NEBridge - The View from Y-Low: North Falmouth 2018

by Single Session Swiss

I had to change the title of the article this time. None of the events in which I played at the Cape had a B strat.

My original plan was to play all five days at the Cape Cod tournament. Two of the other members of “The Band” agreed to play opposite me for two days each – Trevor Reeves on Thursday and Friday, Ken Leopold on the weekend. I had also hoped to find someone to play with on Wednesday, but I never did. Then Felix Springer, the fourth Band member, inquired whether I could play at the Hartford Bridge Club on Wednesday morning. It seemed like a preferable idea; after the game I could drive to North Falmouth at my leisure.

That plan also came a cropper when Felix became ill, but another regular partner, Joan Brault, filled in for him for Wednesday's morning game at the HBC. I left Enfield accompanied only by Mozart and Puccini – the spousal unit had driven to Florida for the closing on the sale of the house that she had inherited from her father – at about 2:30 p.m. It was sprinkling a little, but not enough to be a concern.

The heavy rain began at about the time that my Honda and I reached Sturbridge, and it continued for the entire period that we were on the Mass Pike and I-435. It did not let up until just before the Bourne Bridge. Many times the traffic came to a halt or an extreme slowdown for no apparent reason. The whole trip took over three hours. The only saving grace was that the rain had almost stopped by the time that I parked at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel. By the number of empty parking spaces I knew immediately that the attendance could not be good.

The desk clerk assigned me to room 420, which was on the second floor of building four. So, I had to walk a fair distance to reach the playing areas and the meeting rooms. This did not bother me much, but I did hear someone in the hallway grousing about the fact that there was no ice machine on the second floor. The door on the parking lot side has an unexpected step immediately after it. It is well marked, but I still nearly fell on my face the first two times that I exited the building.

Room 420 had a balcony. This was my view of the beach.

After I unpacked I sauntered over to the Partnership Desk to see if anyone was looking for teammates for Friday or Sunday. There did not seem to be any likely candidates at the moment, and so I filled out two cards requesting teammates. I had to leave my cell phone number. I hoped that I would remember how to answer my Pixel 2 if the monkeys started yelping.

Can you find all thirteen tricks in this hand with 24 hcp and an eight-card fit in hearts?

Back in my room I sought a source for an unobtrusive supper. Online I discovered a nearby pizza place called Prime Time, and I decided to check it out in person. It was just a hole in the wall, but it featured an incredibly varied menu. I ordered a sausage and broccoli calzone. Since ESPN was on the TV, I decided to wait for it. The game was between the Indians and the Cubs. I was entertained by the blooper balls launched every so often by one of the tribe's pitchers. The calzone was really tasty. I probably would be relegated to eating by myself again on Friday. I resolved to keep Prime Time in mind.

Mark Aquino (standing) and Dick Budd (in brown shirt in the center of the photo) showed the group who attended the expert panel at lunch how to bring home all the tricks on Hand #9.

Trevor and I played in the Senior Pairs on Thursday. Our start was the worst imaginable. East-West can make 7 on hand #9, but Trevor and I missed the grand slam bonus, the slam bonus, and even the game bonus. To add insult to injury I found only one of the four possible overtricks for our dismal 3 contract. Take a look at the hand to see if you can figure out how to garner all thirteen tricks. Mark Aquino and Dick Budd discussed this hand during the lunch break, which is where I learned how to do it.

Trevor and I recovered from this fiasco to finish a little over 52% in the morning session. Our afternoon session was even better. In the end we finished sixth in A, second in X, and first in Y. This was the first time that I had won a strat of an event at the Cape. It was really not that big a deal; there were only fourteen tables.

Exclusion Blackwood: Don't leave home without it.

The most exciting hand in the afternoon was clearly #1. I was sitting West, looking at the best hand that I had ever held. Imagine my surprise when Trevor opened 1. I responded 2. He bid 2, which we play as showing four spades but not necessarily extra values. I really only cared about two cards, the A and the K. I thought for a long time, but I could concoct no method in our system that could get me that information without risk of him passing or jumping in hearts. He seemed to have more than half of the points that I was missing. Many were probably in hearts, but the chances of him having one of my two cards seemed good. Furthermore, there was always the chance that the K was a singleton. So, like Vince Guaraldi, I cast my fate to the wind and bid 6NT. I claimed all the tricks after the opening lead. It was a better than average score, but the good players had the tools to find the Granny.

I eschewed Blackwood after the 2 bid because of my void (and we have not gotten around to adding Exclusion Blackwood to our convention card). However, if I had, Trevor could have shown me three key cards. I then could have asked for kings, and he had both that I was missing. QED.

Susie, our waitress, asked me if I wanted white anchovies or brown ones. I always try to avoid such discrimination, and so I asked her to surprise me.

When we played against Myrna Butler and Connie Dube, I asked them if they wanted to play in the Swiss with us on Friday. They had been planning on playing pairs, but they agreed to join us.

For supper Trevor and I drove to the Siena restaurant in Mashpee, which is about fifteen minutes from the hotel. I ordered a Caesar Salad with anchovies, which was disappointing, and the Bolognese, which was delicious. I could only eat half of the main course, and so I brought the rest back to the hotel room and stashed it in the mini-fridge alongside two two-liter bottles of Diet Coke.

David Metcalf, who is recovering nicely from the doubled amputation, answered all of my questions and those of several other attendees.

Before the game on Friday I attended David Metcalf's Q&A about directing issues. I asked him about three situations involving potential alerts: 2NT starting Ogust (no alert), Unusual Notrump or Michaels cue bid that designates uncommon suits (no alert), and help-suit game try (no alert, as long as the suit always has at least three pieces). I also asked about an unusual situation in which my partner made a claim, conceding a trick that he could not possibly lose. David said that it was everyone else's responsibility to correct the claim. That one surprised me a little.

Our first Swiss adventure got off to a very bad start. I bought our team's entry, but 10:00 came and went with no sign of Myrna and Connie. Helen Pawlowski saw me looking around, and asked me whom I was looking for. She and Sally Kirtley agreed to sit in until our teammates appeared, which was about ten minutes later. We got clobbered in that round due to two bidding mistakes, an extremely fortuitous one by our opponents and an equally catastrophic one by Trevor and me.

After that we leveled the ship and won four rounds in a row. We then played against the team that won the event. Five hands were pushes, but on the sixth our opponents found a profitable sacrifice that Myrna and Connie did not. We ended up finishing sixth in A, fourth in X, and third in Y. The highlight of the day was when I made two doubled contracts against Mark Aquino and Shome Mukherjee.

The hand-written signs on Prime Time's window warn people who are taking yoga classes not to park there.

I made arrangements for Ken and me to play with Bob Sagor and Judy Hyde in the Senior Swiss on Sunday.

After the afternoon session a crowd had gathered at the door that led outside. It was raining quite hard, and everyone was reluctant to chance it. I had my trusty backpack with me, and inside it was a plastic poncho. I donned it, made my way to the door, and walked to my room. I have been carrying that poncho for years, but this was the first time that I ever took it out of the bag.

I ordered a fried chicken dinner for takeout from Prime Time. Main Road in North Falmouth was flooded, but the Honda and I made our way through the foot-deep water both going and coming without incident. The chicken was actually pretty good. I wasn't crazy about the cole slaw, but the onion rings were excellent. Good, cheap food on the Cape!

At 1 a.m. I awoke with the startling realization that Myrna and Connie had neglected to reimburse me for their entry fees. I had to hope that I could find them on Saturday. I was awake for three hours before the Sandman returned. As soon as I awoke for the second time I read a text from Sue that said that she had successfully sold the house, and that she had packed up her car and driven it as far as Savannah, GA, before she stopped for the night.

The Communications Committee meeting was not very eventful. Three members were absent. Bob Bertoni and Allan Clamage were in the hospital, and Esther Watstein was unable to attend the tournament. I learned after the tournament was over that Allan, a long-time guru, friend, and fellow Wolverine, had died.

It warned up quite a bit on Saturday, but not nearly enough to tempt me to dress like these guys.

Afterwards I located Ken, who had driven to the Cape that morning. I also found Connie and Myrna. They asked me if I would take a check. After considering forcing them sell some blood to raise the cash, I eventually relented.

We played in the Senior Pairs, or at least Ken did. My performance was horrendous. Once again, however, we did much better in the afternoon. We ended up thirteenth (out of 52) in A, and second in Y. We were very close to first in Y; improvement on any one hand would have done the trick. The highlight of the experience was making a doubled contract against Geof Brod and Rich DeMartino.

I strong-armed Tom Floyd into attending the Executive Committee meeting as the other representative from CT. The repeal featured chicken that was very much inferior to the boxed offering from Prime Time. The highlight of the meeting for me was being able to announce that I would present the Larry Weiss award for 2018 at the next meeting of the Board of Delegates in Nashua. I gave the tray to Carolyn Weiser and told her that I would email her the name of the winner.

Our play on Sunday was nondescript. I probably played as well as anyone on our team up until the very last hand. As I explained to my team members, “The martini was fine, but I choked on the olive.” I am extremely embarrassed to say that I took a “practice finesse” on a 3 contract that would have won the last match for us. As it was, we still placed fifth in the Y strat.

Sally Kirtley took this stunning photo from her room's balcony. If only they had a fourth, ...

So, I had a pretty good tournament. I placed in A in three consecutive events with two different partners. That's a first for me. I won gold points in every event, but, more to the point, I did not win a single red point or fraction thereof! On the other hand, my two worst hands of the 191 that I played in the tournament were the first one and the last one.

As always, I had a great time, and I saw some old friends, including my tournament partner from years ago, Ginny Farber. She explained to me why she no longer wears her glasses on the top of her head.

The ride back was very smooth. Listening to operas did not help me forget about that last hand, but trying to come up with explanations as to why the attendance was so disappointing did occupy a large portion of my thinking. Everyone with whom I talked – and I asked several people who traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to get there – had a good time. The setting is absolutely scrumptious, and the playing sites are superb.

I have some theories as to why so many people passed on this opportunity. Do you? Let me know.