Someone should explain to me why Unit 126 scheduled its Spring Sectional for the very last weekend in the vernal season and only one day before the Nashua Regional. So, even if I took Monday off, I would find myself playing in two sessions for nine days out of ten. I did take Monday off, but I spent it mowing the weeds and running errands. I also had to try to set in motion a process for saving the annual sectional in the Hartford area, the site of which was demonstrably inferior to the halls of the Greek churches in Orange and Stamford that host the other sectionals. I did not discover that anyone was even considering moving it until the meeting of the Board of Governors on Sunday morning.
Then there's the Simsbury Bridge Club, which had been suffering from low attendance. Ken Leopold (my partner there), Ken's wife Lori, and I have undertaken the project of revitalizing the club. One of my responsibilities has been to post results and lesson handouts on the Internet. Since I would miss Wednesday evening's game, the plan was for Ken to send me files that I would post from my diminutive laptop in Nashua. The plan seemed simple enough, but we never got a chance to test it.
So, I was was a little frazzled when I set out eastward on Route 190 a little after 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Except for a few miles of stop-and-go near the spot where Route 2 crossed I-495 the traffic was rather light. I arrived at the Radisson with plenty of time to locate my partner for the first two days, Eric Vogel, and our teammates, Bob Sagor and Don Weld. We planned to play in the Open Swiss on Tuesday and the Mid-Flight Pairs on Wednesday.
We won our first match in the Swiss, but we then lost close matches to two of the best teams. In the latter of these two I suffered a serious lack of concentration because of time pressure. I went down in a cold partial when I failed to cover the opening lead in the trump suit; I just was careless, assuming that they would play the ace, the only missing honor. There was no excuse for this solecism, which really hurt. I had made a doubled game contract in the first board, and so we were in position to score an important win.
We also somehow lost the fourth match. The theme of this event seemed to be that if you had a six-card minor, and your partner opened 1NT, you should just raise to 3NT. On one hand in this match I held six clubs headed by the QJ and only one king on the side. My partner opened 1NT, and I stopped at 3♣, but 3NT came home at the other table. Similar holdings yielded the same result on other hands.
In the three-way after lunch we won one match in a blitz, but we lost the other match. We then inexplicably lost to the last-place team, which put us in a rather despondent mood for the last match. It was close, but we managed to win that one. In a competitive auction Eric had inserted a 4♦ bid, and I raised to 5 with Qxx. He pondered for a minute or so and then decided to chance the slam. The opponent on his left doubled and then led the ace and king of trumps. Believe it or not, our counterparts at the other table reached exactly the same contract with the same result.
Eric remarked that he had only bid the slam because he thought that we were having a bad event. Our record at that point was indeed a dismal 2-5, but one of our wins was a blitz, and the other was a 16-1 stomping. If we had stopped at 5♦, we would have finished in the overalls despite having only three wins. That would have been something to cling to.
As it was, I was too depressed to take any photos of winners. My wife Sue, who drove up by herself, joined Eric and me at the Lilac Blossom for supper. I found the food just OK, but I was very impressed by the money tree near the cash register.
Sue played in the evening game. I stayed in the hotel room and worked on a translation project for my Italian class.
We had no better luck in the pairs on Wednesday. After the first table nothing seemed to go our way. We scored an embarrassing 42%. We got back up to average in the afternoon, but to a considerable extent the difference was due to improved cooperation from our opponents. On one hand two friends from the Hartford Bridge Club failed to unblock the heart suit, which allowed me to make an impossible 3NT contract. This was the very hand on which I went over to the Dark Side and bid 3NT over my partner's shabby six-card diamond holding. I had despaired when the dummy appeared, and I saw that the opponents held nine hearts, including all the high ones.
Another hand in the round convinced Eric and me to add the Spiral convention (sometimes called Q & Q) to our repertoire. After opening one of a minor, I chose to support Eric's spade suit with KQx and a singleton. He smelled slam and bid Blackwood. He was able to bale out in 5♠, but it was still down one. If he had known that I only had three trumps, he probably would have settled for game.
Eric drove home after the game ended. Since Sue had decided to play in the evening game, I was on my own for the evening. I decided to drive to Lowell to catch the encore performance of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at the Showcase Cinema. With Ms. Google's help I found the gigantic complex without any difficulty. I even got there early enough to purchase a Nathan's Hot Dog and a large Diet Code for supper before the HD presentation from the Met started. In the cinema's bar I found a comfortable place to sit and consume the dog. The beverage lasted me until nearly the end of the opera.
I was more impressed with the facility than with the opera. The performances were fine, but I guess that I just am not a big fan of Gounod or French opera in general. The theater featured gigantic lounge chairs that provided everyone with unobstructed views. The bad news was that it was quite cold almost until the end of the opera. The good new was that I had brought a nylon jacket. I zipped it up all the way to my neck and still felt chilly.
When I got back to the room I fixed myself a scotch on the rocks, checked my email, and then went to sleep.
On Thursday and Friday I played in the knockout with Trevor Reeves. Our teammates again were again Bob and Don. We found ourselves in Bracket 2, which was a little disconcerting. When they posted the masterpoint cutoffs, it became clear that it was quite a large bracket. The top-seeded team had nearly twice as many points as we did.
Our path in Thursday's three-ways was rocky. We were 1-1 in both matches, and we had net negative scores. However, in both sessions one team lost both matches, and so we advanced. Furthermore, the team that thrashed us in the morning lost in the afternoon, and the team that defeated us on Thursday afternoon lost in the Friday morning match.
Thursday was the birthday of Harriet Samuels, Sue's partner in Nashua. I had been wanting to try the new Mexican restaurant in Tyngsboro called La Santa. So, Sue, Harriet, Trevor, Joe and Rachel Peled, and I went there to celebrate. It had a macabre “Day of the Dead” theme, but the interior was bright and cheery. However, the service was incomprehensibly bad. For the first time in my life I left my seat to try to find a manager or someone in charge whom I could yell at – twice! Nevertheless, everyone else in our party seemed to have a pretty good time. My experience was made even worse by several unexpected trips to the toilet during the night. If you go there (don't), be sure to pass on the Carne Asada. You can read my reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Friday morning's match was against our friends from the Ocean State: Joe Brouillard, Linda Ahrens, Lois DeBlois, and Paula Najarian. The first half hinged on a hand with a potential slam. I bid it, and at the other table Lois stopped at game. There was only one loser outside of the trump suit, in which I held K 10 9 x x opposite the dummy's A x x. I won the opening lead in my hand. There are two ways to play this, and the odds of each succeeding are exactly the same. I played the king from my hand and dropped Joe's queen. When I led the ten, Joe showed out. I went down.
Lois also took eleven tricks, but she made her contract. We lost eleven imps. If I had led low to the ace, and then taken the finesse dictated by "restricted choice," I would have made the slam, and we would have won eleven imps. We found ourselves behind at the half by eight. If Lady Luck had been on my side, we would have been up by fourteen.
Just before we resumed play, Trevor took me aside to recommend that we switch seats and play Lois and Paula in the second half. I said that it was up to Bob, who had evidently already agreed. We did play better in the second half, and we won the match by 13.
In the finals we played against a pair who had been my teammates in the sectional in Orange, Jim Osofsky and Mike Heider. This gave me a chance to put my Precision defense to the test, and it seemed to pass with flying colors. We easily won the match.
Trevor went home, and Sue and I went to Lui Lui for supper. The service there was terrific. I ate about half of a pizza, which left me plenty for lunch on Saturday. We arrived back at the hotel in time for Sue to play in the evening game. She got to play with Harrison Luba, and they both had a great time despite the result. This was very important. Up until then Sue had not enjoyed her four days in Nashua, but the game with Harrison restored her spirit.
On Saturday morning the Communications Committee had its usual meeting. Mostly I groused about the new changes on MailChimp that have made my life more difficult and set back my project of documenting the details of my job.
My partner for the weekend was Bob Sagor. We planned on playing in the Monster Knockout. Our teammates were Eva Milofsky and Barbara Glazerman. The Partnership Desk had matched us up with them. Once again we found ourselves in Bracket 2. This time we were in a three-way with a foursome of A players from the Hartford Bridge Club and Peter Clay's team that had won the Swiss on Tuesday.
We might have gotten through by the skin of our teeth if I had not masterminded a hand on which Bob opened 2♣
. I had only one jack, and so I responded 2♥ to show the lack of an ace, a king, or two queens. Bob bid 2♠. With six spades I decided to pass. At the other table they played 4♠, a contract that would fail on a very unlikely club lead. I apologized to my teammates for not bidding 4♠.
We were 1-2 in the Loser Swiss going into the last match. This time Bob opened 1♦. I had 4-3-3-3 distribution, and my only honor was the ♦Q. RHO and I passed. LHO bid 1♠, Bob passed, and RHO bid 1NT. Two passes left Bob in the balancing seat. He went into the tank for a minute or so and then doubled. It was not clear to me whether this was penalty or takeout. My four-card suit had been bid by RHO, and my only honor was in diamonds. So, I bid 2♦. RHO doubled, and Bob went down three for -800.
Despite the fact that we won only one match, we tied for fourth in B. If Bob had let them play 1NT, we would have won the B strat. I once played on a B team that won all four matches in a Single-session Swiss, and on that occasion we did not place in the overalls at all.
Big news was reported at the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday evening. The ACBL has approved (and even encouraged) use of a five-way qualifying game for a two-day knockout bracket. The committee approved the use of this format, which has been dubbed by the Tournament Committee as “Knock-In Knock-Out.” It will be tried as an experiment in the lower brackets of the Thursday-Friday knockouts in both Warwick and Mansfield. So, in many brackets four of the five teams will advance to the knockout rounds on Friday and receive substantial points in the overalls.
On Sunday morning at the Board of Delegates breakfast the new format was introduced by Bob Bertoni. The reaction to the idea of the five-way qualifier was surprisingly hostile. The Executive Committee had focused on the perceived ability of the new format to attract I/N players to our regionals. No one had really opposed it. The people at the BoD who spoke against the idea argued that it would not work in the long run, and it would further cheapen the value of masterpoints. They complained that we would just be selling gold points.
I was the last to speak. I reported that my research of past attendance confirmed that our ability to draw the thousands of 0-300 players to regionals had been monotonically decreasing. I boldly claimed that I thought that with the proper publicity we could have as many as twenty brackets in Warwick. The format was approved by a 17-16 vote.
I don't know whether we can really get twenty brackets, but I will do my best to make it happen. I hope that others will talk this up at club games, especially those that cater to beginning players.
Our foursome remained intact for the Sunday Swiss. Our lackluster performance continued throughout the day. By the end I was beginning to become rather sick of bridge, and I missed my cats.