The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The World Bridge Federation holds a world championship every year. There are three different world championship tournaments, which are scheduled in a four-year cycle. On odd years the Bermuda Bowl is held. This is a tournament contested by a small number of teams representing various Zones of the Federation.

The Bridge World, America's premiere bridge magazine, complains that the Bermuda Bowl invites too many teams. Many hands must be played to select a winner, and as a result the players become exhausted and the play late in the tournament is not of championship quality. The Bridge World points out that the even-year events, the Olympiad (in years divisible by four) and the Rosenblum (in other even years) are open to all countries. The Bermuda Bowl should select a handful of teams, with more elimination occuring in the zonal trials.

Today I was reading a report on the 2003 Bermuda Bowl, and you couldn't ask for better support of the Bridge World's arguments. 22 teams were invited, including two from the US, and the initial phase, to select an eight-team field, consisted of a full round robin against every other team. Each match consisted of 16 hands, so the teams played 336 hands before the quarterfinals even started!

The final pitted the American powerhouse of Nickell against Italy's best team. The Americans won by one imp, gaining 22 imps on the last two hands. The last hand was a heartbreaker for the Italians: Lorenzo Lauria, playing both hands because his partner had left the table, pulled the wrong card from the dummy and went down two instead of one for a 12-imp loss. This was a mistake heard round the world, but this final hand had been subjected to no fewer than four errors at the two tables. (And I'm not talking about subtle, "no world class player should play the seven of spades when the nine is correct" type of mistakes. These were howlers. If any of my regular partners pulled one of these boners, I would have to bite down hard on my tongue to keep from saying anything.) Lauria's error was actually the least expensive mistake, costing only one imp, and his error was prompted by Soloway's own blunder. (Lauria assumed that Soloway would cash his good ten of hearts. Soloway actually exited a spade; dummy had a high spade and Lauria could have pitched his heart loser on it, but Lauria had dummy's low spade ready for Soloway's ten of hearts, and touched the card before he realized Soloway's mistake.)

Lauria, Soloway, and the rest are fantastic players. It's good for bridge when players of this caliber square off against each other, but it is not good when they are forced to play some 700 hands until their brains are fried. The WBF should limit the number of entrants in future Bermuda Bowls.



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