Hemant Lall: “Naren Gupta left huge mark on the game of bridge in a very short time”

Ritu Jha-

 

Hemant Lall

The news of Naren Gupta, the founder and managing director of Nexus Venture Partners, who passed away on Dec. 25, came as a shock to many in his industry circle.

Gupta’s death saddened his longtime friend of Hemant Lall, who is the Grand Life Master in American Contract Bridge League and Senior Grand Master in World Bridge Federation (both rankings are the highest rankings attainable), left

Gupta was not just an ordinary friend of Lall, but an accomplished bridge player himself.

Lall shared with indica about his friend and bridge player Gupta.

“Naren loved the game of bridge. He started playing at IIT Delhi in the 1960’s. But soon thereafter, he had to give up the game to raise a family and build his professional career. As we all know, he was a resounding success,” Lall said.

A couple of years ago, Gupta returned to the game of bridge. He played with some of the best, like Zia Mahmood, and he played against some of the best, like Bob Hamman. And he played every chance he got – for hours a day, every day. Because of COVID, the bridge was played mostly online.

“In December 2020, Naren and I played on the same team in a Transatlantic event organized by the Canadian and Polish bridge leagues. At that time, I had also played some with his beloved wife, Vinita, who herself is a 3-time US National bridge champion. Naren’s brother, Ash, is also an avid bridge player. Runs in the family. And, of course, they were each wildly successful in the business world,” said Lall.

Lall’s stint with playing bridge began when he was at IIT Kanpur in 1968.

He came to USA in 1973 to pursue his Ph.D. in Computer Science from SMU in Dallas, Texas. He worked in R&D environment for 10 years using mathematical optimization techniques. He then joined Perot Systems for 13 years and headed up their IT Energy division. From there, he moved to a small company specializing in promotions risk management as COO for 11 years.

In 2012, he decided to pursue his passion and started playing bridge professionally full time. Since then, he has won 5 gold medals in world championships and 6 US championships. Hemant has been the #2 ranked senior in the world since 2015.

About Gupta, he said “Soon Naren shared with me about his ambition to win a World Championship. I had won five in the previous eight years. I could tell Naren had all the tools to be a champion: analytical skills, mathematical and statistical expertise, dedication, toughness, resources, and a nose and passion for the game. All he was lacking was an experience. But Naren was having none of that. “Experience is overvalued”, he said to me. “We can quickly make up for lost time.”

Sharing further said, Naren decided to form a partnership in April 2021. USA was holding the Senior Trials in October 2021 in Chicago to select two teams for the World Championships in Italy in March 2022.

Both Lall and Gupta immediately started to work on the mission.

They added two star-studded pairs to their team: Zia Mahmood & Steve Garner and Alan Sontag & David Berkowitz. Refined the 30-page modern-style system notes Naren had developed with Zia to suit ‘our own style’. They practiced for over 100 hours; played over 1,000 hands, against tough opposition; discussed our philosophies at odd hours, whenever we could find time.

A week before the Trials in October, Naren had planned a trip to Churchill Manitoba polar bear country. There was no Internet connection. No phones, either. As soon as he would get on a helicopter, a private jet, or an airport lounge, he would call Lall to discuss or play bridge. He wanted the team to be well prepared. He did not want to let the teammates down.

“He wanted to win,” Lall said when indica asked any dream Gupta shared with him.

“We played in Chicago for eight days against the best from the USA. Seasoned pros with multiple world championships. Unfortunately, after eight days of play, we fell just short and finished third. Only the top two qualified to represent the USA in Italy. But Naren did his part. He far exceeded expectations – and the expectations were high. We will get them next time,” Gupta told to Lall after the game.

The bridge players had the good fortune of getting to know Naren albeit for just a couple of years. He will be remembered as a truly remarkable human being – kind, gentle, caring, benevolent. Strived for excellence. Always had time for everyone. Touched many bridge players in a very personal way.

Naren left a huge mark on the game of bridge in a very short time. He will be sorely missed.