DREAMING, WINNING AND
By Kees Tammens
Way back in 1975 I, then still a junior, and my junior partner
played in the Cino del Duca in the beautiful Palais de Chaillot
in Paris. What an impressive event; a two-session pairs tournament
with more then 700 pairs! On the last board we doubled 1¨, which
was made with an overtrick for zero of the 578 match points. To
make things sadder, we were cold for ten or even eleven tricks in
hearts. When the results were published we appeared in twelfth place.
Not too bad, but terrible when it became clear that 4© making
450 would have given us first place and an enormous money prize.
After that I played in a lot of competitions at home and international,
with even some reasonable results, but I will never forget that
moment in Paris.
Since I started training the Dutch juniors and travelled with them
to many international tournaments, there were a lot of memorable
moments. It became also clear to me that the margin between victory
and defeat is narrow.
Isn't that all that matters? Bridge would be a tedious game and
sport if you could predict the winners in advance. Last month I
visited the European Championships in Salsomaggiore and after four
of fourteen days it was not the question which team won the title
but how big the margin between Italy and the rest of the field would
grow. Of course, you follow the teams fighting for the two other
medals and also your own national team, but the Championship seemed
to have lost a lot of the usual so agreeable tension.
Travelling to Torquay, an eleven-hour train ride (although the
players will tell you that it was much shorter for the coach, sleeping
more then half of the time), was not too bad for the reason that
the time you spend with a group of eager junior bridge players always
is a feast. Everybody was filled with high hopes for the Championship.
The last modifications in the bidding system were discussed and
a couple of hands played.
Dreaming the impressive dream of inventive bids, brilliant leads,
technically advanced plays and devious coups, everybody had a good
night's sleep before the start of the tournament. The whole Dutch
squad could hardly wait until the first board.
Where victory was so eagerly wanted, the hard blows of defeat struck
the Dutch junior team time after time with deadly accuracy. We let
opponents make impossible games, our pre-emptive actions usually
backfired, failed in many impossible slam adventures with the absolute
low, after a terrible misunderstanding, ending in six clubs on a
four-nil fit with seven spades almost cold.
Sport, especially top sport, has all to do with winning and losing.
This certainly is true for bridge. Of course it is nice to play
at home with friends and bridge has also certainly some scientific
attractions but the real game is played in tough competitions like
this European Championship. That is where the real action takes
place. That is where you want your name in the headlines of the
In every tournament are villains, heroes and winners, but also
victims and losers. In Torquay the Dutch team, including captain
and coach, has to cope with the facts being on the downside. The
pep talk in the daily late meetings after the matches seemed to
lose its ever-optimistic character. Still the atmosphere in the
morning at breakfast is heart-warmingly positive, especially after
the arrival of the U-20 players.
Learning from your mistakes, fighting your way up from defeat,
growing in difficult circumstances. That is it what it takes to
become a stronger bridge player. Taking advantage of the losses,
will hopefully help us and let us grow as a person.
It seems unlikely that the Dutch juniors will
be among the prize winners in this Championship. They can, however,
learn a lot, and so should the coach, from this bad experience that
will produce good lessons to be used in the next two years. A lot
of hard work awaits us to be able to compete for the title and the
medals in 2004. And the dreaming definitely will start again when
the contours of the venue of the next European Championship will
arise at the horizon.