Gianarrigo Rona

WBF president confident of bright future for bridge

The job of World Bridge Federation president necessarily involves a bit of globe-hopping. Just ask Gianarrigo Rona, current WBF chief.

Rona flew into Phoenix on Friday to make contact with ACBL representatives to the WBF and is heading out today to attend the SportAccord World Mind Games in Beijing, China. After that, it’s on to Sanya, Hainan, China, to finalize plans for next year’s World Bridge Series, the WBF’s biggest and most open championship.

Sanya, la Hawai de China
Sanya, la Hawai de China

He used the brief visit to Phoenix as an opportunity to invite all ACBL players, especially those at the Fall NABC, to make plans for the tournament, set for Oct. 10-25 in a venue often referred to as the “Oriental Hawaii.”

The World Bridge Series starts with Mixed Teams and Mixed Pairs, then Open, Women’s and Senior Teams, followed by Open, Women’s and Senior Pairs. All events are transnational with no prequalification. All players in good standing with their respective national bridge organizations are welcome.

“It will be a great event,” said Rona, still feeling good about the joint ACBL/WBF effort in Atlanta last August, where young players from around the world played in the Youth NABC and the World Youth Open Bridge Championships.

Another major WBF tournament for young players is set for Istanbul, Turkey, Aug. 13-23. For the first time, the
World Youth Teams Championships will feature games for players up to 15 years old – and there will be six teams
invited by the WBF to play there.

Estambul, Turquía
Estambul, Turquía

Within a couple of years, Rona said, the tournament will have four categories for youth players – up to 24, Open and Girls; up to 19, and 15 and younger. Rona said the new categories are being offered in part because it was apparent during the Atlanta tournaments that younger players prefer to play against their peers.

The trend for participation by young players is encouraging, Rona said, noting that “this year I have seen many  countries developing youth bridge. The movement is growing.”

Some of those players may one day advance to the higher-level games that will be played in Sanya. Rona said he is pleased that the WBF and the Chinese Contract Bridge Association were able to jointly organize the World Bridge Series there. “It is a marvelous place,” he said. It is also easy to get to.

Most major cities, he noted, connect with Hong Kong, and a flight from there to Sanya takes less than an hour.
Sanya is the southernmost city on the Chinese island of Hainan. It has a tropical climate and has emerged as a popular tourist destination, with the most well-preserved and beautiful beaches in all of China.

As far as bridge play, Rona said, the World Bridge Series features a unique schedule that, at least in theory, offers the chance for a competitor to win four world championships – Mixed Teams, Mixed Pairs; Open, Women’s or Senior Teams, and Open, Women’s or Senior Pairs. This is possible because the teams winners in the second week of the tournament will be allowed to drop into the final of their respective pairs events.

All players at the tournament wear badges with bar codes. After any session, the badge can be passed under a scanner for an instant printout of the badge holder’s scores and standing in the event. For more information about the tournaments in Sanya and Istanbul, visit Rona said he is confident about the future of bridge, and he predicts that the game will one day be included as a medal sport in the Olympic Games.

“We have to await our moment,” he said, “but it will arrive for sure. We have a chance.”

The WBF president noted that before bridge and chess were officially recognized as sports by the International Olympic Committee, “nobody believed it would happen, but we are full members of the IOC and bridge is in a good position.”