The 44th winter bridge nationals begins Sunday at the Sutlej Club in Ludhiana. The meet, which will end on December 3, features the open team championship for the Ruia Trophy and open pairs for the Holkar Trophy. There will also be Board-A-Match (BAM) team championship and categorised pairs for masters and non-masters.
The Haryana Bridge Association expects record entries. Last year, at the Calcutta nationals, there were 245 teams, but the record has stayed at 288, in the 1987 nationals. This is also the first time Ludhiana is organising the nationals.
The championship starts with three-day Swiss League qualifying for the Ruia teams after which 24 teams (12 each from 2 groups) qualify for the pre-quarters. The field will then progressively get reduced to 8, 4 and to the finals.
During the last four days of Ruia Super League and knockouts the qualifying rounds of Pairs and BAM will be in progress. The teams playing the Ruia automatically get byes to the next rounds. The semi-final of Holkar Pairs will be held on Sunday, on December 1 and this will be followed by BAM final next day. And the final of Holkar is scheduled on the final day of the meet.
It is difficult to pinpoint to a clear favourite for the Ruia Trophy. Prediction will be risky. Going by the teams’ performance and compositions, it looks to be one of the most wide Open meets in recent years.
Last year, India Blues comprising Ashok Ruia, J M Shah, K V Krishnamurthy, Anil Paranjape, Vivek Bhan and Debashis Roy, pipped Formidables of Delhi (represented by Kiran Nadar, Suhas Gupta, Rajesh Dalal, Satya Narayan, Sunil Choksi, Venkataraman) in an exciting 64 boards final of Ruia by only one IMP. Although, Formidables appealed against Ruia team on a board, the Appeals Committee favoured Ruia’s team.
This meet will find Ashok Ruia’s team in different shape. Ashok has picked up a Mumbai based team comprising Anand Samant, S.K. Iyengar, Ajoy Khare, Shridharan, Rajendra Gokhale.
The Nagappan’s teams of Chennai look solid for the coveted Ruia trophy with Kirubhakara Murthy, Debashis Roy, B Prabhakar, Anil Padheya and Kalpana Mishra.
Other contenders a team of Mumbai — Raju Tolani, Jimmy Mehta, Kamal Roy, Vinay Desai and Prakash Dalvi, another Mumbai outfit Monotona having Deepak Poddar, Raju Bhiwandhi, Ajit Chakradeo, Subhas Vaidya, also look serious contenders for the title.
Bengal’s challenge will be restricted to Haldibari, Trambak Rubber, C.V. Rao IV and two teams of Railways.
In recent past C.V. Rao’s team is having a excellent record in Delhi PSD championship and National Masters in Mumbai. They are represented by Badal Das, Sibnath De Sarkar, Pranab Bardhan, C.V. Rao, Krishnakumar.
Both the Railway teams are having a mixed look comprising with horses of bridge circuit. Team-1 will see Pritish Kushari, Sumit Mukherjee, Rana Roy, Manas Mukherjee, Subir Majumder, Amarnath Banerjee and Team-2 comprises of Saroj Bhattacharyya, Hasibul Hasan, Vinod Sharma, Snehashis Roy, Ashim Mukherjee.
Haldibari’s team of Deepak Majumder, Ashit Kundu, Debashis Bose, Amal Kundu, Satyabrata Lahiri and Aurobindo always remains a surprise package. Trambak Rubber may also cause some serious dents in the equations with Sudhir Ganguly, Alok Sadhu, Hari Bajoria, Ajoy Brahmachari, Manik Chakraborty, Bhabes Saha in their ranks.
Meanwhile, bridge has leaped into the Olympics fold. The game made its debut in the last Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, in February, where Ashok Ruia, J.M. Shah, Pritish Kushari, Krishnakumar and Badrinath represented India.