Luck playing a big part for Sweden in the World Bridge championship

SportingIndia|06-Oct-2015 17:44

CHENNAI:  “We have been lucky”, exclaims Jan Lagerman, the Captain of the Swedish Bermuda bowl team with regard to the way things have gone on for his country in this World bridge championship.  Two weeks before the Championship Sweden gets the invitation to come over to Chennai because of the withdrawal of Monaco.  The time thus was just sufficient to get the players together, get the visa and organise the travel. By the time the team landed rooms at the championship hotel were unavailable and an alternative had to be found.

Sweden thus came feeling lucky and with just participation in focus,  said Lagerman.  Having had the experience of winning the Open World team championship in Lille in France three years ago, Sweden has a history not only of recent times but much earlier of having come runner up in Bermuda Bowl in 1953 and later twice as third placed team. The way the competition began here, Sweden did not seem going anywhere. 

Tenth place in the penultimate round of round robin phase and everything appeared over for Sweden. A grand win over Egypt in the last round helped it squeeze into the quarterfinal past Japan with just 0.14 IMPs margin being difference between the two teams. “That margin does not amount to even one trick, may be half a trick. So we were lucky again,” said Lagerman without concealing his happiness.

Lagerman attributed the good show to the way his prime pair Johan Upmark and Fredrik Nystrom performed.  They were the guiding factor, drawing their experience from being  part of the 2012 team that won the world open title in the World Mind Games in Lille. In the knock out, Sweden was pitted against Bulgaria, a team Lagerman said, his country most often lost to in competitions in Europe. However luck again shone here.  Sweden simple outsmarted the top flying Bulgaria, the group leader in the top eight for an outstanding victory in the 96-board stress-filled quarterfinals.  Once again Lagerman looked up to say, “we were lucky.”

How much luck will guide them ahead will be unraveled in the next few days but Lagerman is ready to present a big smile when told what if the Bermuda Bowl finally comes Sweden’s way ?  “I do not think this is going to make big news back home. Yes, may be there will be cameramen at the airport and a few lines in the media. Otherwise it is not going to prove a boost for the sport in Sweden,” he is clear.  Bridge survives in Sweden through mostly old hands.  The young are still to take it in a big way. But, he said, the Federation there was putting together plans and progammes for junior development.

Otherwise much of the bridge played are in the clubs, with Stockholm boasting of what is acclaimed to be the world’s biggest bridge club, the St Eric club. Players are regular there, morning and evening and there are teaching rooms as well for beginners, who are not exactly young persons, according to him. Lagerman said in Sweden sports popularity moves in cycles.

Though football and ice-hockey have a special audience,  he said there was a time during  the times of Bjorn Borg, Edberg and others, when tennis saw a boom. No longer now, he said.  Similarly when Jan Waldner wielded the table tennis bat and became the best in the world, the sport attracted interest. That was also gone. Money was not as much an issue as sustaining interest. 

Bridge, he said had little support from sponsors or media. What stood the sport in good stead was passion and collective support of the bridge fraternity comprising, as he said, around 20,000 players.

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