21 July 2019
Team Hong Kong wins the silver in the men's bridge super-mixed team event at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Photo: HK Olympic Committee
Team Hong Kong wins the silver in the men's bridge super-mixed team event at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Photo: HK Olympic Committee

Wai Kee bridge partners win silver in Asian Games

Sports have always been associated with youth. In Olympics, the motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger), all qualities of youth.

But wait, what are all these geriatric players doing at the Jakarta International Expo in the Indonesian capital? Well, they are representing their countries and regions in the contract bridge competition, which is having a debut in the ongoing Asian Games.

Indeed, you don’t need to be young and athletic to give honor to Hong Kong in this game.

So congratulations to our very own Derek Zen Wei-peu and Samuel Wan Siu-kau, who won silver in the men’s bridge super-mixed team event at the Games, along with Lai Wai-kit, Mak Kwok-fai, Ng Chi-cheung, and Lau Pik-kin.

Zen, 66, is the deputy chairman of construction and property company Wai Kee Holdings Ltd. (00610.HK), while his long-time bridge partner Wan is a famous headhunter who is also a non-executive director at Wai Kee.

They are the most senior members of the Hong Kong men’s team who lost only Singapore but trumped Indonesia, which is led by tycoon Bambang Hartono.

Hartono, the 78-year-old Indonesian-Chinese who owns Bank of Central Asia with a net worth of US$11.6 billion according to Forbes, and his team took the bronze in the same competition this week.

Zen was beaming with pride for his team’s achievement. “We knocked out China, the best seed, in the semi-final but lost the gold medal because we did not perform well in the final,” he said.

Zen has been playing the card game over the past 50 years, but is representing the city in the Asian Games for the very first time.

About 13 years ago, I interviewed the Hong Kong No. 1 bridge pair, who regularly topped the Hong Kong Inter-city Bridge Tournament championships.

The pair recalled playing with Bill Gates in open competition. “In golf, you’re never gonna play Tiger Woods,” Zen said. “But in bridge, you can get a chance to play against the world champ.”

He said there is no way an ordinary mortal like him can beat Garry Kasparov in chess. “But in bridge, you can sometimes beat the best, although in the long run they will still win.”

Bridge is not a popular game in Hong Kong, but it has attracted quite a few business heavyweights. I used to play the game, but I had a serious headache after playing for three hours in one competition.

In bridge, the winner is usually the one who commits the least mistakes – and has the largest amount of luck, of course.

In this game, it is not so much physical strength and dexterity as mental acuity and strategy that are being tested.

Brain power trumps brawn in this event. Which is why some of the top players in this tournament are senior citizens, even octogenarians, who have accumulated much experience and wisdom in this world.

And fabulously rich, if I may add. Friends Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are often seen playing the card game at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting.

TSMC’s former chairman Morris Chang – certainly one of Taiwan’s richest – AIA chairman Edmund Tse and Geely boss chairman Li Shufu are also well-known, long-time bridge lovers.

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EJ Insight writer

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