By Single-Session Swiss
Sue and I left Enfield on Tuesday at about 7:45. We took the back roads and encountered only a little traffic. Even though we stopped at the McDonald's in Warwick, we arrived at the Crowne Plaza at 9:30. We discovered that now that the work in the western parking lot had completed, there was now a tremendous amount of parking. I gobbled down my breakfast sandwich in the car, went inside, got a coffee, and found my partner for the first three days, Ann Hudson.
We decided to play in the Open Pairs. In the morning session we had what I thought was a rather ordinary game. We scored pretty well, however, over 53 percent. That was good enough to get us fourth in B. We were quite satisfied with that result. Ann and I usually are slow starters.
As usual, Ann disappeared tor the lunch break. The line was short, so I opted for the hot food. I settled on the huge sausage sandwich, which was pretty good. Sue accosted me while I was eating and going over the hand record. She was quite upset that the desk clerk had refused to let her check in to the room because her name was not on the reservation. After standing in line for a few minutes I was told that I could not register either because no rooms were yet available. This did not bother me at all, but Sue was hoping to get into the room to start unpacking her two suitcases of clothes and three bags of food.
Ann and I had roughly the same score in the afternoon. We finished third in B. The competition seemed very tough in the afternoon, and we had some good luck against some of the best players in New England. The highlight of the day was a doubled 5♦ contract that I made against Joyce Regan and Terry Byrne. In the last round we played against the winners in B, Ethan Wood and his grandmother, May Mok. We contributed to their success by bidding one too many on the penultimate hand.
Sue and I ate supper at Arooga's, an enormous sports bar with a very wide-ranging menu. Our dinner companions were Trevor Reeves and Felix Springer, who were scheduled to be my teammates on Wednesday. Trevor and Felix had walked to the restaurant, which is about one block from the hotel, while I checked in and tried to locate Sue.
I finally found her, and she wanted to drive to Arooga's. Sue found a shortcut that got us there in twenty minutes or so. Despite the fact that Trevor and Felix had ordered before Sue and I had even sat down, our meals were delivered before theirs.
During the wait Felix and Trevor, who had also played in the Open Pairs, discussed nearly every hand. My chicken sandwich was just OK. I enjoyed the ribs that I had last year better. I should have ordered them again.
Trevor and Felix hurried back to the hotel to play in the Super Points game at 7:00. They did well in the evening game, which had 19 tables.
This was the first tournament for little Yoga, my new 2-in1. Its display is just barely large enough for my ancielnt eyes. I also had a good bit of difficulty getting used to the touch screen. I was surprised to discover that the drag-and-drop function did not seem to work on Firefox, but it did on Chrome.
I went to bed before 10, but I sat up wide awake at 1:11, George Noory's mysterious time. I worked on the website using Yoga for an hour. I then fell asleep and did not arise until 6:20. I felt pretty good. Broken sleep like this is the norm for me.
Sue and I had breakfast at IHOP. The ham and Swiss “omelette” was, as always, delicious. We like to go there for the music as much as the food. As we left, “What a Fool Believes” by the Dooby Brothers was playing. Back in the day I never knew what this song was about. For a long time I had thought that they were saying “the white man has the power.”
On Wednesday Ann and I played in the Mid Flight Swiss with Trevor and Felix. I played terribly in the first round, which we lost. We won the second round in a big way, but I misinterpreted a weak Bergen raise in the third round against Marcia West's team. Fortunately, Travis and Felix played very well and bailed me out. After that I played pretty well.
At lunchtime our team's record was 3-1. Because of the big breakfast that I had consumed, I repaired directly to our hotel room and relaxed with a Diet Coke (which was only $1.75 in the machine as opposed to $3 in the lunch line) and some potato chips.
We lost one round in the afternoon. After seven rounds we were in third place, but we were definitely within striking distance. We won our last match by nine IMPs, which was enough to pass both teams that were ahead of us. However, we were leapfrogged by the team from Rhode Island that had defeated us earlier. They had won their last match by nineteen. The final margin was 109-107.
Bob Sagor, who would be my partner for the last three days of the tournament and my teammate on Thursday, had played against the winners in the last round. After the match he tried to tell me about the hand that did both of us in. He apparently had seven diamonds and four hearts, but after a weird auction the opponents ended up in 4♠. That is all that I gleaned from the short conversation; I was in photo-taking mode at the time. I meant to ask for details later, but I forgot.
Bob Bertoni had asked me on Tuesday if I knew whether the Hartford Bridge Club wanted to host one of the NAP qualifiers. I have no juice whatever at the club, but both Trevor and Felix are on the Board of Governors. I asked them, but neither had heard anything about it.
My plan was to go out for dinner with Sue and whomever else I could wrangle. Ann and her husband Randy Johnson as well as Bob Sagor turned me down. It is hard to imagine how anyone could eschew the prospect of an evening of sparkling conversation with SSS, I know. To top it off, Sue announced that she was playing in the Super Points game, which left me dining alone.
I decided to pay a call on the Colonel. I prefer extra crispy, which also means extra napkins. I brought my supper home and ate it while I tried to watch television. The best thing that I could find was an old episode of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter and Lyle Waggoner on some obscure network. I liked this show back in the seventies. The plot and dialog of this episode were embarrassing. Then it occurred to me that even in my misspent youth this program was only tolerable if you hit the mute button. This improved it, but there was still too much Lyle and too little Lynda in this episode for my taste.
After I turned the TV off, I soon discovered that using the touch screen while consuming KFC is not a good idea.
I slept until 3. I was then up for about an hour working and playing on the computer. I finally woke up for good at 6:30.
I was greatly annoyed to find that the Mr. Coffee did not work. Almost all of the water remained in the basket containing the envelope of coffee. Sue discovered that the water would drip down only if a button protruding from the bottom of the basket was pushed up. She extracted the scissors from my shaving kit and deployed it to push up the button. That worked, but she had to stand there until all the water had dripped out.
I later determined that the lid of the pitcher should have been pushing up on the basket's button. The original pitcher had probably broken, and the hotel had replaced it with one that was not appropriate for that model. I MacGyvered a solution. I just inserted my Atra razor over the pitcher's lid, and it worked perfectly. Yes, the razor was hot at the end, but it was not hot enough to burn.
I was very gratified with the attendance on Thursday. The main event was the three-flight pairs game in the main ballroom. We, however, decided to play in the Open Swiss in the Plaza Ballroom. Our teammates were Bob S. and Leo Sartori. I was startled to see thirty-four teams filling up the ballroom. I have played in this event when less than half that number competed.
Our team had a horrendous start. We lost our first match against a team from the HBC that lost all of its subsequent matches. We also got clobbered in in the second and third rounds. At that point we were in last place, and the #33 team was barely in range.
One hand in the third round haunted me. I held ♠A ♥Ax ♦xxx ♣AKQ10xxx. The bidding at both tables went 1♣-1♠-3♣-3♠-?. My counterpart at the other table ignored his paltry diamond holding, bid 3NT, and held his breath in fear of a diamond lead. He made an overtrick. I decided to bid 4♠, which went down one.
We talked about this hand later. Bob came up with the idea of opening 1♦ with my hand and then bidding 3NT after any response. That would definitely infuriate any opponent who decided not to lead from his/her diamond stack after seeing my opening bid. If I ever tried that approach, however, I feel sure that my partner would either pass or jump to 5♦.
We won two matches in the afternoon, which brought us up to a little below average. The fact that we lost the last round in a close contest left a bitter taste in our mouths, but we would have needed a really decisive victory to place in the overalls.
I was surprised to learn that Ann and I were actually at the top of the middle panel of the masterpoints leaderboard after Tuesday's games. Ann was even more surprised when I showed the sign to her before she left. Neither of us thought that we had played exceptionally well. Of course, our performance on Wednesday dropped us well down the chart.
We ate supper at Siena in East Greenwich with Bob and Stu Goff (Bob's roommate at the hotel who had prevailed against us in round two of the Swiss). The trip there was something of an adventure, but we arrived only about fifteen minutes late for our reservation. I cannot recommend this restaurant too much. I ordered the Bolognese, asparagus, and the wine that they were featuring. All were very good, and the service and the atmosphere were both exceptional. I have only been to this restaurant twice, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself both times.
When we got back to the hotel I checked my email and discovered that I had an appointment with Matt Sullivan and the crew from Duggan Academy the next Wednesday at 10 a.m. We would be discussing plans for providing bridge instruction for the middle schoolers there.
I played with Bob in the Mid Flight Swiss on Friday morning. Our teammates were Gene Coppa and Phil Olschefski, long-time friends from the Hartford Bridge Club. Once again we got off to a terrible start. In fact, this was even worse than on the previous day. At the break for lunch we were 0-4 and in last place with only 24 victory points.
I had another sausage sandwich for lunch. The lunch lines at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick set a high standard for on-the-go bridge cuisine. You can even order a hamburger or cheeseburger to order!
We were not surprised to find ourselves in the three-way after lunch. We split the two matches, which was not enough to escape the ignominy of the last three-way. We won both of those matches handily to finish with 78 victory points.
Gene, Phil, Bob, Stu, Sue and I had supper at Iggy's. It was probably a mistake to go to such a popular place on a Friday night. No tables were available. We had to wait around in the bar watching the previous night's Patriots game for quite a while. The table that we finally got was outside, and it was rather chilly. This restaurant specializes in sea food. Kansans like myself would never dream of eating those waterborne insects that many New Englanders favor. Where I come from there are two types of edible critters from the water – catfish and Mrs. Paul's. I ordered the chicken Marsala and washed it down with a pint of Guiness. I enjoyed the conversation, but I was not unhappy when the dinner was over.
I slept until 3. I got up and worked on my webmaster's notes in the bathroom for an hour or so.
The Communication Committee meeting on Saturday morning was pleasant but not very eventful. We need to come up with a strategy for promoting both the NAP and the Harvest Regional as stand-alone events. The fact that the NAP is up against the Monster Knockout might turn out to be a mistake in scheduling.
I was very disappointed to learn that only sixty-three teams had signed up for the Monster Knockout. I was hoping for a lot more. I wondered how many people had called the hotel for a registration, were told that no rooms at all were available at any price, and decided not to come. I had learned from Helen Pawlowski, the tournament manager, that the hotel was completely sold out more than three weeks before the tournament.
Bob, Gene, Phil, and I found ourselves in still another three-way. In a knockout this is good news because usually you only need to win one of the two matches to advance. At the break we were behind by thirty-two points in one match and one in the other.
In the second half we got clobbered in the one-sided match, but the other match was very close. We had five pushes and lost the other match by one imp. We were out.
The hand that killed us was a bidding misunderstanding on the very first hand that Bob and I had played in the morning match. I held a pretty good 5-3-3-2 hand that I opened 1♠. Bob put in the game force with 2♦. We were playing Mike Lawrence's version of 2/1, in which the “default rebid” is the rebid of the opening major. I bid 2NT, which to my way of thinking showed stoppers in both unbid suits and an interest in going beyond game. Bob, unfortunately, reckoned that I had made a weak bid and bid 3NT, which, because of the principle of rapid arrival, I considered a weak bid. If I had held his cards, I think that I would have rebid his six-card diamond suit. If he had, I think that we would have found 6♦ and won the match.
I bought another sausage sandwich for lunch. I had forgotten that football was on TV. The Wolverines were in a featured game v. Florida at 3:30 at Jerry World in Texas. I tried to put this out of my mind.
On Friday afternoon we played in the event that bears my (pen) name. We made the mistake of winning our first match against an A team, a feat that resulted in us facing three more A teams, starting with the Grossack brothers. We lost two blitzes because of bidding misunderstandings. We also lost the other match.
Against Bob Bertoni's team I was faced with the problem of whether to open this hand in first seat: ♠QJx ♥KQx ♦QJx ♣Jxxx. It has twelve high-card points (unless you deduct for the lack of aces or the 4-3-3-3 distribution) with only one quick trick. It does not meet the rule of twenty, and it does not meet the two quick tricks requirement. Even though I realized that "twelve is the new thirteen," I decided to pass. Here was the auction:
Don't ask about the result.
We were playing Sandwich NT. I therefore hoped that Bob would get the message that I had all the missing points (and then some), but no better than 4-4 in the black suits. He thought that we had a double fit in the black suits. I don't know which of us (if either) was right. This would have been a good hand to be able to open with a weak NT.
I learned in the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday evening that despite the record attendance in Nashua, we lost a good deal of money. The table fees were up a little over last year, but the expenses were up almost across the board. The committee voted to raise entry fees for 2018.
The meal served during the meeting was pretty good this time.
They presented me with the Larry Weiss award (again). You can see it and read about it here. It is a very nice award, but the qualifications seem inappropriate for bridge in New England in 2017 when practically everyone is gracious at the table. I cannot even remember the last time that I witnessed someone doing something untoward at a tournament in New England.
The award itself is very attractive, but the packaging in which it was bundled seemed a little makeshift. I am assigned to put together a committee to select the next winner. I will also need to get the plate engraved and handed to him/her. This person will be faced with the really difficult task of figuring out what to do next – there will not be sufficient space on the plate for any more names.
Sue played in the evening pairs game while I watched football. I learned Michigan had dominated Florida, but Wilton Speight had thrown two consecutive interceptions that were returned for touchdowns to keep the game close. I got to watch the first half of the Alabama-FSU game before I became very sleepy. FSU looked very talented, but Alabama was Alabama.
I decided that I should wear my Michigan sweatshirt on Sunday. Sue and I returned to the IHOP, and I celebrated the Wolverines' victory with the outrageous country-fried steak and eggs breakfast, which comes with both hash browns and pancakes.
Bob, Gene, Phil, and I played in the Mid Flight Swiss. We got off to still another terrible start. After two rounds we were in last place (again!) with only eight victory points. If they had had an odd number of teams, we might have considered withdrawing.
This time, however, we suddenly caught fire, won five of the last six matches, and zoomed past both of the teams that had defeated us. We lost a close match to the team that won the event, but our stirring comeback had gotten us all the way up to second place with a very respectable score of 106 victory points. We had been thirty-two victory points behind the eventual winners after two rounds. We finished in second, only nine points back.
As always, the tournament in Warwick was both intense and enormously entertaining. I did not think that I had played exceptionally well, but we finished on a very strong note, and I certainly won a lot of masterpoints. The only disappointment was the falloff in attendance on the weekend.