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FRANCE 2017

Next stop FRANCE

World Schools Championships

Fifteen Samui youngsters currently aged 7 to 13 have been officially invited by the French Bridge Federation to participate in this event. To demonstrate their skills in front of journalists and TV cameras from around the globe. Same place & same time as the World`s top bridge players compete for the famous      
Bermuda Bowl   

 

Trevor`s CHALLENGE

During the official 30 day mourning poeriod, an English polyglot decided to learn to recite and write the Thai national anthem in toto.

Did I succeed? Sceptics can come and challenge me to the ultimate test:  To see if I can write the anthem without any help - and without making a mistake. The challengers merely have to pledge a donation to one of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha`s charitable foundations. She is King Bhumibol`s eldest grandchild and the lady who sponsored the bridge Cup competition in October that made the achievements of my Samui bridge pupils possible.

The challenge is open for the unofficial one year period of mourning. To show Thais that foreign guests are also keen to ensure the late King's tireless`work for children is not forgotten. 

 
Bridge in Thailand
YOUTH bridge in Thailand - and over the border
YOUTH bridge in Thailand - and over the border

This group photo epitomizes why the Asia Pacific Zone (6) of the World Bridge Federation is the fastest growing section of the WBF. It is no coincidence that the last three occasions they fought for the Bermuda bowl, the venues were Bali, (Indonesia) Sanya (China) and Chennai (India). Throughout that period, the zone has been presided over by the head of the Thai federation, Esther Sophonpanich. It is largely due to her efforts that bridge has been sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee as an official sport at the 2018 Asian Games. The momentum built up in this part of the world seems unstoppable given the enthusiasm and ambitions of the young players pictured here. With three of the local heroes at the Samui ACES club is a group of ten children aged 12 to 17 from Chiang Rai in the extreme north of Thailand. It was taken at the end of a week they had all spent at the youth national championships no less than 2000 kilometers from their homes. They had called at Samui to discuss what might be arranged for the following year's national training programme. Four of them plus coach were then due to stop off in Bangkok on their way back north. For a weekend youth bridge training session. With such dedication, they deserved their medals at the national Championships.

But it doesn't stop there, It looks like Thailand will be sending some of their experienced bridge tutors across the borders. Currently they are travelling around Thailand making sure the schools project is well organised in all corners of the country. The age for introducing bridge to schoolchildren has come down to seven nationwide. Now it is likely they will be crossing the border near Chiang Rai to set up a similar scheme at the request of the Laotians. And also hopping over the border in the west to do the same in Myanmar (formerly Burma)

To bring the sport to a younger and wider audience, bridge lovers in other countries must help keep the momentum going.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL

For reasons explained elsewhere on this page, you are advised NEVER to play bridge in a public place unless you have the approved cards and you are club members playing in a League.

Be warned & be careful!

CHILD PRODIHIES - or simply the norm in Thai schools

BORN TO BE BRIDGE CHAMPIONS

In an article elsewhere on this site (Chess Corner - in their genes?)  I examined the possible reasons why Russia has historically produced so many World chess champions. My conclusion: Yes, it could be a natural ability evolved over several generations.

Many would disagree. Impossible, you might argue, for the indigenous population of a particular country to be born with a natural physical or mental advantage. But can those sceptics tell me why Brazilian kids all look like world cup winners from the moment they first kick a ball? And explain why, since time immemorial, the balance of power in the football world has not shifted away from a relatively poor country like Brazil to richer countries throwing obscene amounts of money at the sport? 

The jury will probably stay out on that question. Remaining divided as to whether it is indeed in the genes. However, one point we can probably all agree on is this: The ability to excel at a particular sport is in a nation`s culture.

That being the case, all the evidence points to the fact that Thais - and Samui residents in particular - should make good bridge players. For starters, card games were invented by the Chinese in the same south East corner of Asia. Secondly, the island of Koh Samui was more or less uninhabited until the Chinese came in droves to settle here around 70 years ago. Hitherto no tourism. and no work. Then they developed the beaches and planted 3 million coconut trees to drive tourism. Obviously playing cards in their time off judging by the fact that it sometimes seems that there are now three million bridge champions on the island. Interestingly, most of the promising Academy members are under 11 years of age. 

It is a well known fact that all gambling is outlawed inThailand.  Yet, paradaxically, young Thais love to play cards for FUN. Add those two factors together and it is easy to see why Thailand has the ability to attract so many keen and ambitious devotees to the SPORT we call BRIDGE. Add two other important factors - that thai youngsters all want to be champions and that the culture of Thai family life is traditionally based on the principle of giving 100% support to children and grandchildren - then all the ingredients are there. Nothing is then impossible in Thailand

The only difficulty has been getting the message across about bridge NOT being a gambling game. Watching primary school children play competitive bridge will no doubt help to change that misconception. For historical reasons, the fear of gambling is understandably engrained in Thai culture. Many here need reminding that it is specifically referrred to in Thai legislation as the ONLY LEGAL CARD GAME.

Samui`s youngsters are performing miracles getting that message across. "Que ca continue"  ("Long may that continue") is what these young ambassadors will say on the World stage when they travel to France in August at the invitation of the French Bridge Federation. And. yes, even those young Samui thais in the group will by then be able to tell the world in perfect English and...French.

We wish them good luck and `bon voyage`

Trevor 21/3/17

Did you know....?

Bridge in the LAND of SMILES

You are coming to play bridge in Thailand. Here are some facts that might surprise you.

Virtually all the members and visitors at `farang` run clubs are under the impression that Thais do not play bridge outside Bangkok. Not true. In fact there are a lot of clubs where only Thais play. But these are not advertised on the internet in English. What is the point of Thai people who can`t speak English trying to attract foreign visitors who can`t understand a word of Thai? Let me put the question the other way.  Why do farang run clubs not advertise their bridge sessions in Thai?  

Next surprise: At the weekly regular Club tournaments at the Polo club - Federation HQ - they don`t use bidding boxes. Instead they write their bids on special small sheets of paper which remain on the table and in view of the players throughout the play of the hand. Strange you may think. But is it? How many times do club players lead out of turn? How often do you have to ask for a recap of the bidding? And all because even experienced club players wrongly put their bids back in the boxes before the lead is made. It happens all the time. Let me also put this question another way: Why do European clubs not insist that bids remain on the table until the play of the first trick has been completed? Logical or illogial in your view?

Another surprise: Except for the British Club, most bridge clubs in Bangkok play their regular sessions in the morning. Starting around 0930 and finishing by 1PM. Odd you may think! But I can tell you that it is much easier to concentrate and stay awake for 3 hours at that time of day than in the afternoon. Perhaps we should try it elsewhere. The afternoons are for post lunch siestas not bridge,  are they not!  

Next, let me draw your attention to the fact that, in Thailand, individual players do not usually pay a fee to be registered as players with the National Federation. True they can take out an individual annual or life membership if they wish, but they would still pay the same table fees at any of the affiliated clubs. Most clubs instead pay a group fee which covers residents and visitors alike.  This is a point to bear in mind if you want to know how many people play in Thai clubs. You probably need to multiply the official number given on the WBF website by at least....twenty

 

And finally the subject that received a lot of publicity in February this year. The 120 card rule and the legality of card games. The 1935 Thai law is quite clear and unambiguous on many points. Namely that (1) you are not allowed to possess more than 120 playing cards unless they are stamped to prove they are tax paid, (2) not allowed to import ANY packs of cards without official approval, and (3) not allowed to gamble.

The 120 card law at (1) above probably arises from the fact that chinese packs once had 30 cards.  We are reliably informed that China was the first country to play cards around 800 years ago. The law at (2) would probably not be enforced strictly at airports when it is clear that the cards are being used to amuse the family on long journeys. As for (3) it goes without saying that, to avoid misunderstandings, you should not put money on a table. Even if it is simply to pay for the teas, the table fees or the annual subs.

The only other point I will make on this sensitive subject is to say that the first reference to playing cards in the archives of British history was in 1462. More than five centuries ago in Britain, playing cards were BANNED by PARLIAMENTARY DECREE!!!  That was a surprise for me. I am British, by the way. Trevor 8/11/16