Ray Lee

Olympiad preview

There is a curiously even number of teams contesting this year’s Bridge Olympiad Competitions.  The 72 Open teams divided neatly into 4 sections of 18, while there are 54 women’s teams in three sections of 18.  I can’t help feeling that the organizers somehow influenced the entries here — that’s just too convenient a set of numbers to have happened by chance!

Anyway, the net is that since both fields are being reduced in the round robin stages to 16 for the KO phase, it’s easier to get through in the Venice Cup than in the Bermuda Bowl.  Linda’s been forecasting the Bermuda Bowl qualifiers, and my self-appointed task here is to apply the same crystal ball to the Venice Cup.

Actually, it’s not that easy a chore, partly because there are fewer standout women’s teams, and partly because more qualify.   However, if you look at the teams with experience, and factor in the results from the last few world events as well as the recent European Championships, certain things do begin to emerge.

Let’s start with Group E, where USA will be the overwhelming favorites.  The same six Italian women just came off a silver-medal performance in Pau, so it’s not hard to pick them as a qualifier.  The England team disappointed in Pau, but this is a stronger squad with Nicola Smith and Sally Brock back in the lineup, and they should have more than enough class to make the top five.  Hong Kong is something of an unknown quantity, and could certainly turn out to be tough.  Other than that, I would expect the other two qualifiers to come from Brazil (usually solid if unspectacular), Japan (who have struggled for consistency in the last few world events), Egypt (whose anchor pair is enormously experienced, and that counts for a lot), Poland and India (two more countries who have performed well on occasion, but rarely two years in a row).  If you force me to pick two, I’ll go for Brazil and Egypt.

Canada is in tough in Group F, especially since this is one of most inexperienced teams we’ve sent to a world event in some time.  If we concede first place to France, and second to China, I have to give Spain and Denmark the nod for the next two — Spain took the bronze medals in Pau, while Denmark was a creditable 6th in the same tough field.  So if Canada’s going to make it out of this group, it will have to be ahead of Russia (the reigning Olympiad champions from Istanbul, but fallen on hard times since), Argentina (another unspectacular but hard-to-beat team), Finland (not likely, but hard to write off completely) and Australia (not as experienced as some of their recent sides, but always dangerous).  And I’m ignoring Indonesia, who are also not necessarily a pushover.  So I’m sorry, ladies,  but I think this one is just going to be a learning experience.  Put me down as picking Russia to grab that fifth qualifying spot.

In the last group, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden look pretty good bets.  That leaves two spots to be decided among New Zealand (which started very fast in Shanghai, then faded down the stretch — one more year under their belts could help them overcome that), South Africa, Turkey and Greece.  I’ll go for New Zealand and Turkey — surely a country with that many BBO experts must be able to field a decent team 🙂

I think the 16th qualifier (the 6th place team with the best VP ratio) will come from Group E, which seems to me to have more teams against which one can score a blitz.  That being the case, I’ll go for Hong Kong, just to hedge my bets as this team may well turn out in reality to be a sneaky way of sending a China 2 to the event.

There are so many permutations after that, I’m not going to go there in detail.  But for the winners at this stage, it’s hard to look beyond the usual suspects — USA, China, France, Netherlands, Germany.  If someone else is to edge into the medals, for me it would have to be Italy or England.


MichaelSeptember 21st, 2008 at 3:09 am

Do not underestimate the Canadians in group F, If you like we can bet a beer on the out come. On the other hand, do not be supriced if this France team don’t make the cut.

Ray LeeSeptember 21st, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Whoops — you know what they say about ‘assume’ 🙂 I plead guilty to not looking at the France roster. As Butch said to Sundance, ‘Who are these guys?’ I still think Canada will do well to get out of the group, though, and anything beyond that would be a remarkable performance. However, there’s always one surprise team in the Olympiad — maybe this year it will be us.

LindaSeptember 22nd, 2008 at 2:33 pm

I think the Canadian ladies will qualify. I didn’t do much research and I don’t know the teams that well but other than China I don’t see anyone who is clearly going to take a spot. This is a great group to be in and I think Canada will do well.

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