Sartaj learnt Bridge at university in India. One evening, he and his three friends played bridge all night so that they could have an excuse to skip an exam scheduled the next day. The “addiction” continued as he moved to Australia in 1999 as an IT professional.
Sartaj won his first Australian national (GNOT) in 2002 playing with Bobby Richman. In 2013, he qualified for the Australian team with Paul Marston and they won the Pacific Asia Bridge Federation pairs. Sartaj then started a regular partnership with Tony Nunn. Playing an acol-like, weak no-trump based natural system, Sartaj and Tony represented Australia in international competition in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2016. Their biggest achievements included finishing second at the World Transnational Championships in 2011 (losing to an Israeli team subsequently discovered to have a cheating pair), finishing in the top ten in butlers in two Bermuda Bowls (2005,2011), winning the NEC Cup (2011) and the HCL International (2010).
From about 2012, Sartaj started playing some times with Peter Gill at the American nationals and they finished in high positions (4th,5th,6th) in three different Reisinger Board-A-Match Teams. They play regularly together now and have qualified to represent Australia at the 2019 and 2020 playoffs. They prefer a strong club based system inspired by the approach of Meckstroth-Rodwell. The style involves an active approach of aggressive opening bids and overcalls, with the goal of bidding many games and being conservative in slam auctions. Sartaj and Peter’s best result on the international stage was 2nd place at the 2019 Yeh Cup Pairs.
In 2016, Sartaj won the IBPA award for the best bridge book of the year for his book “Battling the Best”. In 2020, Sartaj won the IBPA award for the best played hand of the year.
Sartaj’s work life comprises of driving a medical development in Goulburn with his wife, Sophie Ashton. He is also a director and chair of the audit and risk committee of an ASX listed education business. Sartaj and Sophie have two young daughters. Apart from work, Bridge and family life, Sartaj has a keen interest in playing and watching the games of chess and squash.
Sartaj’s philosophy for winning bridge focusses more on attitude (concentration is everything, getting the most out of yourself and your partner is the key) than on bidding system (system triumphs are rare, forgets are expensive). He believes that bridge players serious about improving their game should stop focussing on giving their partners free bridge lessons and stop hoping their bidding system will win them bundles of points. Instead, players should take a long hard look at themselves and try to get to the bottom of why their own mistakes occur, and subsequently try to minimize those occasions. Sartaj aspires to this approach himself, but knows full well how hard this path is.
NOT (2009, 2011, 2020)
SNOT (2009, 2014, 2015,2016,2021)
and many others