Like any field, bridge needs its reference points in order to examine itself, develop and evolve. From championships to specialised magazines, men and women leave their mark on the bridge world, which is strengthened by their experience, their history and their temperament. Here are the 12 personalities to follow, both at the table and elsewhere.
Barry Rigal #Humble representative
Life’s paths are sometimes the result of unforeseen events. For Barry Rigal, president of the International Bridge Press Association (IBPA), his ability to adapt to circumstances has been instrumental in his career. A high-flying player, he first became known as a commentator on VuGraph. In 1987, this led him to “be induced in a more or less consenting manner to join the IBPA”, and then to succeed to the presidency after the sudden death of Patrick Jourdain. Under the leadership of Barry Rigal, the association has grown considerably and its monthly newsletter is now a reference, in particular thanks to the – sometimes spicy – pen of John Carruthers. “Today, I am much busier than I could have imagined, but also very proud of our accomplishments,” says the president, adding that, for personal reasons, he could not be sure about the future.
Olivier Comte #Entrepreneur
An experienced manager and a leader by nature, Olivier Comte is an example of French success in the video game sector. After starting out at L’Oréal, Infogrames, Bandai Namco and Koch Media, he finally became president of GOTO Investment in 2019, which has since become 52 Entertainment. This group owns notably BBO, Funbridge, Le Bridgeur and the CBO among others, and the CEO likes to define it as “one of the biggest e-sport companies”; a sector which should continue to grow in the years to come. The entrepreneur wants to assert himself as a positive influence not only thanks to the complementary services offered by his online platforms, but also by the constant support given to clubs to “preserve the true social experience of bridge” and offer the best possible playing experience.
Boye Brogeland #Sheriff
This Norwegian is not only the owner of the ‘Bridge I Norge’ magazine, he is also a recognized champion. Winner of the Bermuda Bowl in 2007, the European Championships in 2008 and 2018, as well as the Spingold in 2017, as a player he has proved his worth. However, it was not his victories at the table that earned him his high profile and the nickname “Sheriff”, but his commitment to the beautiful game. In 2015, following a scandal, he was at the heart of a campaign against cheating, inviting the community to become more rigorous. This battle makes him proud and he continues to fight it today. “Bridge is a great game, which has to be built on the integrity of the players. I now have a voice, which I hope to use to have a positive impact on the future of bridge.”
Giannarigo Rona #Dedicated president
Regardless of his career as a distinguished lawyer, Gianarrigo Rona has always been a sportsman at heart. After briefly climbing into the Italian basketball first division, he later began to follow in the footsteps of his parents, both recognised bridge players. In 1979 he made the decision to invest time in the World Bridge Federation (WBF), to the point of becoming president from 2010 to 2022. This was only one of many esteemed titles, including that of member of the Italian Olympic Committee. Asked about his role in the bridge world, he confides: “When you hold an important position, you have to set an example by acting with honesty, integrity, love, dedication and common sense, in order to really be of service to others. […] Every day, I ask myself the question: “What can I do for my federation?”
Matt Smith #Popular
If there are some personalities who fuel controversy, there are others about who there is a consensus. Chief International Director Matt Smith is in the second category. Club director since 1973 and tournament director since 1983, he is a veteran of the game much appreciated for his humor, his passion for the game and his dedication. In particular, when responsible for organizing the world championships in Lyon (France) 2017 and Wuhan (China) 2019, he did not let his long career overshadow his goal : to make bridge more widely accessible. As chief director, he has helped make tournament refereeing decisions more transparent and “hopes to have helped make competitions fairer, more enjoyable and professionally organized.” Today, he wants to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of bridge players, to continue to constantly improve their experience of our game.