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HomesportBridging the Asian Games gap

Bridging the Asian Games gap

Why do you feel so connected to bridge? 

When I was 16, I was looking for a change of co-curricular activity from guitar ensemble at Raffles Junior College and I randomly picked up The Cardturner by Louis Sachar at the library. This book piqued my interest in the game, as it explains the basics really well while at the same time telling a captivating story.

Bridge is an intellectually stimulating game with virtually no skill ceiling. It is a team game, so I get to compete with and improve together with friends. I’m generally a very competitive person – when I feel I can compete against stronger opponents, there is a drive for me to work even harder. 

What would you say to someone who feels bridge is not an actual sport and shouldn’t belong at major Games?

Bridge – like chess and e-sports – is more of a game than a sport, so I wouldn’t try to convince someone else otherwise.

Bridge may not be particularly spectator-friendly due to its steep learning curve. But such games can be extremely competitive as well, just like physical sports. Furthermore, the regional meets are called the SEA and Asian “Games”, so I don’t see why the events should be restricted to physical sports.

So, what exactly is contract bridge?

Bridge is a “trick-taking” game involving four players in two competing partnerships. A trick consists of one card played by each player. The one who plays the biggest trump card, or biggest card in the suit led if there are no trumps, wins the trick.

Players bid in an auction before play to set a contract which determines the trump suit and how many tricks a partnership has to win out of a maximum of 13. Points are scored based on the trump suit, contract level, and number of tricks claimed by each side.

Indonesian mogul Michael Bambang Hartono was 78 when he won a 2018 Asian Games bronze in bridge. He said: “If you want to be a good leader and a successful man, play bridge.” Considering Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are also bridge aficionados, do you feel it is true?

Bridge does develop several desirable qualities like good memory, planning, judgment and discipline, so I feel it does contribute to success and good leadership in a way.

On your Facebook page, you wrote: “Life is a game of cards. You can choose to fold now and give up on everything immediately, or play on and see what happens.” Can you share examples of when this applied to you?

My teammates and I would often find ourselves facing a big deficit in the early stages of a knockout match needing to catch up, and we would miraculously get there most of the time. I guess we specialise in not giving up and comebacks.

You are pursuing a PhD in economics. How do you juggle that with your competitive bridge exploits?

It’s difficult, having to go overseas for competitions multiple times in a semester and catching up with a mountain load of work when I get back. I have already been to the Netherlands this semester for the World Youth Bridge Team Championships and Morocco for the world championships.

Throughout the past year, we have trained online twice a week on weeknights with our coach from China and in person once a week on Sundays. In recent months, we stepped up our training intensity… My partner and I put in about 80 hours a month on average over the last four months.

The pressure to deliver will be there in my first major Games, as I’ve set myself a target to come home with a medal.

Tell us more about your love for board games and escape rooms?

My favourite board games are Splendor for its simplicity, and Hansa Teutonica for its tactical and strategic appeal. I’ve played over 150 escape rooms, and my top three – Amsterdam Catacombs, The Dome by Mama Bazooka and The End by DarkPark – are from the Netherlands. 

I’m also pretty into puzzle hunts, and am in the process of writing Puzzle Rojak 2 with a friend, which will hopefully go live next year.

In what ways do you resemble your Chinese zodiac animal – the rat?

I guess I am pretty quick-witted and opportunistic. On the other hand, courage isn’t my forte. I’m afraid of many things – needles, heights and I get spooked easily. If I play a scary escape room, someone else has to open the doors and wardrobes.

Factfile

Name: Teo Xue HengAge: 26Asian Games event: Bridge men’s teamAchievements:
– World Youth Bridge Teams Championships silver (2023)
– Asia Pacific Bridge Federation Youth Championships gold (2023)

More On This Topic

Singapore’s bridge team play their cards right to clinch silver at world youth c’ships

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