Great Dane

The Player of the Year honor is awarded to the ACBL member who earns the most platinum points in a calendar year, and in 2017, that member was Dennis Bilde of Denmark. The 28-year-old picked up 751.64 platinum points last year, making him the second-youngest player ever to have earned the Player of the Year honor, as well as the second non–North American to have done so. (France’s Cedric Lorenzini holds those distinctions.) Bilde’s youth and talent make it likely that his victory in 2017 is a harbinger of successes to come.

A year in perspective

For someone who’s just earned one of the games top accolades, Bilde is surprisingly unsatisfied with how things went in 2017. The reason has to do with the performance of the squad he is a member of, Team Lavazza, the multinational lineup of superstars that includes Italians Norberto Bocchi, Antonio Sementa and Giorgio Duboin, and Argentinians Agustin Madala and Alejandro Bianchedi.

“I don’t think 2017 was a great year, to be honest. Even though I won the Player of the Year, our team missed out in many tournaments. We won the Australian National Open Teams in Canberra in January, but we didn’t win anything else the rest of the year. We lost in the quarterfinal of the Vanderbilt and in the final of the Spingold. We also lost the quarterfinal of the
European Championships in Montecatini, and lost in the final of the HCL tournament in India. Personally, I feel that the team tournaments are more important, so I’m a bit disappointed
that we didn’t do better. But at least we have our recipe ready for 2018: Win some tournaments!”

This is not to say that Bilde – as a professional player – isn’t proud to be a member of Lavazza. Indeed, he considers it to be the high point of his career so far.

“At the 2014 Fall NABC, Norberto came to me in his perfect, homemade Italian-English and asked, ‘Do you want to play with us?’ The Dane in me prevented me from acting too excited, so I gave him a casual, ‘Si.’ I was pretty excited on the inside though! Later, we discussed details, and I promised to learn some Italian plus the 150 pages of system notes he sent me. Up to that
day, I had played the most natural system in the world, so that was a big change and the biggest challenge for me! Today, I know most of the system, but still almost no Italian. I’m starting
an Italian course in January, however, so I will (hopefully) soon be able to live up to my promises.”

If Bilde is hard on himself for the team game performances last year, he was no doubt pleased with his pair game results. Bilde won the six-session Kay Platinum Pairs playing with Justin
Lall at the Spring NABC in Kansas City and the four-session Nail Life Master Open Pairs with partner Alon Birman of Israel at the Fall NABC in San Diego.

“One of my favorite memories from 2017 was winning the Platinum Pairs with Justin. I was supposed to fly in on a Thursday, but my flight was delayed and I missed my connection. I had to
stay overnight in Washington DC, and I got to the playing area on Friday, 15 minutes before play started. As Justin and I were a first-time partnership, that meant we had a 15-minute system
talk in total, and we didn’t bother on any other agreements after that!”

Early career

Bridge was part of Bilde’s home life growing up. “Both of my parents, as well as my uncle living with us, had played on the Danish national team. We played many types of card games when I was young, and when I was 11, I went to a weekend bridge course for youngsters. We were a group of about 10 friends who stayed together in bridge for the first couple of years. We made two teams for the junior and youngster competitions in Denmark and even had t-shirts made. But we didn’t live in the same area and didn’t play in any club.

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