rules – adopted by the WBF- these drugs might be regarded as stimulants and therefore illegal. That is ridiculous as at fifty we are wearing out and sometimes are forced to take medicines. It seems that we are obliged to hand in lists of medical certifications in order not to face doping accusations. And often that is not enough. We have to change our therapies which under the circumstances may have adverse consequences to our health. Seriously, is there anyone that may think that professional players such as Hamman or Lauria or Helness intentionally take doping substances running the risk of dying? Don’t make me laugh.

Holidays- Is there any other sport where ninety percent of the players are fathers and mothers and run into trouble with their families because the World Championships are held in August, the holiday month? This year‘s World Mind Sport Games are scheduled from August 9 to 23. What great mind invented the timing?

Formats – Is there a sport where more than half of the matches do not have any value (or nearly none)? Looking at the format of the next European Championship in bridge it is possible. The open section is played over two round robins. In the first qualification round teams are divided in two groups according to their rankings from the last three European championships. At the end of the first round only the first nine teams from each group go to the second round robin. In the second and last round each team carries over it‘s full result obtained against teams met in the first round. Teams that have already played against one another do not meet again. The final ranking of the championship is determined by the second round robin (matches played in the qualification round and matches played in the final round). Now, since not all teams in the round robin get through to the second one, the results obtained against knocked out teams do not matter anymore. Thus, a significant number of matches does not matter in the final round. I wonder whoever planned this consulted the players.

Rules – Is there any sport where rules can be changed when players already are in the field? When the rules change in the middle of an event, such a sport soon loses its credibility. But in the avantgarde sport bridge everything is possible. It leads the way for others. Looking at the list of the participating teams entering the upcoming Dublin EC as published at it’s website apparently the European Bridge League modified it‘s eligibility rules. And the President of the Monaco Bridge Federation stated that the Credential Committee of the EBL has taken the decision to allow the members of Team Zimmermann team to play for Monaco. Yes, in itself the new code is correct and appropriate, but it comes late. As a matter of fact the new rules allow Monaco Z play even though the same EBL stated that the selected Monaco team was not eligible under previous rules. For me it is an honor and a privilege to play against good players such as Fantoni, Nunes, Helness, Helgemo, Multon, and Zimmerman. Due to their professionalism and reputation I’m looking forward to meet them at the table. It has to be said however that you simply cannot change rules all of a sudden.

Image rights – Is there a sport where pros play in public without bein compensated? I love to watch football. Therefore I don’t object at all to pay a ticket or to pay per view on television. Bridge stars play on the vugraph of BBO, which broadcasts all international competitions. That way numerous kibitzers not only enjoy the matches, but also get a kind of lessons for free. They spectators love it, especially when the players blunder. Let us be frank, on vugraph the commentators act like the experts and the players look like idiots. Lots of fun. Therefore I think like in other sports we should build a pay per view platform where kibitzers buy a ticket and competent commentators should be selected and being paid for. It will increase the quality of the commentary enormously.

Creating a body or a syndicate, whatever you call it, could improve transparency and communication between federations, players, td’s, teachers and so on. I challenge all those professionally involved with bridge to discuss my ideas. And don’t hesitate to contact me in private:

 Adios y hasta muy pronto



May 6, 2012 (translated by Laura Cecilia Porro)

 “My way” is a co-production of and Neapolitan Club

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One Reply to “My way – Bocchi’s Column (no.4 ): We need solid rails to put bridge back on the tracks”

  1. regarding the format – it is quite similar in a lot of handball championships. 2 rounds of groups, the first progressing with the direct results with the other teams that passed the first round.

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