I drove to North Falmouth on Wednesday morning by myself. My wife Sue's schedule was still in flux, and she wanted to have her own car in case she wanted to come home early. The drive was very pleasant as I listened to Tchaikovsky's Cherevichki. The weather was beautiful, the traffic was light, and the delay at the Bourne Bridge, which only had one lane open for both directions, was only five minutes. My Honda averaged an incredible 42.3 miles per gallon.
Everyone had been worried about the attendance at the Cape Tournaments in 2019. It was bad last year, and this year Gatlinburg had moved its tournament so that it was in direct competition with ours. A lot of people from New England go to Gatlinburg. This was also Holy Week in the Greek Church, and rumors abounded about horrendous tie-ups on the Bourne Bridge because of the construction.
On the other hand, the lineup of events had been dramatically improved. We just had to hope that people had not already written the tournament off for one reason or another.
I was somewhat relieved to see quite a few cars in the parking lot when I arrived at the Sea Crest. I remembered that last year I did not play on Wednesday, and when I arrived in the evening there were an astounding number of empty spots.
My room was not ready yet, and so I sat outside on an Adirondack chair enjoying the rays of the sun. After I had been there a few minutes my partner for the first three days (and #121 of my bridge career), Eric Vogel, found me and asked if I wanted to get lunch. We went into Shutters.* I had a hamburger with coleslaw. Eric ate a fish sandwich. As I had expected, both meals were mediocre and markedly overpriced. The view of the empty beach and the sea was, I guess, worth something.
In the restaurant I saw a few people whom I knew, including Sandy Macri and Karen Sterrett from the Hartford Bridge Club. After lunch Eric tried to leave behind his convention card, but I stopped him. Unfortunately he did not stop me from leaving my mechanical pencil behind. I had to hoof it all the way back from the Nauset Center when I discovered its absence. I chased down our waitress, and she retrieved it from her pocket and handed it to me.
Eric and I played in the Senior Open Pairs. We had only played together a couple of times, and so we expected a few glitches. Our only really bad hand in the afternoon was against two ladies from California. I doubled them in a 4♥ contract. I had AK and AQ in the two unbid minors, and I knew that they were getting a bad split in trumps. Unfortunately, they had twelve trumps, three singletons, and both major-suit aces. The worst part was that we could make 6♠. Incidentally, these ladies (and one other) had been persuaded to come to the tournament by Millie Garrison of Riverside, CA, who had attended two years ago and played in a Swiss event with me and Jeanne Martin.
Eric and I ended up in the middle, which was not bad for a newly formed C team.
I skipped supper. Instead I checked into the hotel, found our room, unloaded my stuff, ate some potato chips with Diet Coke that I had brought with me. I also napped for a few minutes.
We started the evening session well, but we seemed to run into one buzzsaw after another after that. My worst moment came on a 1NT contract declared by Lloyd Arvedon. He had bid hearts, but he avoided playing them. After ten tricks he had discarded only one. So, I figured that he was looking at three hearts. I held A J 10 sitting behind him. He led a low heart from the board, Eric ducked, and so did Lloyd. I took the 10 and paused, but I cannot claim that I actually thought through it thoroughly.
I later realized that playing the jack cannot possibly be wrong. However, I lay down the bullet and crashed Eric's king. Lloyd won his seventh trick by capturing my jack with his queen.
Eric and I also had a few misunderstanding in other defensive situations. Still, we felt that we were starting to click together and would do better in the knockout on Thursday. I only hoped there would be enough teams so that we avoided being assigned to Bracket 1.
I was also a little concerned about Sunday. Bob Sagor and I were scheduled to team up with Tom Hunter and Robin Sanders from Norwalk, CT, but I had not heard back from them. As I was walking to my hotel room, however, Joe Brouillard, the partnership chairman stopped me and showed me on his phone that he had received an email from the couple confirming our assignation.
I learned that Sue had driven through Rhode Island to pick up her partner, Nadine Harris, who lives in Newport but does not have a car. Sue also drove her home on Friday evening.
Bob Bertoni sent me a photo of Paul Kelly, who earned his Life Master designation in the evening session of the sectional. On Friday morning I tried to do what was required to announce this achievement in the online bulletin for Thursday, but I could not log in to Google Sheets because my credentials were stored on my desktop computer. I won't let this happen at future tournaments.
Sue and I ate breakfast at the Talk of the Town Diner. Fortunately, we arrived there very early. The staff was totally unaware that the restaurant would soon be inundated with hungry bridge players. My omelette was enormous and tasted pretty good. I did not care for the potatoes.
At 9:45 Eric answered a phone call from our putative knockout teammates, Felix Springer and Trevor Reeves. They had missed an exit and now expected to arrive at 10:01. I was not too worried; it takes the directors a few minutes to set up any bracketed event. In fact, they arrived with a few minutes to spare.
The format for the elimination day of the knockout was a six-team Swiss in each of the four brackets. We played five nine-board matches. Our first round opponents were very familiar – Joe Brouillard, Linda Ahrens, Lois DeBlois, and Paula Najarian. We won that match rather easily, as we did the other two morning matches as well. Our margins of victory were 26, 7, and 21. I looked at the scoreboard before going to lunch. I was a little surprised to see that the three teams that we had defeated were in second, third, and fourth place. We enjoined such a big lead that we could almost have forfeited both of the afternoon matches and still been assured of qualifying for Friday.
I had a chicken salad wrap for lunch. The only alternatives were a lukewarm hot dog, a “Caesar salad” that was nothing but romaine and cheese chunks, and a bowl of clam chowder. Most people opted for the chowder, but I am from Kansas. Midwesterners are suspicious of any water-dweller that is not rectangular and breaded. By the way, the hotel offered exactly the same unimaginative selection all four days.
As expected, the two matches in the afternoon were not competitive. However, the team that we defeated in the last round had somehow inched ahead of the team that we had bested in the third round. So, we would face them again on Friday morning in the semifinals.
Our foursome was joined for supper at the Siena restaurant in Mashpee by Sue and Nadine. It was a great time. The bolognese that I ordered was to die for, and the Barbera d'Alba that Felix chose was a perfect match.
On Friday morning I stopped in at the 299er room to listen to Dot Kelleher's presentation on Jacoby Transfers and its close relationship with the Stayman convention. She did a great job of establishing a sense of intimacy. She insisted that everyone move their seats as close as possible to her. I have attended a great many of these presentations. Several were excellent, but never before have I seen a group of listeners so engrossed in a talk. The only drawback was that someone in the back was constantly on his cell phone. Don't get me started.
Our morning semifinal knockout match was not much of a contest. We were ahead by 41 at the break, and we added another 21 after the opponents decided to exercise their seating privileges in the second half.
The final round was a reprise of our first match with Joe Brouillard's team. Eric and I had been playing pretty well for a day and a half, but we ran into problems in the first set. I circled three hands on my card as trouble spots, but, in fact, we only lost one imp on those hands. The real problem was a hand on which Eric went down one in 4♥, but they made it at the other table. I don't remember anything about the hand. On the other hands we had a few smaller swings that went our way. The result was a tie at the break.
The end of the second set of twelve boards was tense. I had to play the last two hands, which were both 4♠ contracts. At the next table the losing team in the Bracket 1 final was loudly conducting its postmortem Concentrating was extremely difficult, but I managed to score the same number of tricks on both hands as my counterpart at the other table. In most team events you do not concern yourself too much with overtricks. In a close knockout match, however, every trick counts.
When the last card had been played, I felt pretty comfortable about the likely outcome. Eric and I had bid a slam and made it, and almost all the points were on our side. However, when we went back to our home table to confer with Trevor and Felix, they insisted that we start with hand #13, on which Trevor had revoked. So, we started with -11, which was followed by five pushes that included both the slam we made and one that we did not bid. We then lost five more imps on hand #19, but after that we won three of the next four boards.
We had a lead going into board. #24 At our table we bid 4♥, and I made 5. It seemed routine. The auction was much more spirited at the other table. Trevor doubled the original bid of 1♥ and then doubled the 4♥ response. Felix pulled it to 5♦, a horrible contract. Fortunately Lois bid 5♥. If the opponents had doubled and defended brilliantly, we would have lost the match. As it was she went down one, and we won the match (and the event) by a comfortable margin.
We had played preset boards in both the semifinals and finals, but the hand records are, for some reason, not available on the internet. I did not save the printed copy that they distributed, and so I can't include images of any of the hands.
Felix and Trevor enjoyed their ride home; they didn't miss any exits this time. Sue drove Nadine back to her home in Newport and then returned at about midnight. Eric and I spent the evening swapping army stories at Casa Vallarta. The rice, chips, salsa, and beans were below par, but the tacos al carbon were excellent, and the huge margarita washed it down nicely. It was the perfect way to cap a great day.
By the way, I barely scraped the surface of my army stories that evening. If you collect bizarre tails of the Vietnam-era military, I am your man. I must emphasize the “era” part. My fighting was confined to the New Mexican War of 1971 in which a group of peace-crazed Ghandiists seated themselves in the middle of the main street of our base.
I had spotted Ken Leopold, my Saturday partner, on Friday. Sighting my partner for the next day always brings me a great sense of relief. Ken and his wife Lori won one of the sectional pairs game. Lori's name was on all three of the Leaders Boards on Saturday.
On Saturday morning at the CommComm meeting I asked Sally Kirtley how the table count was doing. She said that it was down a little from last year, which was a catastrophe. When I told her that it seemed more crowded, she said that they had put out fewer tables this year. What a disappointment!
I brought up the fact that some people had reported having trouble using the tabs on the left on most pages of NEBridge.org. I proposed a possible solution to this, but everyone thought that it was a bad idea. I don't honestly understand how one uses the hovering features with a smart phone, but everyone else said it was not a problem. They are all much more phone-knowledgeable than I am. So, I deferred to them.
Ken Leopold and I played in the Senior Pairs. We had only played together once in the last few months, and we have very little experience playing the weak notrump and the Woolsey defense against opponents 1NT. We both made a few mistakes, but we still finished just a little under 50 percent. Our afternoon session was much better. We actually made a pretty good run at the pair who won the C strat of the event. Maybe I should say “run away from” rather than “run at.” Both pairs were East-West, and they followed us throughout the session. We ended up second in C, which was pretty good for us.
The Executive Committee ruminated for quite a few minutes on Saturday evening about the results of the GNT qualifying tournament in Sturbridge. There were problems in the scoring of both Flight A and B. In the latter the team that was announced as the winner ended up in third place. This was a horrible situation, especially since for the first time ever two teams were allowed to qualify. The committee voted to allow the team that missed out to play in this event free for the next five years.
The Flight C situation was just as bad. The event was publicized as part of the Gold Mine tournament rather than as a uniquely important event in its own right. Some of the players evidently did not understand that they were playing for the right to represent the district at the NABC tournament in Las Vegas in July. As of the time of the meeting none of the winning teams had agreed to represent the district in Vegas!
On Sunday morning I played with Bob Sagor from Greenfield, MA. Our teammates were Robin Sanders and Tom Hunter, who together run a club in Norwalk, CT. We lost our first match when Robin got involved in a minor brouhaha with one of the opponents. We then won three in a row. We played a very difficult schedule that included the first-place teams in both Flight A (loss) and Flight B (tie). We emerged as third in Flight C without playing any of the other four teams that placed in our flight.
As usual they handed out chits worth $5 to be used at lunch. As always I put mine in my shirt pocket. However, at the break I could not find it. Fortunately, I espied one on an otherwise empty table and liberated it. When I got home I found the original one crumpled up in the folds of my sweater.
We would have done considerably better but for one hand in the final round. At our table Bob Bertoni, sitting North, held a hand with fourteen hcp and five diamonds. He opened 1NT, which was passed out. Our side took the first six tricks (five in spades); he took the last seven. At the other table Tom opened 1♦, which set off a lengthy competitive auction that culminated in him declaring a hopeless doubled 5♦ contract. The opponents had thought enough of their nine-card suit and nineteen hcp that they ventured 4♠. I cannot imagine that they would have been able to win ten tricks with that holding, but, of course, Tom and Robin could not see their cards.
I had promised Renee Clifft that I would bring back two boxes of Bridgemates for her, as I had in 2018. After the end of the Swiss I spent the better part of a half hour trying to locate them. I then gave them to Tom and Robin to give to Renee.
The whole tournament was tremendously enjoyable. I did not even mind the drive home in the rain. There was absolutely no line at the bridge! I just wished that more people had been able to enjoy it with us.
* Publicity for the hotel identifies this establishment as Red's, but the name on the door is Shutters.