Pakistan team gears up for World Bridge Championship 2023 in Morocco

LAHORE - The Pakistan senior bridge team, led by captain Saeed Akhtar, is set to embark on a journey to the World Bridge Championship 2023, scheduled to kick off on Au­gust 20 in Marrakech, Morocco. 

In an exclusive conversation with The Nation, Saeed Akhtar said: “In the recent Bridge Fed­eration of Asia and Middle East (BFAME) Championship held in May this year, India claimed victory, followed by UAE, while Pakistan secured a commend­able position. The triumphant trio - India, UAE, and Pakistan - have rightfully secured their positions at the World Bridge Championship 2023.” 

Elaborating on the intense rivalry between Pakistan and India within the BFAME senior category (aged 60), Akhtar said, “In the BFAME senior category, Pakistan and India engaged in a closely contested match, with Pakistan edging out India by a slight margin, accumulating a to­tal of 210.43 victory points (VP) against India’s 208.01. Jordan se­cured the third position.” 

The World Bridge Champion­ship allocates slots for regional winners, and Pakistan’s victory in the BFAME (senior category) solidified its participation in the mega event. “Considering the 10 zones in play and the US’ two regions, there are a total of 22 teams. With the addition of the host nation, Morocco, the event encompasses a total of 23 com­peting teams,” explained Akhtar. 

The Pakistan team comprises three pairs, with the first pair consisting of Saeed Akhtar, also serving as the team captain, and Javed Khalid. The second pair includes Imran Gardezi and Shahid Hameed, while the third pair is composed of Mirza Shouq Hussain and Ghias Ma­lik. “Our departure for Morocco is slated for August 19, and we will reach our destination by the evening of the same day. The tournament is set to com­mence on August 20,” he said. 

Discussing the tournament for­mat, Akhtar outlined, “The initial eight days will witness a round-robin competition, where each team will compete against all other participants. Following this phase, 16 teams out of the total 23 will advance to the knockout round, culminating in the cham­pionship’s conclusion on Septem­ber 2. “This tournament holds the highest prestige globally, original­ly known as the Bermuda Bowl. Pakistan boasts a strong history in this arena, having qualified for the finals in 1981, albeit falling short against the US,” he added. 

Addressing the Pakistani team’s preparation, Akhtar asserted, “Our dedicated practice regimen is rigorous, and our prospects of making a remarkable impact in the mega event are promising. Victory hinges on the given day, as bridge is a game of nerves and intense concentration. Success is bestowed upon those who exhibit unwavering focus and precision.” 

Akhtar continued, “Our team is in top form, diligently preparing ourselves, yet we acknowledge the formidable efforts of play­ers from other nations. Engag­ing in bridge activities within and beyond our borders, we are well-acquainted with our fellow participants and are optimistic about our performance. My per­sonal track record includes nu­merous victories across various corners of the world.” 

Reflecting on the memories of the BFAME in Lahore, where in­ternational teams including India participated, Akhtar recalled, “The Lahore event bore witness to fierce competition. Up to the 7th round, we held the upper hand, but In­dia’s superior gameplay turned the tide in their favor, leading to their eventual triumph. Their stay in Lahore was marked by joy, as they discovered the warmth and hospitality of Pakistanis, contrary to their initial perceptions.”

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

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