My way – Norberto Bocchi’s column (no 5): Bridge is War (not in Uruguay though)

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4th South American Transnational Bridge Festival: I recently played in the South American Transnational Bridge Festival with Gabriel Chagas as partner and I enjoyed it very much. The atmosphere of Montevideo (Uruguay) reminded me of that of Europe 25 years ago: I was delighted to play in a friendly atmosphere, elegant, and relaxing despite the importance of the tournament. I have not felt this way playing in other European and international competitions for a long time: nowadays bridge is an all-out war in which all that matters is who kills the most. However in Montevideo I saw a lot of youngsters, more or less famous,  playing good bridge and that bodes well for South America.
As for the competition, the tournament was won by a small margin by a Chilean team at expenses of the Brasilian team, in which my regular partner Agustin Madala was playing: very few points separated the two teams and nothing was decided until the last board, where the Chileans bid and made a game on a two way finesse. At the other table, Madala – Brenner stayed out of game losing 6 imps on the board and the whole match by 3.
Chagas and I played good bridge, but bad luck and few other factors made us finish 6th. Congratulations to the two top teams:  Benjamín Robles, Marcelo Caracci; José Manuel Robles, Roberto García C, Joaquín Pacareu (Chile) and Agustín Madala, Diego Brenner, Amilcar Magalhaes, Joao de D. Silva Neto, Mauricio Machado, Eduardo Barcellos (Brasil/Argentina).

Reisinger: For many years now – 12 to be precise – I’ve been playing professional bridge in USA and 12 times I took part in the Reisinger BAM. It is considered a tournament of superb level. The format used is board-a-match and what it means is that every board is worth a point: one overtrick or a difference of 2000 aggregate points carry the same weight: 1 point won or lost. When I first started participating, there would be around 80-100 teams registered. As the years passed the numbers dropped significantly and today the situation seems really worrying. Why? The way I see it there are two reasons. First of all the tournament’s level is really high and lesser sponsors are simply discouraged by that: they prefer to enter the parallel swiss tournament, where the number of teams entering is massive these days. The second reason is that Reisinger lasts for three days but every day half the field is eliminated via all-play-all round robin. As one might expect, the lesser teams are often eliminated the very first day and there are no other interesting events for them to enter. I would suggest a couple of alternatives to the American organization to revive a tournament as prestigious as the Resinger. The first possibility would be to allow those who are eliminated on the first day to play  the swiss tournament of second day. The other possibility would be to devote two days to qualifying (and not just one day as happens now) where  all the participating teams could play, even if they are in the latest rankings after the first day: in this way, the sponsors, although small, would approach more willingly and without scaring this fascinating tourney.

O Captain! My Captain!* If you could please allow a few matters regarding the Italian scene. Maria Teresa Lavazza has resigned from the position as the captain of the Italian National Open Team. After more than a decade the team finds itself orphaned from the most titled captain of the last 50 years. I would like to make a personal tribute to Mrs Lavazza, for the work done as the coach: she dedicated her time, money, and nerves and offered the team nothing but peace of mind and will to win which will be difficult to find in other captains. The name Lavazza is written in the pages of history of our sport, but the news of her resignation were not followed by words of commentary from Italian federation (FIGB): no „Thank You“, not a word of appreciation. The Italian Bridge Federation is going through a difficult time, in July 2011 it was put under a commissioner by CONI (Italian Olympic Committee)  and there will be a presidential election upheld in July. However, not even one official note came from the Special Commissioner, from ex-Presidents or from the forthcoming election candidates. Not even one word from ex board members nor future board members.
All this despite the fact that the Federation has its own official website and people nowadays can communicate efficiently via Twitter, Facebook, …Board members and Presidents come and go, the name Lavazza will be engraved in History..

Appeal to federations all over the world. It is not my personal opinion but fact that bridge is in agony and almost dead. Less and less people play, average age is higher each year. It is true that the younger generation now has thousands of alternatives to playing bridge, but it is also true that it is my generation’s duty to put every effort in keeping alive this fantastic game that until this day has fascinated millions. Having said that, my appeal is to the federations: support every initiative to promote bridge in places where there are youngsters, such as universities and schools. Also in other places, like banks, offices, business premises, and prisons.
I should imagine that to accomplish this, in every country there should be volunteers: friendly teachers or just nice, young bridge players (even better this way) that will help the federations to carry forward this project, organising free courses and events that can bring players closer and interest new generations in bridge.

Response to Chris Willenken. Chris was interviewed on 3rd June during an episode of BTCC** ( Channel) and was asked to comment on one of my previous editorials, in which I expressed my view on the presence of two USA teams at the World Championships. Chris said that the European Union is one but sends one team for every „state“, while USA, even though they are a confederation of 50 states, only send 2 teams. Chris‘ opinion was that this should be a good compromise also in view of the good results always achieved by the USA. It seems to me that it is not quite so. Switzerland is a confederation as well but no-one would ever think of sending one team from each district. My view is that because USA send two very strong teams, they have double chance of winning the World Championship and that is the reason they do well so often. I will say this again: I do not know any other sport competition where one nation is represented by two teams. Not even in „It’s a knockout“ or „Monopoly“.

Adios y hasta muy pronto



Co-produced by and Neapolitan Club
translated by Laura Cecilia Porro

*O Captain! My Captain!:  Are famous verses written by American poet Walt Whitman to honor Lincoln. The poem is also well known for being important part of the plot in famous Peter Weir’s movie „Dead Poets Society“ from 1989, with Robin Williams. [Editor’s Note]

 ** BTCC  ( Channel) is the web TV produced by Neapolitan Club Chris Willenken was a guest of  Bridge Sunday Night Live Show broadcast  last June 3, 2012. To read the transcript of ‘interview with Chris Willenken:  click here >>

 Jun 9, 2012

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