JAKARTA: Bambang Hartono, Indonesia’s richest man, used his sufficient clout to get bridge as a medal event at these Asian Games. The Indonesia Asian Games Organising Committee (INASGOC) had initially vetoed the idea, as a few inside the body considered bridge to be gambling. But Bambang played the right cards and got it included as a competition event.
Thanks to Bambang, India managed to equal their record gold haul with its 15th (New Delhi in 1951) and last yellow metal coming in the men’s pairs event. The duo of Pranab Bardhan, 60, and Shibnath Sarkar, 55, scored 384 in the final, six ahead of China’s Gang Chen and Lixin Yang. In the process, they also became two of the country’s oldest gold medallists at major multi-discipline games.
Interestingly, Bardhan, who has dedicated more than two-thirds of his life to the card game, said bridge is ‘a game based on logic’. “Bridge is based on logic,” he said after winning gold. “It’s a mind game like chess but more challenging. In chess, you play one against one. Here you are playing with your partner, with whom you can’t speak during the match. You have to understand each other’s move. You have to judge, what I’m thinking with my cards.” The Kolkata native, who has faced offensive comments because of playing bridge, also explained how it’s not gambling. “It’s definitely not gambling. Everybody gets the same first hand, so no luck is involved. It’s up to you to respond to the situation.”
He added that this was the happiest day of his life. “I would like to dedicate this to my family, especially my grandchild back home. I have not been able to get through to them yet.”
Sarkar said he would dedicate the gold to his late mother, who used to cheer him up whenever he did badly at the sport. “I would like to dedicate this medal to my late mother. Whenever I have felt down or had not played well, she was always there for me with words of encouragement. Now, I want to say, ‘ma, look, I have won gold.’”
He also hoped the path-breaking gold would lead more youngsters to take up the sport. “I think this win means a lot for the bridge movement in India. It will help attract a lot of younger players to the game.”