Brian Ussher's dedication has kept him ahead of the pack at the Timaru Bridge Club - and last night he was declared club champion for the 29th time.
Mr Ussher, who began playing the card game in cafes as an Otago University student in the late 1960s, won his first title with the Timaru club in 1981. His name has been on the champions' board almost every year since, barring a two-year period he spent with the Geraldine Bridge Club.
"There's no secret to success. You get smarter in how you bid, and you recognise where you went wrong in previous games," he said.
Mr Ussher said the fact that no two hands were the same was one of the reasons for the game being so addictive.
"Back in the day it was considered a bit of an old person's game. I'm not sure whether that's still the case," he said.
"There are always new innovations and new bidding styles coming out, it keeps you interested. You're forever learning."
In 2003, Mr Ussher became the Timaru club's first national grandmaster, based on accumulated points awarded on various scales for winning national, provincial and club championships.
He plays both individual and pairs at least once a week, and in the last few years his most frequent pairs partner has been Neville Newburn.
"I trust him with each hand," Mr Newburn said.
"I know he is going to be accurate in every bid he makes. He's always thinking ahead."
The club has 194 registered members, and Mr Ussher said there had occasionally been talk that perhaps he should take it easier on his rivals. Not that he would be having any of that.
"I'm a naturally competitive bugger. It's up to others to be up for the challenge. I'm going to keep at it," he said.
- The Timaru Herald