NEBridge - The View from B Low: Newton 2016

by Single Session Swiss

Sue’s partner, Marianne Hope, rode up to Newton with us. She and Sue were scheduled to play in the 10:00 299er game on Friday. I was playing in the afternoon and evening sessions with Felix Springer, a recently retired attorney. While Sue and Marianne played in the morning session, I checked in to the hotel and then checked in to the bed in room 334 (which is bizarrely a floor below the lobby) for a couple of hours of shuteye.

The competition in the afternoon session was daunting for a pair that had almost no tournament experience playing together. It appeared that most of the teams scheduled to play in the Open Knockout were warming up in the afternoon session by chewing up and spitting out pairs like us.

If we can make 2NT, why is -110 the par score?

Felix and I uncovered many problems in the session. The most distressing one surfaced on hand# 5. This was our auction:

















I think that everyone would have bid 3♠ with my hand. We had never talked about the details of responsive doubles. I expected him to have fewer diamonds than he had in either major. If I had been able to hold it to down one, it would not have been a disaster. However, every decision that I made was wrong. I ran out of trumps and went down four. We ended up the session at about 45%.

Sue, Felix, and I ate supper at the Riverbend Restaurant in the hotel with my friends and frequent partners, Dave Landsberg and Judy Hyde. I tried the buffet, which featured Rigatoni Bolognesi. I don’t think that the card-playing Pope Benedict XIV (or anyone else from Bologna) would have acknowledged its provenance.

I have to give South credit for putting so much pressure on us.

Our evening session was much better. In fact, we might have won if not for the last few hands. The one that stuck in my craw was #25, on which we got a 0. Note that Felix and I switched sides for the session. 

















2NT showed both minors. 3 showed invitational values plus spade support. This convention is called "Unusual over Unusual."

The ballroom was a beehive of activity on Friday. It was filled to overflowing on Saturday and Sunday

Felix could not determine whether my last bid showed a lot of extra values. I think that he should have been worried about whether I really had a heart suit. I obviously was not worried about diamonds. We decided afterwards that the only chance that we had of finding the grand slam at that point was for him to bid 6. The usefulness of the void would be that it would have allowed me to pitch two of his losers on my diamond honors. I only wished that he would have bid something. I considered my bid forcing. 

The more that I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I should have just bid 6♠ instead of 5. My hand’s only weakness was the heart spots. No bid conveys that message, and nothing can get my partner to tell me whether he could cover my heart losers. I should have thrown caution to the wind and just bid it. 

One bracket is a lot better than zero for the open knockout.

Friday morning started off strangely. Sue and I attempted to go to the Deluxe Station Diner for breakfast. Sue got directions from the Internet. I knew that we would never find it when we drove past Boston College. Sue claims that she has a GPS on her phone, but she never uses it. We tried to call the diner, but no one could give us directions. We gave up and went back to the hotel with empty bellies. I snatched the last two stale rolls at the hospitality table.

Three brackets in the Flight B Knockout was not a bad showing.

Once again Sue played in the morning, and I was off until 1:00, at which time I was committed to playing in the Individual. I cannot say that I was looking forward to it, but I was definitely thrilled with the massive turnout, more than three times as many tables as in 2015! The directors had to kick another event out of the main ballroom to make room. I met some new people, including a software developer from Virginia who had flown up by himself just to attend the Individual.

I had the fourth-best North score in section J, and all of the players ahead of me were C players. The two with the lowest scores were A players. Only in the Individual does one see results like that.  

During the supper break I attended my very first Executive Committee Meeting as a substitute for Esther Watstein, the president of the CBA. The food was no better than it had been in the restaurant on the previous evening. The committee received the very welcome news that the district had showed a profit for the year for the first time since I had been involved.

By 12:30 the line to buy entries for the Individual stretched into the hotel's lobby.

The other matter of import was that the qualification for the NAP will be changed. The Sturbridge Host Hotel was dissatisfied with the number of rooms sold in 2015. In 2016 the B and C Flights will hold their qualifying event at the Masters Tournament in Mansfield. This has the decided advantage of allowing those eliminated on Saturday to play in a regular event on Sunday. The qualifying event for the A Flight will be held in conjunction with the EMBA Sectional in October. I abstained in the vote for this part because I realized that it would be something of an imposition for players in southern CT. I did not think that I should endorse it without some guidance from them.

After the meeting I rushed to the lobby where the New England Youth Bridge group was meeting. It was a horrible place to hold a meeting, and nothing of great note got accomplished, at least not while I was there.

I do not remember much from the evening session except for my bad score. I did not have a lot of opportunities to show my wares.

On Sunday morning Sue and I managed to find the diner. The food there was a big improvement on what we had in the hotel. Even though we arrived only a few minutes after the diner opened, I recognized one of the diners already there from the Individual. I was surprised to learn that she was not planning on playing on Sunday. She and her husband just drove home (or somewhere) after breakfast.

Michael Haddox-Schatz flew up from Virginia by himself to play in the Last Individual. He finished sixth on Sunday.

When we got back to the hotel I shaved. I have this thing that I think of as an oral hemorrhoid on my left lower lip. Back in the nineties I had to be very careful shaving in its vicinity. If I nicked it, a torrent of blood ensued. It had not happened in at least fifteen years. Until Sunday.

Fortunately I was able to stanch the bleeding with about fifteen minutes of direct pressure. The bathroom by that time looked like a crime scene. Fortunately I always carry some New-skin with me for just this eventuality. By a few minutes after 9 I was fairly confident that I could avoid a reenactment during the meetings or the card games.

The B’s Needs Committee met at 9:00. I arrived a few minutes late. Ausra Geaski has been trying to resign as chairperson of the committee, but no one wanted to assume her mantle. Chris Soares agreed to be the chairperson, but she asked the committee if she could do as much as possible by e-mail. This was my last meeting. I have officially resigned from this committee in order to work on the Communications Committee.

After the meeting I ran around taking photos of winners. Peter Matthews promised to send me photos that he had taken of some of the knockout winners. I eventually showed up at my table assignment breathless and confused. I am embarrassed to report that for a few seconds I could not even remember my ACBL number.

Bob Bertoni, NEBC President, and Mark Aquino, District Director, present the Individual's retirement cake. I did not get a piece.

Before the Last individual started Peter Marcus, Bob Bertoni, and Mark Aquino wheeled out a large cake in memory of the event. I took photos.

In the morning session I drew South, and I began my round across from John Dickinson, who had driven up from Philadelphia to play in this event. I was astonished to hear that he had been making the trip for years. I learned this weekend that a good number of people really enjoy the Individual. Maybe with the right kind of marketing it could have been saved.

The first six hands seemed rather nondescript to me. When I looked back at the results I discovered that I had actually started fairly well. However, I tried to throw it all away on hand #23. I violated a major rule by bidding 3NT with a void. Actually, two major rules: Mark Aquino had warned against bidding thin games. Then I butchered the play and went down four. I was sure that I had just tagged my partner, Dick Wagman, with a totally undeserved zero, and I felt horrible about it. We got a top on the next hand, but it did not feel like a top.

At the next table I played across from my wife, which is always an adventure. On the second hand she put me in an impossible-looking 2NT contract, which I made. Best defense can set it two, but several declarers actually did better than I did.  

John Dickinson, who drove up from Philadelphia, got me off to a good start in the Sunday morning session.

This was followed by four hands that were perhaps a little above average. I arrived at Mark Aquino’s table for hand #13. I misidentified his 2NT response to my 1♠ opening as Jacoby. He then bid 3NT after I had identified my diamond singleton. He suppressed his spade support for some reason; perhaps he was “operating.” We can supposedly make 6♠, but only two pairs did. 5NT was good for nine masterpoints out of eleven. He made another NT contract on the next board, too, despite the fact that the hand record claims that best defense sets it.

Two hands later began a remarkable streak of six hands on which I was the declarer every single time. I made five bids, and I took 9, 8.5, 10, 10,  and 10.5 (out of 11) on those hands. One hopeless 2 contract interrupted the streak. When I looked at the scores with one round to go, I was in first place with a big lead. The last two hands were also good, and I ended up the first session with 67%, which was good enough for first place (out of 124!) overall for any seat.

What I did not do during the break was to follow Mark’s advice to pore over the results to figure out when I would be playing with or against plusses and minuses. Instead I purchased a cup of chili and a coke and ate it with Sue, who had not fared as well in the morning session. My main objective was not to chew or exercise my lips too much. I did not want to risk breaking the seal of the New-skin. I had once suffered through the embarrassment of a Victoria Falls incident while eating lunch in a client’s cafeteria. I looked like someone had tried to slit my throat.

I also took a couple of photos during the break. I had not done a good job of chasing down winners all weekend. I found a few during the lunch period.

There was good news and bad news in the second session. The good news was that I played better, in fact much better. I caused no disasters; in fact the worst mistake that I made was guessing wrong on a K-J choice. However, the bad news came from the other three chairs. My opponents were not nearly as cooperative as in the first round, and my partners saved up their mistakes for when I appeared opposite them. I remember an easy spade game that we missed because my partner decided to open 1NT with two doubletons and AKJxx in spades. I had the missing queen and five attendants, but I had nothing outside. I also remember a different partner underleading Qxx of trump. I doubt that even Brother Hubert would have found that lead.

Mostly I remember several giggling sessions in which the opponents rejoiced in the fact that their mistakes had cancelled each other out.

Who opens the East hand 1?

The hand that really stands out in my memory was the very last one. By that time I knew in my heart that my boat had sunk. My RHO for some reason decided to open his three-card diamond suit in preference to his five-card heart suit. I had a sixteen-pointer with KJxx in diamonds. I overcalled 1NT, and after my partner transferred to hearts, we ended up in a NT contract. I played the hand wrong because I naturally tried to set up my partner’s hearts. The one thing that I knew for certain – that RHO did not have five hearts – was false. Even when LHO showed out on the second round, I was convinced that she had revoked. I kept waiting to see her play that hidden heart, but she never did.

I swear that the great Jeff Meckstroth – or any other star that you might name – could not have held the lead that I built from the first session to win the Last Individual if he had been assigned to sit in the South chair at table J6 for the last session. I don’t doubt that he probably would have bested my 42%, but he would not have won.

After the event I took photos of a few people, including Linda Ahrens, who won B in the Individual, and then I asked Sue if we could just leave. My actual words were "Can we just get out of here." My mental framework was so off-kilter that I left behind my portfolio from the Denver NABC. It contained all of my notes from all of the meetings and all five of my convention card holders. I must have set it down when I took Linda’s photo.

I realized that I had left it behind about halfway home. Sue pulled off of the Mass Pike at a rest stop and called the hotel. Mirabile dictu! They had, in fact, found it. They gave it to Helen Pawlowski, who gave it to Sue the next day.

I cannot say that I will miss the Individual, but the last one was definitely memorable. My therapist assures me that I will be over it by the middle of the summer.