Guo Jinlong
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Lai See

Guo Jinlong
Ben Kwok

Bridge tactician Deng still inspires power players

Thanks to Deng Xiaoping, bridge has become a popular mind game among mainland senior officials and executives of state-owned big corporations.

Knowing it was the favourite pastime of the once-paramount leader, a sizable chunk of the mainland leadership - in their younger days - learnt how to play bridge, a game for which the two richest Americans, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, regularly find time.

It is also a passport for making it to the top - former premier Li Peng, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice-Premier Wu Yi have all gathered for a game once in a while.

For no other reason than respect, Deng remained honorary chairman of the Chinese Contract Bridge Association (CCBA) for 10 years after his death, succeeded by former vice-premier Li Lanqing only this past Wednesday.

National Social Security Fund chairman Xiang Huaicheng was appointed CCBA chairman in the Great Hall of the People on the same day.

Mainland officials who showed up for a celebrity competition included former Politburo member Ding Guangen, Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, state councillor Chen Zhili, Beijing mayor Wong Qishan and party secretary of Anhui province Guo Jinlong.

Bridge is also de rigueur for top businessmen on the mainland.

'Almost everyone I know in the top seat at telecoms, banking and oil companies knows bridge,' said Patrick Choy Kwok-hung, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate.

Bridge has not yet made it into the Olympic Games but it is definitely on its way. Soon after the Beijing Olympics, a 2008 Beijing World Mind Sports Games is to be hosted in the Olympic Village. More than 2,000 participants from 100 countries will compete in five mind games - bridge, Go, draughts, chess and Xiang Qi (Chinese chess).

The International Mind Sports Association estimates there are 700 million players active in these games worldwide.

Good concentration is a key requirement for such games - definitely a problem for those with ordinary minds such as Lai See.

Starchy response to IPO

It is quite mind-boggling for punters on initial public offerings to see China Starch (stock code 3838) post a zero gain on its trading debut.

It had all the ingredients for success. First, it is a China stock. It also has a super lucky stock number (in fact, we found that only Soho China - stock code: 410 - among a dozen offerings out this month and due next month did not have either a lucky '3' or '8').

The company even chose the first day to announce a 278 per cent gain in interim profit.

The stock was up 6.7 per cent yesterday.

The lesson: don't just buy stock with the names beginning with China, but also look at what is following the name.

In this case, starch is stiff and chalky stuff, which suggested it might not move.

Keeping pirates from pirates

This could be tempting but also potentially dangerous.

The latest City Telecom television advertisement shows characters such as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and a soccer player squeezing into a pipeline, to create a picture of what could happen to customers using the old telephone system while struggling for high-speed connections.

The advert claims that City Telecom users could download a 90-minute DVD movie in 41 seconds, compared with 113 minutes from a rival provider

We have no question about the speed, but we wonder if there is a legal way to download a non-pirated Pirates movie or a real-time European soccer match?

Golden week shines bright

More than anytime before, Hong Kong has enjoyed a real golden week, with a strong rally in mainland stocks pushing the Hong Kong market value to beyond HK$20 trillion. Enjoy your golden holiday!