Benefiting from the reform of the Chinese National Games, Deng Shangyu became the eldest competitor in the bridge tournament of the ongoing 13th Games.
"We have never expected to take such a high-level stage when I started to play bridge 30 years ago," said the 72-year-old who wore a brand new jersey of Sichuan provincial team.
At the very beginning, Deng played bridge simply to kill the time. After joining in the Bridge Association of Nanchong, he became enthusiastic about competing and making friends at both municipal and provincial levels.
"The game itself highlights cooperation and communication, and that's partly why I always see it as an elegant and social sport," said Deng who knew his partner Xie Zhengsheng since 2014.
Speaking of their route to the six-day finals, Deng lighted up his face with a big smile of pride and gratitude. They were the first pair to win the trials of the National Games for Correspondents (Nantong division) for three straight times. Later on, they finished runners-up in Sichuan province to qualify for the final.
Deng attributed their success of winning provincial preliminaries to his close rapport with Xie. "I cannot go this far without Xie, my partner and moreover, my old pal," Deng said.
As an old partner, Xie said that he could almost see through Deng's cards from his bid.
Xie explained that it takes time and practice to go this far. Thankfully, the Nanchong Bridge Association holds paired matches at least twice every month and even more during either holidays or birthdays of the association members.
And there are strong ties of friendship among members of the society. Deng said, "Usually after the game, we will stay and dine together, just like family members!"
After six rounds of competitions, Sichuan Team tailed in the 12-team tournament. But Deng took in their experience and pleasure more than their rankings at the Games.
As the youngest of the tournament are six 11-year-old primary students from teams of Hebei and Liaoning Provinces, Deng said he was glad to see young players in the game.
"Bridge can help nurture the personalities of the youth, help improve their communication skills, and let them see the big pictures," Deng said.
He hopes more younger people to enjoy the pleasure of playing bridge.
Before entering the next stage, Deng and Xie needed to play 11 more rounds of games, 132 sets in two and half days. "We won't be tired because we slept well, and we should keep healthy in order to share our experiences in Tianjin to our friends in Sichuan," Dong said.
As one of the eldest players in the history of the National Games, Deng hoped to make it to the 14th National Games four years later.
"Bridge is a mini model of living. We cannot expect life without mistakes. What we can do is to minimize the errors with the care and support of our friends."