Norberto Bocchi’s interviews (9): Mustafa Cem Tokay

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Norberto - Baba

As announced on Neapolitan Club, Norberto Bocchi and his partner Agustin Madala will play the next cycle of US Nationals (starting 2013 summer) together with Gromov-Dubinin and Narkiewicz-Buras. There is also some news about the forthcoming Spring US Nationals (Spring 2013 North American Bridge Championships), which will be held from 14th to 24th of March 2013 in Saint Luis (MO, USA): Norberto and Agustin will play with the team of Mustafa Cem Tokay.

Norberto describes him as follows: “Mustafa Cem Tokay, ‘Baba’ as friends call him, is passionate about bridge beyond words and he is a very good player.  From a personal point of view, he is a fantastic man, always optimistic, and I love positive people: under every circumstances he can instill enthusiasm and joy to live. I have never heard him say anything pessimistic, he lives through his projects… we could say that he has a lot of trump cards up his sleeve, and not only because of his age! To be honest, he does have a negative feature: he talks a lot about bridge! But maybe this will soon make him one of us… top player LOL!”.

Norberto Bocchi interviews Mustafa Cem Tokay

Norberto Bocchi: How have you been captured by bridge?

Mustafa Tokay: My father was a bridge player but my passion started when I was at university. I started playing the game in the canteen of my school, then after a couple of months I started going to the bridge club to play duplicate. After that I started playing with Nafiz Zorlu and the story of my big passion started.


NB: Which system do you play with your partner?

MT: Lauria’s system, which I am sure is similar to yours.


NB: How would you describe your bridge style?

MT: I try to play more conservatively, I am working on it, but I think I still am an aggressive player.


NB: Which is the first bridge book you read?

MT: “Goren” by Charles Goren, a long time ago.


NB: Other authors?

MT: I own a huge library of more than 2000 bridge books. In particular I really enjoy and learn lots of winning philosophy from the experiences of Krzysztof Martens and Zia Mahmood.


NB: Is there a player who influenced your game?

MT: Four players greatly influenced my bridge. The first one is Nafiz Zorlu who is the legend of Turkish bridge. He really made a lot of effort to help me improve my game. As a partnership we won lots together, and we also played for Turkey. I always felt that he is my father in bridge and in life. Nafiz is the reason why I am so passionate about bridge. The second one is Lorenzo Lauria. I think it is very hard to understand him. One has to study his philosophy a lot, in order to understand him. He has a peculiar winning philosophy which differentiates him from all other players. He also writes systems and I think he offers the best solutions to our bidding problems. The third player is Giorgio Duboin. Not only is he very talented, but also he taught me a lot about the game. I think he is the most useful player a team could have. The fourth player is Alfredo Versace, who is a big champion. I suspect that if we made a survey asking who the best player in the world is, it would be him. He has all the qualities a real champion must have.


NB:  Which is the best quality a partner can have?

MT: A respectful and ethical partner, with a winning philosophy.


NB: Which is your favourite tournament?

MT: Reisinger.


NB: What is your most memorable happy moment at the bridge table?

MT: I have many of these. I also enjoy it and feel happy when my opponents play well against me. I love all kinds of good bridge. One good memory comes from Turkish Championships final. I held AQxx of hearts opposite Jx. My LHO already showed two aces, and he was a passed hand. So I played the ace of hearts and a heart to my jack, which scored the trick! Then I claimed my hopeless contract. Another good one was in during the European open pairs, when I was playing with Alfredo Versace. Alfredo had AJxx opposite K9. He played the jack of diamonds from dummy when his left hand opponents discarded a diamond and made 11 tricks to score 90% on the board. Another time Zia Mahmood is in the spotlight. I was kibitzing him. He held – x AKQxxxxx AKxx. He opened 1D which was passed to his RHO who doubled and Zia passed! The bidding continues:


P- (1H)- 1S – (3H)

4S – (5H)-P-(P)

5S – (P)- P- (X)

6D – (X)- all pass

He made 7 on a club lead. I really enjoyed this. There are a million other hands and moments when I felt very happy but now I remember these primarily.


NB: Apart from your regular partner, who would you like to play with in an important tournament?

MT: Alfredo Versace.


NB:  Which teammates would you like to have? (2 pairs)

MT: Lauria-Versace and Bocchi-Madala.


NB: Wich pair do you consider the hardest to play against? Why?

MT: Rodwell-Meckstroth. Twice I played against the Meckwell. They really play very solid bridge. They very rarely make mistakes and they also have a very strong system. It is really hard to go plus against them.


NB:  Is there anything you do to avoid bad luck at the bridge table?

MT: Long term I do not believe luck affects bridge. However it sometimes happens in the short term. I always and always to follow the system, play disciplined, always focus on the new hand, and thus I may avoid the bad luck. We need strong mental resistance under the pressure of bad luck.


NB: Tell me which convention changed the history of bridge in general, and which convention changed bridge in the past ten years.

MT: I think 2/1 bidding system with forcing or semi forcing NT changed the history of bridge. Earlier on I think Stayman was a revolution. In the last ten years Gazzilli and xyz affected bridge systems a lot. Now we can see 100 different types of Gazzilli and xyz convention.


NB: Bridge has many rules, some of which are old or anachronistic. In order to update our fantastic game which rule would you erase first and which change would you introduce?

MT: I love the game with these rules. I do not think changing or erasing some rules will change the results much. My wish concerns ethics at the table. Professionalism in bridge goes up everyday, as prizes do and this brings us the problem about ethics. I think we need stronger rules and penalties in bridge. We need to use technology more and maybe we need cameras on all tables.


NB: What is your favourite music?

MT: Pop music.


NB: Are you a sports fan, e.g. football?

MT: I am big fan of Besiktas in Turkey, I am really passionate about  football.


NB: Which is your favourite actor/actress?

MT: Meryl Streep  and  Al Pacino.


NB: Which painter or artist do you like?

MT: Paul Cézanne  and Fernando Botero.


NB: What do you do in your spare time when you are not playing bridge?

MT: This interview will be published…  so I cannot answer 🙂

Muchas gracias, Baba!

Adios y hasta muy pronto



February 16, 2013

(Both English and Italian versions have been edited by Laura Cecilia Porro for Neapolitan Club)

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