NEBridge - The View from the Bottom of Bracket 2: 2018 Nashua

by Single Session Swiss

My plan for the Nashua tournament was to drive up on Tuesday morning, play all six days, and return home triumphantly on Sunday evening. I lined up three partners for two days each: Bob Sagor, Tony Norris, and Ken Leopold. Kris and Dorota Jarosz, whom I had never met before, agreed to play with Tony and me in the Thursday-Friday Knockout. Bob and his regular partner, Judy Hyde, had signed up to play with Ken and me in the weekend knockout.

Sue's plans were much more fluid. She had some partners scheduled for some days, and she definitely intended to be there for the Board of Delegates meeting on Sunday. I figured on driving up by myself and letting her work out her own schedule.

For once I remembered to bring potato chips and Diet Pepsi with me. The prices at hotels for these items are outrageous.

No cheese, if you please.

I stopped in Stafford for my customary sausage biscuit with egg. At this McD's drive-through you pay at the same window that you receive your meal. The lady told me that it cost $3.18, which I knew was wrong. In fact, she had in the bag a sausage biscuit with cheese. She apologized and shortly thereafter delivered the sandwich that I ordered. It brightened my morning a little when she did not adjust the charge.

The rest of the drive was annoying, but no more so that I had expected. I arrived at the Radisson at about 9:20. In the hotel, where it was freezing, Bob was nowhere to be seen. I therefore went back outside to sit on the benches to wait for Bob. I was grateful that there were no smokers present.

Bob arrived a few minutes later, and we went over our convention card. The challenge for me would be to remember that we were playing Bergen Raises and Flannery, a convention often provides an amazing story, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

We scored 57% in the morning session of the B/C pairs, which turned out to be the high point of my tournament from a bridge perspective. Our best moment came at the very first table. When the auction begins 1m-1M, I like to play that opener can raise with three pieces, but only with shortness in a side suit. Responder can use the Spiral convention to check for a fit. Because I knew about our fit early, I was able to drive to a good slam even though the trump king was off-side.

During lunch I had just enough time to check into the hotel, haul my suitcase up to the room, and choke down a turkey and cheese sandwich from the lunch line.

I am not sure what happened to Bob and me in the afternoon, but we scored badly. Our worst table was the very last one. So, we were not in a great mood when we joined Stu Goff for supper at the Lilac Blossom Restaurant. It did not help that we saw a huge line of cars on Innovation Way. Bob cleverly found a shortcut. He drove out (the wrong way on a one-way road) through the entrance to the parking lot for a nearby business and then made a 135-degree turn onto Spit Brook Road. It probably saved us twenty minutes.

The restaurant was not crowded, but Sheila Gabay and Adam Grossack were going over the day's hands at a nearby table. I suspect that their analysis might have been a bit more cogent than ours.

The food was pretty good. I probably should have been a little more adventurous in my selection.

Sue arrived at about 7. I know that because I actually answered my phone in the restaurant when I heard the monkey yelping in my pocket. By the way, my phone identified Bob with Sue Miguel. My wife Sue later fixed it so that it now thinks identifies Bob as the pastor at her church.

Sue and her partner finished third in the Extra Point pairs. That was good for 3.77 masterpoints.

As we often had done, Sue and I drove to IHOP on Wednesday morning. This place has really gone downhill, We thought that we had plenty of time, but ninety minutes passed before we finally got our bill processed. Not only that; they had cycled through the oldies songs four or five times. "California Sun" comes right after "Hello, Mary Lou." We really had to hurry to get to the morning session on time.

Bob and I had a horrible morning. No matter how well we did in the afternoon, we had no chance of scratching. I skipped lunch and, inadvertently, the expert panel. If I had remembered it, I would certainly have attended to hear Karen McCallum's take on the hands that we butchered.

The afternoon was better; we actually finished above 50%. However, once again the lowlight of the session came at one of the last tables. Somehow we (North-South) ended up in 4 on hand #25. The opponents had the temerity to double us. Bob scrambled for seven tricks, which is one more than Deep Finesse claims he should make, but the -500 score was awful. The opponents can make partials in any suit or notrump, but no games.

Sue planned to play in the night game again. I drove to KFC and got a bucket of chicken. After I had downed a few pieces, I walked a few miles on the bike path that follows Innovation Way. It was pleasant and relaxing.

On Thursday morning I found the Dorota, Kris, and Tony. Tony and I had only a few minutes to solidify our agreements. So, when we sat down to play against Bob and Judy in the first half of our three-way, I was far from tranquil. Our other opponents were Bob Bertoni and Neil Montague, who each have more points than Tony and I combined. At the half we were ahead of them by a little and behind in the other match. Both matches had turned on grand slams. Tony bid one against Bob and Neil; I failed to bid one against Bob and Judy. It did not matter. We ended up losing both halves of the match. We would be playing in my signature event, the Single-Session Swiss in the afternoon.

The stakes in this event could not have been higher. Sue's team had also “qualified” by losing their morning match in Bracket 5. After three matches they were ahead of us by 9 victory points. However, we won the last match in a blitz, and her team lost by one point. So, order was restored to the universe as we crushed them 38-37. However, her team finished tied for second in C even though they won only one match by three imps.So, her team won more masterpoints than ours did. 

Sue and I invited the Jaroszes to join us at Carrabba's. I received a card in the mail that offered a 20% discount on the entire order. With four of us, this could easily be a saving of $30 or $40. Unfortunately, when I signed on to the web to make reservations, I discovered that the establishment, which had been very busy every time that I had been there, was closed. So, we went to Lui Lui instead and had a delightful time. Kris and Dorota confirmed my notion that all bridge players have interesting back-stories. They have been in this country since 1986, and their travels abroad make ours look quotidian.

Both halves of our team decided to try the pairs on Friday. I started the day by attending Karen McCallum's outstanding presentation on reverses. I was very interested to hear her say that most experts play a variation on lebensohl in which the lesser of the fourth suit and 2NT is the relay bid. She was very good, and she drew a good crowd, too.

Tony and I had two mediocre sessions. The last table featured a hand that has haunted me for the last week. I was sitting West and dealt. Only our side was vulnerable. My hand is at right.

I had no qualms about opening 1. LHO overcalled 1. Tony bid 1♠, which RHO doubled. This was alerted by LHO. I asked for the explanation, which was that it was a Snapdragon Double that promised at least five pieces in the unbid suit as well as tolerance for overcaller's suit, hearts. I bid 2, which prompted 2 by LHO. Tony bid 3. RHO bid 3. It was my call.

It seemed to me that Tony was showing five spades and three or four clubs. LHO must have five hearts and at least three diamonds. If RHO has two hearts, Tony does as well, which means one or more heart losers if we play in clubs. I could easily envision problems in the club suit, as well. I bid a meek 4.

I asked Bob Bertoni later what he would have done. He said that he would have blasted to 6. Here is the whole layout.

Note that LHO (North) overcalled with a 3-4-3-3 hand with eight nondescript points. Perhaps he had a diamond in with his hearts. Also note that we are cold for 7, 7 (with seven trump), and 7NT. This is not one of those hands where the thirteenth trick appears via an obscure squeeze. No, the hand virtually plays itself. North leads a red card. There is no harm in trying the spade finesse, which works. The K appears on the first trick, which makes the J an entry for the remaining spades. It is even easier in spades or notrump, because you have no choice but to play for the finesse and the break in spades. Then you are forced to lead clubs from the dummy, which immediately reveals the correct line of play.

Three cold grand slams, and we stopped in a minor suit partial! Incidentally, my wife played in 4 and somehow managed to take only eleven tricks.

Friday evening I got to attend my first meeting of the Tournament Scheduling Committee. I shared with them my idea of soliciting information from the people who attended the last two tournaments in North Falmouth to see what we can learn about avoiding another fiasco. By the way, the Reuben Sandwich was much better than anything that I have ever had at a meeting of the Executive Committee.

On Saturday morning I attended the informal reception for ACBL President Jay Whipple. I asked about the Partnership Desk Software. He is engaged in many areas in which the ACBL is trying to attract and retain members. I asked him about the state of the Partnership Desk software, which I consider far too complicated. He asked me to send my ideas in an email. I did.

I then located one of my regular partners, Ken Leopold, and our weekend teammates, Bob and Judy. Once again we were in Bracket 2. In the morning we played in a three-way with two well-known opponents, the Rhode Island quartet of Joe Brouillard, Linda Ahrens, Lois DeBlois, and Paula Najarian, and two pairs that we have also played many times and who were fresh off of a victory in Bracket 3 of the first knockout.

At the half we were behind the RI team by a lot but ahead of the other team by a little. We played very well in the second half, expanding our lead and cutting our deficit. However, we still had a net margin of -2. Fortunately the RI team won both matches, and so we advanced.

The low point of the tournament for me came just before I sat down to play against Bart Huffington and Roberta Boyajian. I could not find my convention card. It was not in my backpack. I must have left it at the site of the first round match, which was in the other ballroom. Since the afternoon games there had already started there, I could not search for it. I reluctantly hurried back to our match. Haste makes waste. My arthritic right knee buckled, which caused me to land on my hands and right knee pretty hard. Nevertheless, I cowboyed up, limped over, and took my seat for the match.

We played pretty well in both halves of both three-way matches, but we were clearly overmatched against opponents with much more experience than we had. The same thing happened to our friends from Rhode Island in the other three-way. It did not make me feel much better that the two teams that eliminated us both lost in the semifinals on Sunday morning.

Jay Whipple addressed the Executive Committee on Saturday evening and answered questions from several members. It was informative but not surprising.

The big controversy at the Executive Committee meeting concerned whether the district should make a contribution to the Longest Day Alzheimer's charity. The arguments were very civil and respectful. I kept my mouth shut. I was surprised that several people made very strong arguments about why the district should not make a contribution. In the end, Paula, who had made the original motion, withdrew it.

Eighty-four people played in Saturday night's Pro-Am game.

The Executive Committee also voted to eliminate the Daily Bulletin from future tournaments. Instead, a single publication in a similar format will be produced. It will contain much of the same information except for the results, which are, at least in theory, easily available on the Internet. Responsibility for producing this new document was assigned to the chairman of the Communications Committee, me.

Karen Hewitt Randle produced this elegant poster for the Pro-Am.

After the meeting I played in the Pro-Am game, in which one player in each pair must be a non-Life Master with under 500 points, with Sue. These games are always fun, and I thought that we might have been doing pretty well. We got some bad breaks at the end and finished at 51%.

Sunday morning was my favorite part of the tournament. My knee felt no worse than it had on Saturday. I was encouraged that I was able to do my exercise. At the breakfast meeting of the Board of Delegates Jay Whipple gave a presentation that was similar to his previous ones. There was more emphasis this time on recruiting college kids, but no one is quite certain how to bell the cat. The ACBL is looking for contacts within the institutions.

Another motion calling for the district to donate $1,000 to the Longest Day was brought to the floor and debated pretty thoroughly. In the end it too was withdrawn.

My part of the meeting was near the end. I explained the criteria for the Larry Weiss award and the procedure used by the committee, which determined that the award for 2018 must go to Bob Bertoni. It was an immense pleasure to present it to him. I think that he was genuinely surprised and touched. At least I hope that he was.

My team bumped around in the middle of the Mid-Flight Swiss for most of the day on Sunday. We had a horrible performance in the last round against our four friends from Rhode Island, which vaulted them into the overalls and dumped us into the also-rans.

While we were so engaged, Mother Nature came knocking. It rained hard for most of the two-hour drive back to Enfield. The sitting and tension had a notable effect on my knee injury, too. By Tuesday morning I could barely walk. Not to worry: large doses of the two i's — ice and ibuprofen, have brought me back almost to where I was before my fall.