Bridge Blacks storm Lyon

September 4, 2017

Bridge Blacks storm Lyon

Bridge Blacks (from left) Michael Ware, Geir-Olav Tislevoll, Michael Whibley, Ashley Bach, Matt Brown and Mike Cornell. Photo: supplied

The New Zealand bridge team, which includes AUT finance director Michael Ware, may have just missed out on the medals in France but they put on their best international performance yet.

The Bridge Blacks finished 4th in the world's top bridge competition at the Bermuda Bowl in Lyon recently, the highest a New Zealand team has reached in a world championship.

Last year the Bridge Blacks showed their potential at the 2016 World Bridge Games in Wroclaw, Poland.

That title proved a bridge too far, with the Kiwis losing to Spain in the quarter-finals - but it was the first time New Zealand, an amateur bridge-playing nation in a world of professionals, had reached the top 16.

All six players in the team belong to the Akarana Bridge Club.

Michael Cornell was made a club life member in 2016.

Matthew Brown and Michael Whibley are both undergraduate students at the University of Auckland.

Mr Brown, 21 was one of the youngest players at the whole tournament.

AUT's director of financial services, Michael Ware, has been in the New Zealand team consistently for  20 years.

“We were so very excited when we qualified for the first time. Then we knocked out one of the pre- tournament favourites the Netherlands, and made the semis. Then we lost to France, then played off against Bulgaria and lost narrowly.

“It takes two days to play each segment and on the whole the team played well. We have come close but not this close.

“Bridge is a fantastic mentally stimulating and challenging game which is also social as well. I highly recommend it,” said Mr Ware.

The recent week's biennial world championship is contested every odd-numbered year and hosted by the World Bridge Federation (WBF).

To challenge for the title, first fought for in 1950, nations have to first qualify in their geographic zone.

Twenty-two teams qualified and played a further week-long round-robin qualifier at the competition venue in Lyon, France.

It was a New Zealand bridge first at that point, qualifying for the top eight knock-out stage

The Bridge Blacks beat the Netherlands in the quarter-finals but then lost to France, resoundingly, in the semis.

In the final, they in turn lost to USA, who are the new holders of the coveted Bermuda Bowl.

Mark Hangartner, president of Akarana Bridge Club, spoke to TWN. “Coming from a country where we have amateur players this is a wonderful achievement. Matthew Brown certainly has a bright future in bridge.

“Bridge is a sport that can be taken up at any stage of life with the prospect of reaching international standards if you have the right determination and aptitude.

“Of course for thousands, as in all sports, it is simply a great social activity.”

“This team has been our greatest success so far. The internationals are starting to show their promise on the world stage."

Notably, Ashley Bach and Michael Cornell won the gold medal at the Bridge Olympiad last year, said Mr Hangartner.

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