2011 has been an amazing year for Roland, or Mr Vugraph, as everyone calls him. Not only did he find new students for private lessons, but he also started to write a book and he found the time and power to continue his relentless involvement in live broadcasts for BBO. Continuing to explore new territories, he switched from written commentary to the new voice commentary, he (reluctantly) gave up his beloved "old BBO" to adopt the new web version, and in general he passed triumphantly all the challenges life confronted him with during these past 20 months.
His efforts did not pass unnoticed. International recognition of his contribution to the bridge world came with a prestigious award from the International Bridge Press Association. Roland Wald won the 2011 Alan Truscott Memorial Award, an honor presented periodically to that person whose contribution to bridge, in the opinion of the IBPA Executive, would be most appreciated by Alan.
Read on to find out how Roland feels about all these changes and about his life in London.
How is life treating you in London? Is it as you expected?
"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
— Samuel Johnson, 1777.
I will make Johnson's famous words mine. With this said, of course there are differences between my native Denmark and my new home, but almost all of them are for the better. No shocks so far, London has everything you could ever dream of.
What do you like most about your new life?
Speaking and listening to real English ... and cricket of course! God could have created a more delicious berry than strawberry, but he did not. And God could have created a more exciting game than cricket, but he did not! In fact, I can't put it any better than what it reads on one of my t-shirts: "Cricket is life, the rest is mere details."
What do you miss most from Denmark?
My two sons obviously, Daniel (29), a bank analyst, and Jonathan (27), a policeman. When I miss them and my country too much, I board an aircraft on short notice and go back for as long as I like. Remember that London and Copenhagen are only a 90-minute flight apart, and there are a few low cost airlines. I have now established homes in both cities.
Did you know about the IBPA Award beforehand? Who told you about it first?
No, I did not know anything until I logged in to BBO one morning. "Congrats on your award", Andyv (Andy Vinock) greeted me. "On what", was my reply. "Read the lobby news", he said.
Only then did I realise the great news. I am truly honoured that some people think that I have done something useful for bridge. Vugraph is my "child", and it is my hope that everyone can still sense my enthusiasm for my "baby."
Tell us about the new Voice Commentary feature on BBO. You always say all you know about computers is where the ON/OFF button is... Was it tough for you to adapt?
Ask Uday or Fred, or my sons for that matter, and they will attest to the fact that I am absolutely clueless when it comes to computers. In fact, I am pretty scared when I tread on unknown territory. What if things go wrong? When Fred told me about the new voice feature, I was a little reluctant, but funnily enough it did not take me long to adapt. It was technically easier than I thought, and for that I must thank Fred and Uday. We had a conference call on Skype, and their way of explaining the procedure must have been second to none. Even I grasped it!
Although you have to switch from the Windows version to the web client to get voice commentary, I strongly recommend that kibitzers try it out. I am sure they will like it, and if they don't, there is nothing to stop them from turning sound off and read the comments instead, or perhaps a combination of the two.
Some think that once you switch from Win to web you are barred from going back to the old version. That is not true; that version will not disappear unless you uninstall it yourself. You can go back and forth as often as you want. It takes a little time to get used to a new interface, but once you do you will agree that it is ideal for vugraph presentations.What was your favorite voice session so far?
Is it true that you're working on a book? Can you reveal more about this?
Yes, it is true that I am writing a book. "The BBO files" is the title at this point, but it may not be once it is released. I have around 40 interesting deals and I need another 40 or so. With some luck it could be published some time in 2012. Will it sell? Who knows, but a good sign is that Dburn (David Burn) from London has praised what he has seen so far. That is good news, because David, by his own admission, is usually not a man who compliments too many people.
You sometimes mentor in the BIL and other private clubs on BBO. Any stories you would like to share?
I love to teach, so I take great pleasure in having the occasional appearances in the BIL and the BBOJuniors. With regard to teaching most of it now takes place online. I can still accommodate two or three more students, so if anyone wants detailed info about the lessons they are most welcome to email me at email@example.com (with an underscore)
As for the funniest story in my career as a bridge teacher it has to be the one that occurred about 18 years ago. At my bridge center near Copenhagen I had a class where the Stayman convention was on the agenda. I explained this useful convention at length, and everyone seemed to understand the concept. By the end of the lesson I asked the members to read about it in the textbook and come back with questions next week if they had any.
The following Tuesday one of the members raised a finger and said: "Roland, I have read it all and think I understand most of it, but what do you do if you don't have the Two of Clubs?"
What do you like to do in your free time?
What free time? I don't differentiate between work and leisure. My life is cricket and bridge, and then add football (soccer), handball, tennis, badminton, athletics and a few other sports. All that keeps me busy 24/7, more or less. Well, to be honest with you, I do eat and sleep occasionally. But all in all, no wonder that no woman wants me for a longer period of time :)
You work with the world's greatest players. Did you get to meet any of them in real life too?
For obvious reasons I know lots of BBO'ers, also from real life. Let me just name a few who are dear friends of mine. Finch (Frances Hinden), JAllerton (Jeffrey Allerton), Pitiful (Peter Crouch), Pfbr (Anita Sinclair), Jtr (David Greenwood), Pelu (Peter Lund), Fred (Fred Gitelman), Zia (Zia Mahmood), Smispi (Dano De Falco), Sac (Søren Christiansen), Jcmax (Sabine Auken), and Fulvio2002 (Fulvio Fantoni). All star players and the nicest people you can think of. Always there to lend a helping hand when you need one. And we all do on occasion, don't we?
Do you still have time to play live bridge?
Not as much as I would like to, but I knew that back in 1989, when I established my bridge centre near Copenhagen. I was prepared to sacrifice tournament bridge and focus on organisation and teaching. So now I only play on rare occassions, mainly online (JEC matches and JuniorsBBO) and in live pro/am charity events.
Many of the stars I mentioned above, time permitting, are happy to play in charity events. On February 23rd I will travel from Copenhagen to London for a Night of the Stars at the Wimbledon Bridge Club in London (scroll down to see names of stars volunteering their time for charity). Fulvio Fantoni will fly from Rome to London to attend. The stars (professionals) do not get a penny, and they pay all expenses themselves. They are auctioned and all funds raised are donated to charity. This year's edition has raised more than £25,000 already, so it's safe to say that the organisers will set a new record.
You insisted that we use your "official picture"... What's so special about that picture?
It's my favourite picture because of the cards I hold. I had 23 hcp :)