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Sports

The centuries-old card game of bridge offers a stark contrast to esports at the Asian Games

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HANGZHOU, China (AP) — If you’re looking for a different type of esports to follow from the Asian Games, try the age-old card game of bridge.

Here, the “e” would stand for “elderly” to represent the game’s aging demographic – not “electronic” as in the youth-led online game that is proving to be one of the Games’ most popular events Asian countries, generating billions of dollars per year. revenues worldwide and producing a new generation of global icons like South Korean League of Legends star “Faker.”

E-sports, chess and bridge are among the so-called mind sports that have achieved full medal status at the two-week Asian Games.

Kelvin Ong heads the Singapore Bridge Association and laments that it is difficult to attract the country’s young people to bridge. But as he speaks, he himself plays a video game on a tablet.

“I’ll shut it down,” the 37-year-old said shyly, knowing he inadvertently highlighted the problem. “I think bridge is losing popularity among young people because there are now computer games and mobile games.”

“Kids these days want the action to be flashy and fast – 30 seconds,” adds Ong, noting that a hand of bridge takes seven or eight minutes to play. “We’ll reach that level when someone finds a way to make a bridge hand last for a minute. But it won’t be a good bridge.

Bridge at the Asian Games is the antithesis of flashy and fast. It’s more composed and deliberate, and of course, fitness doesn’t matter. It’s also one of the many sports or games you won’t find at the Olympics.

At least nine players out of around 200 are over 70. The oldest is Pakistani Masood Mazhar, 78, 65 years older than Chinese skateboarder Cui Chenxi, 13, who won gold on Wednesday.

Five years ago, there was an 89-year-old at the games in Indonesia, but no octogenarians this time.

“You can play until you’re 100,” said Anal Shah, 64, coach and non-playing captain of the Indian women’s team.

“There is no retirement age,” added Dr Raheel Ahmed, the radiologist who leads the Pakistan team.

This time, the average age of participants is around 50, and the youngest are Vidhya Patel from India, 22, and Chen Kuan-hsuan, 23, from Taiwan.

Chen said she began acting at age eight, under pressure from her mother, an elementary school teacher.

“She held lessons during summer vacations to teach students how to play bridge,” Chen said. “So she forced me to learn bridge. I was very unhappy because I wanted to play during the summer vacation. I tried to refuse her, but she was very strong.

The bridge room is installed on the 12th and 13th floors of an office building in Hangzhou. An almost silent atmosphere permeates the space. Four players each fill dozens of small tables – the size of a card table, of course. Many hold a fan of cards in one hand, and a few play with reading glasses in the other.

Each table has a diagonal screen – top and bottom – to prevent players from transmitting signals to their teammates. The game has no language barriers, using universal English terms like “no trump, slam, pass”, etc.

Observers can watch the hands dealt – and how they are played – on large television screens filled with red and black symbols for spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs.

Ong said teams playing contract bridge are known – not in competitions – for “kicking, coughing and stomping” to convey signals to their teammates. Hence the screens.

In addition to aging players, Bridge also has an image problem, at least in parts of Asia.

“The general concept in India is that cards are a game,” Shah said. “Bridge is cards, and cards are a game. We have to convince parents that it is an intellectual game. It improves your logical powers. It sharpens so many skills for the brain.

Of course, bridge has nothing to do with poker or blackjack and would be as out of place in a casino as the Spanish national bullfight festival in Bhutan.

This misconception also exists in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country, where Dr Ahmed claims to use a different narrative.

“We don’t have muscles in the brain, but by playing bridge you can see that you can develop the muscles of the mind,” he said.

“I think 99.9% of our citizens don’t know what a bridge is,” he added. “In Islam we don’t like gambling, that’s why most people associate card games with gambling. They make fun of me for having a beard. He is said to participate in such an event; a religious person playing a game of cards. Yes, I have to explain.

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AP Sports Asia: https://apnews.com/hub/sports-asia


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