18th European Youth Team Championships Page 5 Bulletin 6 - Saturday, 13 July  2002


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 bulletin.

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.

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