During the World Mind Games the Ranka staff had a chance to interview Mr Gianarrigo Rona, President of the World Bridge Federation. The interview was conducted mostly in Italian; here is the gist of it in English.
Ranka: Please tell us something about yourself.
Rona: I was a lawyer, and up until 1978 I was also playing bridge at a good level. When I retired from law work in 2002, I thought I could start to play bridge more often again, but it did not turn out that way. I started working practically full time for the Italian Bridge Federation and other bridge organizations. This has kept me very busy and I now play very little.
Ranka: How is the bridge competition here organized and how were the players selected?
Rona: We have a men’s division and a women’s division with four teams of six, twenty-four players, competing in each division. The players in each division also compete as pairs and individuals. The teams are national teams that were selected on the basis of their results in other tournaments, or in China’s case because they are the host country.
Men’s teams were invited from China, Italy, Norway, and the USA. The Italian team was invited because of their victories in the last three World Bridge Games, formerly known as the World Team Olympiad. Last October, however, the Italians took third place, behind the Netherlands and the USA, in another tournament (the World Teams Championship, aka the Bermuda Bowl), so they ceded their place in the World Mind Games to the Dutch. The Dutchmen then proceeded to win the team competition at the World Mind Games, while a Chinese pair won the pair competition and an American player won the individual competition.
Women’s teams were invited from China, France, Great Britain, and the USA. The Americans won everything.
In the future, we’d like to make the selection system more rigid, so that the winners of specific tournaments get to come to the World Mind Games.
Ranka: How significant are the SportAccord World Mind Games to bridge players?
Rona: For the World Bridge Federation, the SportAccord World Mind Games are an important opportunity to make contact with the Asian countries. In addition, they are the key step toward Olympic participation. Olympic participation may or may not come about but SportAccord is the only way.
Ranka: What about the monetary prizes?
Rona: When I visited the Korean Baduk Association in Korea I was told about the sums of money that professional go players can win, so perhaps the cash prizes here are not so big for go players, but for bridge players, the situation is different. Money prizes are unusual in bridge. Normally the winners in a bridge competition take home only medals or trophies, which may enable them to find sponsorship in their own countries. In that sense, for bridge players winning medals is more important than winning cash prizes, but the money is one reason why the World Bridge Federation wants to change the system for choosing the participating teams.
Ranka: Do you know how to play go?
Rona: I was introduced to go at a SportAccord event four years ago by Eric Puyt, who was vice secretary of the European Go Federation at that time. It seems to be a very difficult game to master, even though the rules are simpler than the rules of bridge. But go and chess are more approachable than bridge. A person can quickly start to play chess or go. This is not true of bridge. To play bridge, besides learning the rules, you have to find a partner and also learn how to bid. We are now testing new systems of teaching bridge to make the approach to the game easier.