By Single Session Swiss
I was not sure until Wednesday morning whether I would be driving to Mansfield by myself. My wife Sue had previously lined up some partners, but on Tuesday all the commitments had for one reason or another dissolved. So, my 2007 Honda and I left the house at 7:15. The weather was beautiful, and the traffic was tolerable all the way.
I stopped at the Charlton Rest Area to purchase my breakfast sandwich and a large coffee. The guy at McD’s brought me a small (!) coffee, but he exchanged it without charging me. So, I actually got a bargain. I later needed to stop for gas. I was surprised that it was no cheaper than in Connecticut.
I arrived at the Holiday Inn at about 9:15. I was scheduled to play in the Swiss on Wednesday and the CKO on Saturday with Sarah Widhu, the Queen of New Hampshire. We had only played together once before. We did not make any changes to the card, but she did ask me what CRIFS meant.
For some reason we started in the first three-way. We won one close match and got smoked in the other, largely because I was a little too aggressive in bidding. We won four of the subsequent five matches, and then fate ordered us to face Sheila Gabay’s team in the last round. Sarah and I played pretty well, but we lost the match by four IMPs. I may have lost count, but I think that this was the eighth consecutive Open Swiss in which I played against Sheila.
Sarah did not get to play a single hand in the afternoon. She must have felt quite frustrated when we just missed placing in the overalls.
The strats in this game seemed ridiculous to me. There were two A teams, nine B teams, and four C teams. The ratios were approximately the same in the other Open Swiss on Friday. I will try to find out if anything can be done about this.
One rather controversial bidding sequence came up:
The question is whether my 2♠ bid in the balancing seat was forcing. I did not intend it to be, but it was a new suit by an unpassed responder, and Sarah very reasonably took it as forcing. We got too high.
We won five out of eight matches, but we ended up just short of placing in the overalls. It was disappointing, but we both looked forward to trying again on Saturday.
As always seems to happen to me in Mansfield, I had trouble with directions. I intended to go to TGIF for supper, but I ended up at the Longhorn Steakhouse. The service there was not the best, but the French Onion Soup was pretty good, and the burger was outstanding.
As usual I slept fitfully in my hotel bed. I woke up early, posted results on the website, and then went back to sleep. I awoke again when the maids wanted to clean the room at 8:25 in the morning. I decided to skip breakfast, but I glommed a few goodies at the hospitality table.
My partner for Thursday and Friday was Michael Dworetsky, a longtime friend from the Hartford area with whom I had not played at all in 2015. Our styles are quite different, and so I expected a period of adjustment. Our play in the Compact Knockout with teammates Bob and Shirley Derrah started with a three-way. We tied one match and lost the other. We also lost our consolation match. I was not at my best. I neglected to see that Michael had doubled one contract. I would have pulled it and saved a few IMPs if I had been alert.
In the afternoon we played in the Open Pairs. We were doing fairly well until the very last table. Two bad hands caused us to fail to scratch. A miserable day yielded one-quarter of one match award.
Sue had left me a phone message that she had found partners and would be coming to Mansfield on “Thursday afternoon.” Michael and I were ready for supper at 6:30. Since I was pretty sure that she was planning to play in the evening pairs game, Michael and I went to supper at the Trattoria della Nonna. We saw Karen Largay there with her friends from the Cape. In a former life she played at the Hartford Bridge Club. We had played together in team games a few times.
I really enjoyed my glass of Barbera, the Bolognese, and the swordfish. I never would have been able to find the restaurant on my own, but Michael’s Audi has a GPS. Hey, I have a cassette player in my Honda. I expect the car to serve me for another four years. Maybe I will splurge on a GPS when I replace the Honda in 2019.
By the way, I absolutely hate the new Mapquest interface.
I have refrained from listing complaints about the breakfast at the Holiday Inn on Friday and other annoyances there that I and others experienced. I have it on the best authority that the hotel has new management that intends to upgrade the facility dramatically in the next year.
Thursday’s foursome tried its luck in the Open Swiss on Friday. The strats this time were again ludicrous: four teams in A, nineteen in B, and eight in C. Going into the final round we were one point above average, but we drew an A team again in the final match. Michael and I played well throughout the match. We were pretty confident of a close victory going into the last incredible hand.
We were vulnerable, and Michael dealt. This was my hand: ♠ ___ ♥ KQxxx ♦ Axx ♣ AKQxx. Our opponents had been extremely aggressive bidders throughout, and so I did not waste any mental energy figuring out how to open it. To my shock, however, Michael opened 2♥, and my RHO rapidly played the 2♠ card. I placed the ♥A in Michael’s hand. It was not his style to bid a Jxxxxx suit, and the vulnerability made this judgment a near certainty. I have had a very hard time persuading any of my seventy-seven partners to play exclusion Blackwood, and it was not on our card that day. So, I decided to bid 6♥. Almost immediately I had a feeling that I had made a mistake.
LHO matched her partner’s alacrity with her 6♠ bid. Two quick passes ensued. I took my time before reaching for the bidding box. Here was my thought process at that point: Assuming that Michael had the ♥A, we had six heart tricks. I had four nearly certain high-card tricks. Surely the fifth club was also a likely trick. So, if Michael had even two spades, we could probably take thirteen. Alternatively, he could have the ♣J or the ♦K or enough clubs so that the fourth club could walk as well.
I liked the chances well enough to bid 7♥, and LHO promptly doubled. I don’t recall which of the above was the actual scenario, but Michael claimed after a trick or two. 2470 was the largest score that I had ever recorded on our side of the ledger.
The player in my chair at the other table also bid 6♥, but the Derrahs let them play it there. We won the match by eighteen, which was enough to boost us up to seventh in B, and it was a great adrenaline rush.
The big news of that event was that we never played against Sheila Gabay’s team. The streak, which had certainly lasted for more than a year, was finally over. We won exactly as many of those matches as you would expect.
Michael needed to get home, and Sue was scheduled to play in the evening game. I therefore drove to D’Angelo’s, the one place that I could always find in Mansfield, and bought a steak and mushroom grinder, some chips, and a large Diet Coke. I consumed them in room 297 while I watched Temple play SMU. The Mustangs hung tough throughout the first half. However, after I went to bed Temple came alive and ended up winning 60-40.
Sue and I ate breakfast Saturday morning at the Looking Glass Café. We both thought that it was reasonably good. We were looking for the Café on the Common, but we were very happy just to find a place that served breakfast.
We got back in time for the meeting of the B’s Needs committee. Ausra Geaski, who has chaired the committee for the last two years, announced that she could not continue as chairperson. Bob Bertoni announced that there will be a marketing committee, and he asked whether the members in attendance thought that the B’s Needs committee should continue. Everyone thought that it should. I was the only person who expressed a preference for serving on the marketing committee. No one volunteered to chair the B’s Need’s committee, and so its future is up in the air.
Bob also explained about the new system of strats in non-Gold Rush events when Gold Rush events are held. As soon as I can figure them out, I will send an e-mail to everyone explaining them. I also volunteered to send monthly e-mails to players who were no longer eligible for the Gold Rush events.
Mark Aquino also wants me to publicize the last Individual Regional in Newton in January. I told him that I needed direction on how to address the objections of experienced players who do not enjoy playing in five-card fits
Sarah Widhu had arranged for us to play in the Compact Knockout. She is a good player, and I always enjoyed playing with her. For some reason, however, success has always eluded us, and Saturday was no exception. I felt bad about this. Sarah was the favorite for the Best in Class award, and I feared that our mediocre showing might scotch her chances, and, in fact, Alix Taylor edged her out.
Sue and I went to Bertucci’s for supper. It only took us forty-five minutes to find it. When we returned, I immediately checked ESPN.com for college football scores. My beloved Wolverines had no problem defeating Rutgers, but Michigan’s best defensive lineman had been injured.
The Board of Delegates meeting on Sunday morning featured the world’s shortest election. Bob Bertoni is the new president, and Lois DeBlois is the vice-president.
On Sunday I played with Lucia Enica for only the second time. We had quite a few misunderstandings, and so our result was mediocre.
Lucia had apparently had a very bad experience with a last-minute partner on Saturday. This is a problem with which I am quite familiar. The district has taken quite a few measures to address it, but difficulties remain. It would help if people could be convinced to use one of the fine software programs available for finding partners, but participation rates are painfully low.
I had a strange tournament. Five days of muddling around in the middle of the pack with one shining gem of a hand. I cannot say that I had a great time in Mansfield, but there was that one very memorable moment. It was more than enough to keep me coming back.
The drive back was not fun. I stopped at Bertucci's to see if I had left my precious Barça cap there. They did not have it because it was, in fact, in my suitcase. I do not know if the Patriots’ game caused the traffic problems. I-495 was stop and go for quite some distance, and the Mass Pike was sluggish until I reached Sturbridge.
Sue, who played in the morning 299er game (a five-pair event that featured a five-board sit-out and a three-way tie for first place), arrived home long before I did. She reported that she had not seen our indoor-outdoor cat, Giacomo, who, although in his dotage, had recently taken up mixed martial arts. I found him outside of his cat-door in fine fettle. A little feline therapy took my mind off of my results.