Schools Championship -
The Form Guide
By Peter Gill
Israel has several players who did well at the bridge games at
the World Junior Camp in Poland last year. Their anchor foursome
had a great start here, with two maximum wins. Their third pair,
whose debut match was a 20-10 win, make the rest of us look old
by comparison - Eliron Arghelasi is 13 and Lotan Fisher is 12 and
a half. These two are experienced, having visited England for a
week with about fifteen other young Israeli bridge players. During
that trip, their team won the main event, and they won a duplicate
Derby Bridge Club against adults. Lotan is believed to be the youngest
player ever at the European Youth Championships, being slightly
younger than Dana Tal was when she first represented Israel some
Agustin Madala of Argentina is only a couple of years older than
Lotan, and already is one of the top players in Argentina's Open
Team, having played in the Bermuda Bowl in Paris recently. Agustin
played in the 1999 and 2001 World Junior Teams, and as schools bridge
programs continue to develop, there is no doubt that we will be
seeing more of these bridge prodigies in future.
In December 2001, England, Belgium, France and the hosts competed
in the Under 20 Channel Trophy in Ostend over a long weekend. England
won, using two of the pairs who are in Torquay and their reserve
pair for Torquay. The losers from the mainland say that the England
team will do very well in Torquay. Most of the English players went
to the World Junior Bridge Camp in Poland last year, where their
names were often seen near the top of the ranking lists.
However, while those two countries will do well, they are not the
favourites. Poland are the Defending Champions, and have recently
started a massive schools bridge program. In the last two years,
the number of schools players in Poland has increased dramatically.
They have agreements with government departments that bridge is
treated like other sports. At about ten schools, Bridge is a normal
class like Maths or English. They have printed over 40 booklets
or books about bridge, of which one, the Green System Manual (the
standard simple bidding system) Is a book accepted by the Ministry
of Education as a textbook. Their Bridge Magazine now includes a
Schools section. They had to restrict numbers at a recent Bridge
Camp to 220 because that is all they could fit in.
Two of Poland's Schools Team in Torquay, Piotr Nawrocki and Filip
Niziok, came 6th out of 220 in the 2001 World Junior Pairs Championship
last year, despite giving a five year head start to the field. Jacek
Kalita and Jan Sikora came 19th in the same event, and both partnerships
have an additional year of experience now. To put this into perspective,
Joel Wooldridge and Joe Grue came 108th in the same event, before
winning the World Junior Teams (Under 25) a month later. Overall,
if any team can finish ahead of Poland, they have certainly earned
the title of European Champions.
France, Netherlands and Italy all have successful school bridge
programs, so their large player bases should enable them to field
capable teams. However, the results of the Channel Trophy, where
the first two of these teams lost to England, coupled with Italy's
early maximum loss to Israel, lead the Daily Bulletin to predict:
1st Poland, 2nd and 3rd England and Israel.
Although Scotland claims to be the favourites
to run last, their Juniors Team has had a good few days and moved
off the bottom rung of the ladder, so the bottom places more difficult
to predict in this event than the winners.