May-June has to be the favourite time of the year for fans of serious bridge. Trials are held in all eight WBF Zones to determine World Championship qualifiers. Since the European qualification process takes place in even-numbered years nowadays, this year we also had the European Open Championships, an event modelled after the Rosenblum/World Open Pairs Championships and now copied by many other Zones. Most of these events, with some of the more-interesting boards, are reported here.
Last month we were critical of the WBF‘s policy of denying a place in the Bermuda Bowl or Venice Cup to NBOs not taking part in the Olympiad. The Jamaican women were the latest to run afoul of the regulation preventing participation and we predicted it would not be long before this happened again. Little did we realise that the prediction would come true within 24 hours. The Bahrain Open Team staged a minor upset, defeating Bangladesh in the semifinals of the BFAME (WBF Zone 4 – Asia and the Middle East) Trials to qualify, with India, for the Bermuda Bowl. Except … well, you know the story.
Furthermore, we are reliably informed (by Ron Klinger) that several teams (French Polynesia, New Caledonia and perhaps Vanuatu, although the latter is not a member of the WBF anyway) did not participate in the Zone 7 (South Pacific) Trials solely because they would be ineligible for Bali in the (admittedly unlikely) event that they qualified (Australia and New Zealand being the powers of the Zone).
The WBF could remedy this situation, but it would require drastic and immediate action. Here’s one solution: (i.) repeal the regulation retroactively and (ii.) allow the Jamaican Women’s Team and the Bahraini Open Team to compete in Bali.
Since that would produce an unwieldy 23 teams in each event, admit one more team in each series from Europe. That would result in Israel, the seventh-place finisher from Dublin last year, playing in the Bermuda Bowl and Austria, the eighth-place team in the Women’s, qualifying for the Venice Cup. Why the eighth-place team?
Sweden, the team that finished seventh is already going, courtesy of Israel’s withdrawal. The expansion to 24 teams would produce no grief for anyone, would build some goodwill and would make four teams very happy. It would require only a minor adjustment to scheduling that could be accomplished with four 16-board matches on two of the seven qualifying days – not too onerous a regimen.
There is a fly in the ointment, however. The reason for Israel’s withdrawal from the Venice Cup seems to be purely political. Indonesia does not recognize Israel as a sovereign nation and had been delaying their approval to enter the country and any discussion of security for their players. With pressure on Israel to declare its intentions, Israel felt that withdrawal was its only option. So, even if the WBF were to permit a seventh team from Europe in the Bermuda Bowl, it would apparently not be Israel. European qualifiers for the Bermuda Bowl are Monaco, Netherlands, Italy, England, Poland and Germany. If Israel did not accept an invitation to play, can you guess who’s next in line? Yes…Sweden.