By Single-Session Swiss
What an adventure! It has now been two weeks since the first Ocean State tournament ended. My reasons for delaying my write-up were very good ones, but the task is much more difficult now. Many of the details about the experience, especially the mediocre performances at the bridge table have faded from my memory.
My wife Sue and I had planned to attend all six days in Warwick. Just as I was about to go to bed on Monday evening, she announced “I think that I had better let someone look at this.” My weary brain was still trying to process this declaration as she opened the garage door and departed. On Tuesday morning I learned that she had gone to the Urgent Care clinic to have someone look at her ears, which were clogged. Sue explained that she felt soreness in her jaw, and the medicine she received from the clinic seemed to help with the ear problem.
Sue drove to Warwick. For once we had enough time to stop for breakfast sandwiches, and we still arrived with time to locate my partner, Ann Hudson, and my teammates, Bob Bertoni and Joyce Pearson. In the first round of the Open Swiss we lost to Sheila Gabay's team by one IMP. This result earned us the right to play Rich DeMartino's team, which featured three world champions, in the second round. By the time that all of the smoke had cleared, we garnered only one victory and one tie in eight matches. Our victory point total was a measly 64. The competition was exceptionally tough, but we should have done better than that.
I had the peculiar experience of eating my lunch with Rich, Pat McDevitt, and Richard Zeckhauser. Rich wanted to know if I could provide him with information about the breakdowns at tournaments by number of points. The three of them also speculated about what could possibly be done to increase attendance by A players. I am very interested in this subject, but I had nothing to add to the conversation. Rich opined that top players want to play in knockouts. Ironically, the district cut back on knockouts this year because we had trouble getting enough A players to attend.
At supper at Bertucci's Sue reported that the medication that she was taking seemed to help.
Before the tournament I had not been able to find teammates for Wednesday using the ACBL's pathetic partnership software. However, on Tuesday I arranged for Ann and me to play with Bob Sagor and Don Weld from Greenfield in the Open Swiss. We met the DeMartino team in the first round. We probably could have won that match if I had not been so conservative in my bidding. In the end we won four matches, but we only achieved one more victory point than on Tuesday.
At lunch time several of us made an extra effort to assure that everyone knew about the expert panel, which had been poorly attended in Nashua. At first it appeared that it might be another fiasco, but eventually the panelists held a lively discussion in front of a good number of people. A similar effort was made for Phyllis Chase's talk on Friday morning with equally good results.
When I encountered Sue after the second session on Wednesday I learned that the right side of her face had swollen up and was paralyzed. She also had a splitting headache. She had had Bell's Palsy before, and so she was not overly concerned about it. Nevertheless, I drove her to the Urgent Care clinic in the mall. They insisted that we proceed to the Emergency Room at Kent Hospital to get a CAT scan to ascertain whether she had suffered a stroke.
The people at the hospital said that it would be over an hour before this would be done, and they did not want Sue to eat anything. So, I went to Longhorn Steakhouse for a hamburger and returned a little before 10. They let me see Sue immediately. She explained that they had decided that she did not need a CAT scan. Instead they had given her more drugs and released her. She could not leave, however, because the hospital had not admitted her yet. We sat together for the next half hour or so while a woman with an eight-year-old's voice asked us questions and filled in forms on a computer that was on a wheeled stand.
Meanwhile, another nurse was dealing with a guy who was obviously drunk. We could not see them, but we could easily hear them. Apparently he had fallen and injured his knee and his head. The nurse tried in vain to get him to say whether someone would be able to give him a ride home. He kept insisting at the top of his gravelly voice, “I didn't do nothin' wrong!”
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Rite-Aid to pick up drugs, medical supplies, and some food for Sue, who had missed supper. We must have wandered around the store for nearly thirty minutes. At one point I started sneezing uncontrollably. I am accustomed to sneezing fits, but this one was different. I just could not stop sneezing. I actually had to leave the store and stand outside. Shortly thereafter I was fine.
Bob Bertoni had asked me to send out an e-mailing to try to persuade people to come to the 299er games, which were poorly attended on Tuesday and Wednesday. We only brought Sue's laptop with us, and I therefore did not have my usual toolkit, but I did manage to get out a mailing before the first session on Thursday.
I had a new partner for Thursday, Jeanne Striefler, but no teammates. I found the latter at the Partnership desk. Laurie Berlin and Mark (Blanch) Blanchard from Long Island, who by coincidence had almost exactly the same number of points as we did, were looking for teammates. Blanch served as captain.
We played in the Open Swiss again. This time we were 3-3 after six rounds, but our victory point total was low enough to place us in the last three-way. We won both matches rather handily. In one of them one of our opponents announced as she set down the dummy that she had opened “the weakest thirteen ever.” Her partner remarked that she actually had opened the worst eleven ever.
After two days of banging our heads against the wall we were due for a little luck. We finished third in the Y flight with 82 points. Later I discovered that we actually defeated the team that won the X flight in the first round.
I learned on Thursday that Marguerite Levin, whom we had met on a Larry Cohen cruise a few years ago, had made Life Master. Her husband David earned his on Friday when they won the Gold Rush pairs.
We ate supper on Thursday at a new sports bar named Arooga's with Tom Hyde and Judy Cavagnaro. The menu was quite diverse, and everyone enjoyed the meal. Because I was more interested in the scores than everyone else in the party, I sat facing the bank of HD TV screens. Sue concentrated on keeping her food in her mouth. One side of her face, remember, was paralyzed.
On Friday morning Sue asked me to find her an eye-patch. I drove back to Rite-Aid. They had exactly one, which, for me, was the perfect number. My mission was accomplished, and there was no chance that I selected the wrong kind. The good news was that the sneezing fit did not recur; the bad news was that I was not able to find a parrot for Sue to keep on her shoulder.
On Friday my other mission was to help Lucie Fradet get the gold points that she needed for Life Master. She started the tournament needing more than six. Her success in the first three days had whittled that down to less than two. Unfortunately, we were a little outclassed in the Mid-Flight Pairs, and I really butchered the play of one hand. We did not come close to placing.
I skipped supper to play in the knockout with Alan Godes, Frank Farrell, and Irene Bonner. Only eleven teams signed up for the 0-4000 event, which meant that only five were in our flight. We played two three-ways to eliminate one team. Our team had one monumental victory, one close victory, and two close losses. That sufficed to keep us in the event on Saturday. I remember knockouts as being intense; this seemed silly.
On Saturday morning I ran the meeting of the Communications Committee. I reported on the 10,000+ e-mails that I had sent promoting the tournament. For the first time we also targeted players from outside of the district. I don't know if that accounted for the difference, but the count of players from New England this year was seven less than last year's. The attendance from out of state was up sixteen. Last year's attendance was considered exceptionally good.
Our team lost a fairly close round in the morning to the team that eventually won the event. I played better than I had except for one hand that could have made the match very close. Our opponents made a slight error when defending against a 4♠ contract. I had figured out how to dispose of all of my losing hearts, but just as I was about to implement the strategy I started coughing repeatedly. It was so distracting that I had to get up, blow my nose, and get a drink of water. When I had composed myself, I realized that I had pitched a diamond rather than a heart, and so I went down one. The other table had the same result, but if the swing had gone our way, the final result would have been very close.
I bought a sandwich after we had been eliminated and repaired to room 521. I had already decided to skip the afternoon session and watch college football on TV. Sue joined me there. She had been planning on playing in the afternoon, but by then – she had played two sessions every day despite her medical problems – she was very tired and emotionally spent. She napped and gathered strength for the Pro-Am while I watched Houston overwhelm Oklahoma. I was not worried, but I was happy to learn that Michigan pounded Hawaii 63-3.
I was late for the Executive Committee meeting because I hung around to snap a few photos of winners. The only controversial topic involved the formatting of one of the events in Cromwell. The hotel's food was better than usual.
In the Pro-Am I played for the first time with Abhi Dutta. We had no major bidding problems, but we did not get enough help from our opponents to make up for a few routine mistakes. It was heartening to see twenty-four tables. I especially enjoyed seeing Jeff Lehman and Luke Gillespie playing with youngsters from Newton.
On Sunday morning Ann and I teamed up with Lynda Edson and Rita Callahan. The highlight for me was, ironically, the first round, which we lost by 37 IMPs. I learned there that Stephen Pickett of Vancouver, BC, had been so impressed with the e-mail that he had called his friend Robin Hillyard and arranged to play in the tournament. Vancouver is over 2,500 miles from Warwick!
After that disastrous start, our team was bouncing around just below the middle until the last round, in which Ann and I played against a very good pair, Dean Panagopolous and Stephen Gladyszak. I dealt these thirteen cards to myself: ♠ K J x x ♥ x ♦ A J 10 x x x x ♣ x. The hand seems too strong to preempt and too strong to pass. So, I bid 1♦. Then this happened:
I tanked for a while, and then, because I had already overbid my hand by any standard, I passed. If I were allowed a do-over, I would bid 5♦. Ann's pass is probably forcing after my jump to game. Furthermore, I have only one quick trick, which indicates that we may not do well on defense.
In fact we could have beaten 5♣, but only if Ann had underled her ♠A with her lowest spade to signal me to switch to diamonds, in which she had a void. We can much more easily make 5♠ with our seventeen points and nine-card fit. The diamonds split 4-2, but the dummy has just enough entries to set up the last three even if the opponents lead diamonds or spades.
I mulled over this hand during the first half of the way back to Enfield. No matter how you looked at it, I had blown it. It was only later that I was struck by how pedestrian our hands had been throughout the rest of the tournament. My memory is not what it once was, but I do not think that we had a single slam hand in the twelve sessions that I played.
The adventure did not end with the drive back,during which I nearly plowed Sue's car into the side of another vehicle when I realized that I had missed the exit for Route 146. Sue went to the ER to get a CAT scan, which produced negative results. She is much better now.
I sat down at my desk as usual on Monday morning, punched the “on” switch on my trusty Dell Optiplex, and … nothing. Not a single sign of life. I spent most of the next week purchasing a new computer, transferring files from the old hard drive, scrambling to get replacements for all of my software programs that would not work on Windows 10, and frightening my cat Giacomo with outbursts of profanity.