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.”