Aiming higher

The ‘43rd World Bridge Championships’ will begin in Lyon of France from August 12, 2017. Syed Faiz Ahmed reveals why despite taking part for the first time ever, the Bangladesh team should receive support from government and other quarters in this particular sport

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One of the most important yardsticks of estimating a country’s achievement in modern day is by evaluating its sporting achievements. Under the circumstances, Bangladesh has a shameful track record in the sporting arena. The country with over 17 crore people is yet to achieve a single medal, let alone a gold from Olympics, the greatest sporting show on earth.

Outside the Olympics, the state of other sports of the country is not very promising either, with the exception of cricket.  Despite being an underdog for quite sometime, the Tigers have become a force to be reckoned with in the game over the past few years. It is a matter of time before the confirmation comes about the Tigers playing in the next World Cup tournament for cricket.

Meanwhile Bangladesh has earned the right to take part in another World Cup. The sport is bridge, the most prestigious card game in the world. Bridge is also revered around the world as a mental game.

Bangladesh overtook strong Pakistani outfits and hosts UAE at Dubai in the qualifier of the Zone-4 of World Bridge Federation last march along with India to qualify for the Bermuda Bowl, otherwise known as ‘Bridge World Cup’ that is scheduled to take place from August 12-26 at Lyon, France.

This will be the 43rd edition of the prestigious tournament and Bangladesh will play for the first time in the 22-team extravaganza.

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The team

This wonderful success was achieved by a six-man team led by Sajid Ispahani. Ispahani, who is one of the directors of renowned Ispahani Group, one of the largest conglomerates of the country, will not only lead the side in France but also will patronise them. Ispahani has been an integral part of the bridge circuit of Bangladesh for a long time, not only as one of the finest of the players but also by providing very crucial financial support.

Almost every big tournament of the country receives support from Ispahani. It is no wonder that he will be the chief patron of the voyage to Lyon.

‘We are amateurs and only one of the two teams along with Guadalupe out of the 22 teams in the big tournament,’ said Ispahani. ‘In most of the countries, players get support from sponsors and even from governments but we do not get such support here,’ he added.

‘In many other sports like football, we are right at the bottom of the ranking. But we are doing well in the bridge and more support will surely improve our rankings,’ he said.

He will be accompanied by five others. Besides being successful in their professional lives, all of them were students of Shahidullah Hall from the University of Dhaka.

Zia Huq was a student of Applied Physics. An ever-serious man, Zia has been working as a senior official of Bangladesh Bank and his cool-like cucumber approach is always evident on the bridge table. As an excellent Bridge player, Zia’s clarity of thinking is always praised and the word ‘mistake’ seems non-existent in his dictionary, according to those who have played with him.

Kamruzzaman Sohag, an official of Bangladesh Krishi Bank, is one of the most jovial men around.  He is not only revered as a gifted bridge player but also gets profound respect for his passion to disseminate his knowledge about the game. Sohag, who claims to be ‘a very simple man’, believes that in order to become a good bridge player, one must become a good man first. The former student of Geography and Environment is the epitome of sporting philosophy, wisdom and ethics.

Another member is Rashedul Hasan Nayeem, who is working as a senior level officer of a government bank. The ex-student of Statistics is always keen to learn from his mistakes and does not want to repeat them.

Asifur Rahman Chowdhury has been a player in the national hockey team. He has remarkable mental skills which is required for bridge, his teammates claimed.

Last, but not the least, is Moshiur Rahman is a former student of applied physics and an officer of Exim Bank.

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Dispelling the taboo

There is little doubt that this bunch of players will do their best during the upcoming tournament. But there is still some taboo associated with card games in our country. Many think that any game that is played with card is a mode of gambling.

But bridge is a different game altogether. There is no element of luck here. One needs immense merit, ability to count quickly and possess tremendous amount of memory.

The recognised international version of the bridge is called Duplicate Contract Bridge. It’s a trick counting game whereby four players of two teams sit in four corners.  It is a bit different from auction bridge as the scoring system is different. To achieve high bonus points, which is a key factor for a win, one must bid very precisely and higher points mean greater chances of the pair to lose. There is no point for getting high cards and everyone play with the same combination of cards in each of the table.

After shuffling a set of cards, these are equally distributed to all four players sitting in the North, South, East and West. When play starts everyone picks their respective cards from a rectangular box that is called board and after one trick each of the players holds his own card.

There is no point for getting good cards and comparison of score after playing with same cards eliminate all sorts of luck factor. The best team or pair are those that performed best with the same combination of cards. So getting good cards or bad cards becomes irrelevant in this sport.

This is why the game of bridge is revered as the most prestigious mental game. Although chess is popular among many but that is an individual game whereby bridge, as the name suggests, requires perfect understanding between partners.

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In this regard, this partner-based mental game has greater social implications. These days, countries like China and USA emphasize that bridge be taught to pupils at the school level so that their intelligence will flourish, they will learn to be social, work together in pairs and improve the capacity of quick decision-making while under pressure.

Bridge is basically an act of anti-gambling and can be an antidote for drug addictions. If young people learn and play bridge, it will not only improve their brain and mind but also will keep them away from gambling and drugs.

Hence, the success of the six-man bridge team for Bangladesh is not only important for our country, but will also have future implications. We should all hope that the team does well and reaches new heights in the global bridge arena.