Ari Greenberg y Jason Feldman (Campeones Juveniles Sudamericano 2007)

2012 US Team Trials Begins Source: Bridgwinners

  The United States Bridge Championships (USBC), also known as the trials, begins today in Chicago. The winner earns the right to compete in the World Bridge Games in Lille this summer. 15 of the 18 teams entered in the event will compete in a two-day round-robin. The top 11 teams in the round-robin will join the 3 teams, who earned byes to the knockout phase based on their perfomance throughout the cycle.

The cycle consists of the 2012 Vanderbilt, the 2011 Spingold, and the 2011 Reisinger. A team’s performance at the previous year’s USBC also counts towards a bye to the round of 16, but not for a deeper bye. NICKELL and DIAMOND will enjoy byes to the round of 8, based on their second-place finishes in the 2011 Spingold and 2012 Vanderbilt, respectively. The 2010 USBC Champions FLEISHER (and USA 1) at the recent Bermuda Bowl) earned a bye to the round of 16.

Notably absent from this year’s trials are last year’s champions, who went on to win the Silver Medal at the 2011 Bermuda Bowl as USA 2. 5 out of the 6 members of the team will still compete, but on 2 different teams.

Dan Zagorin is the missing member of the 2011 team as he elected to not play in this year’s trials, so Dan’s partner Kevin Bathurst rekindled his partnership with Justin Lall. This duo was originally slated to play on a team with Seymon Deutsch, but unfortunately Seymon is currently in the hospital and will not participate. Now, they will team up with Reese Milner partnering Hemant Lall, and John Kranyak playing with Gavin Wolpert.

Joe Grue is back with regular partner Curtis Cheek and two of his teammates from last year, John Hurd and Joel WooldridgeWarren Spector and Gary Cohler are the 3rd pair on their team. Also, Joe would like you to vote on Who will win the 2012 trials in Chicago.  

In 2013 two more powerhouse teams, FLEISHER and NICKELL, will also see major changes, as Levin andWeinstein are moving to the NICKELL team at the beginning of the next cycle. A victory in Chicago will earn the players one more opportunity to compete together, but the depth of the field makes that a difficult task. To get an idea of just how difficult here are the rosters of all the 2012 USBC teams.

As evident by the names on the rosters, many teams have a legitimate shot at winning the event and representing the U.S. at the World Mind Games this summer. In my opinion, this is one of the best events on the bridge calendar for the participants as well as the spectators. Nevertheless, some advocate for the U.S. to follow the lead of other countries and choose the national team through a selection process.  

The United States has used a team trials to select its national teams for many years, but it was not always the case. In the past the U.S. has held various pairs trials. Recently, the International Teams Trials Committee revisited this possibility of a pairs trials or repechage for the 2013 trials.

What do other countries do? Many also have a team trials, but two of them, Israel and Germany, give their trials an interesting twist.  They send the trials winners to the European Championships, but the runners-up to the World Bridge Games! Talk about a situation with incentives for dumping.

Some countries, such as France and Denmark, have a combination of a pairs trials and selection. Sweden has a combination of a team trials and selection. The country of the reigning Bermuda Bowl Champions, The Netherlands, uses a combination of self-assessment and selection to choose their team from the top 6 pairs.

Why do some countries have a trials, while others resort to selection, or a combination?

Which method is the most fair?

Which method results in the best team(s)? 

Some of the typical reasons given for trials in the U.S. are:

  • Equity. Anybody can enter the trials and earn their right to compete in the World Championships. 
  • Professionalism. It helps enable players to earn a living playing bridge. Having professional sponsorship enables the top players to devote themselves to bridge 100% of the time. Therefore the top players are arguably better than they would be otherwise.
  • Depth of Field. With so many top players it is hard to determine who is truly the best year-in and year-out. Many top pairs may have a legitimate claim to being one of the 3 (or 6) best pairs. 
  • It works. The U.S. has a pretty strong track record in International bridge competitions. Why deviate from what works?  

If a national bridge organization decides to use a selection process over a trials, it probably believes that a selection process is either more fair or will result in a better team. A selection process can be viewed as more equitable, since the selection committee or selector can consider many events and results as opposed to just one tournament. 

What method would you choose? Perhaps there is not a one-size-fits-all solution: the method that creates the best team for one country might not work well for others.