I can't report that I was looking forward to the Harvest Regional much. I was playing in the NAP of course. My partner would be Eric Vogel, one of my regular partners at the Hartford Bridge Club. This is a tough and tense event, and I had never done very well in it. It would be the first time that Eric had played in the Flight B NAP, and it might be the last time that I would be eligible.
Eric also agreed to play with me on Friday, but I needed to pick up partners for both Wednesday and Thursday. I contacted Sabrina Miles, who ran the partnership desk for this tournament. She arranged for me to play with Sohail Hasan, and we had communicated by email. He had a very reasonable card, including a few interesting approaches that were new to me. For example, he played Smolen after a 2NT overcall.
By Monday evening I still had no partner for Wednesday. I had pretty much decided to skip playing on that day and to drive up in the afternoon or evening with my wife, Sue. The prospect of avoiding the I-495 ramp during the rush hour appealed to both of us.
I started up my email software on Tuesday, the day before the Harvest Regional. I was surprised to find emails from Sabrina and from Tink Tysor, a longtime acquaintance from New Hampshire with whom she had paired me. Tink sent me a convention card, and I agreed to play it with almost no adjustments.
The drive to Mansfield was fairly easy. I was delayed for about five or ten minutes on the notorious ramp, but otherwise it was smooth sailing. It took me almost precisely the one hour and fifty minutes that Google Maps had predicted. Tink, on the other hand, had to drive through Boston, which took over three hours!
While I was waiting for Tink, Sohail Hasan entered the hotel with Jim Buss. We had not met before, but I recognized him from having played against him a few times.
Tink and I decided to play in the Open Pairs rather than the Swiss. This was probably a mistake; the competition was brutal. We did badly in the morning.
At lunch I checked into the hotel. I paid for my room with IHG points, but they required my photo and credit card for incidentals. With my room key in my pocket I bought a sandwich at the concession stand and retrieved my suitcase and two-liter bottle of Diet Coke from the car. After lunch I discovered that it is quite difficult to exit the bathroom in room 285. Neither Sue nor I ever got trapped, but it was always a struggle to get the door open once it was fully clothed. Neither of us ever figured out what the proper combination of upward jerks and downward slams released the latch. “Sésame, ouvre-toi” did not work either. Eventually, however, it always seemed to tire of our frustrations and pop open.
Tink and I did even worse in the afternoon session than we did in the morning. The pair of -500's that we earned were both zeroes, and the two slams that we bid did not offset them. On hand #2 we bid a very reasonable 6!h, but several pairs bid and/or made seven, and no-trump is as easy to play as the ten-card heart suit.
On hand #27 Tink, sitting South, opened 3NT (gambling). It was up to me to find the final contract. Tink had described his hand to a T. I decided to try 6NT, which would be cold if declared by my hand, but Tink would have to play it. On a diamond lead he might go down. The opponents did lead diamonds, but the first card to hit the table was the ace. So, he was quickly able to claim the next seventeen tricks!
I find it interesting that two pairs in our section made all the tricks in no-trump and one in hearts. However, two of those were played by North. The other pair that got to play 6NT in the South was luckier than we were. West evidently did not lead the ace.
Note that 6!h goes down on a club lead. It happened at two tables in our section. One pair went down in 7!c.
Meanwhile Sue arrived at the hotel. She planned to play in the evening session, and so we only had time to grab a hamburger at the hotel's bar/restaurant, the Bristol Cafe. When I went to pay the bill I was surprised not to find my IHG Mastercard in my wallet. I had to put the supper on the room's tab.
After supper I went up to the room. I unpacked and looked carefully through all the secret compartments of my wallet for the missing card. It was definitely not there. When I went to brush my teeth I realized that my toiletries kit was not in my suitcase. Aaaaaargh!
I figured that the card must have been left at the hotel's front desk, but if it was not there, this would probably be a major hassle. All of the missing bathroom items could surely be replaced at the Stop & Shop that was only a mile away, and I intended to go there anyway to buy some potato chips.
I stopped by the front desk on my way to the car. The lady on duty quickly handed me my card. She said that they had tried to call my room, but no one answered. I don't know why the caller did not leave a message.
While in the grocery store I realized that I was not really wasting much money. The toothbrush and disposable razors were cheap, and I would eventually need to purchase the items, or, if I died first, I would not need the money.
I watched the first half of the Ohio U.-Miami game and then fell asleep.
I skipped eating a full breakfast on Thursday. Instead I ate an apple that Sue had brought with her and made coffee in the hotel room. The Keurig coffee maker was stored in a compartment of the dresser that appeared perfectly designed for that purpose. Unfortunately, there was no electrical outlet near that compartment, and so it was necessary to extract the machine and place it near an outlet.
When I got downstairs I also took a few of the fruit breads from the hospitality table. I also scored another cup of coffee. This hotel has a very efficient way of dispensing the morning coffee and keeping track of the number of cups filled with tickets that the servers handled. At most sites the players have to do this.
I remembered to take a photo of the indefatigable Carolyn Weiser, who taught classes on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning.
Sohail and I had a good session in the morning, by far the best that I had in the tournament. I bought a salad and devoured half of it for lunch.
I made a big mistake of not providing myself with caffeine for the afternoon. My mind started to get foggy halfway through the round. I made mistakes declaring two consecutive hands. We still finished above 50 percent, but we could have finished quite a bit higher in the overalls if I had maintained my concentration.
I really enjoyed playing with Sohail, and I hope that I get a chance to do it again soon.
After the round I found Sue on the other side of the ballroom. She had been playing in the KIKO, and, needless to say, hers was the last match to finish. Finally, they compared results with their opponents. They lost the match, but her team's captain eventually determined that they had made it into the semifinals by seven victory points even though they had lost both matches to the team that did not make the cut.
Sue wanted to play in the evening game, and so I undertook the strange seven-mile drive on West Street to KFC in Attleboro. There are no turns, and the speed limit is 30 miles per hour throughout. What makes it bizarre is that there are also no stop signs or traffic signals. I have never seen anything like it.
I purchased some chicken and filled up the Honda's tank in Attleboro. Then I drove back to the hotel. When I got there I went to fill up the ice bucket. I found an ice machine at the foot of the stairs near the pool. A sign proclaimed that it was broken and advised me to use the other machine. The other dispenser was located near the reception area, but near the exterior door farthest, not just from my room but from the center of mass of all of the rooms. In other words it was strategically in the least convenient spot possible as far as the guests were concerned.
I ate my chicken and drank Diet Coke while watching Temple play South Florida. South Florida did not score at all in the first half, and the Owls managed only one touchdown. I watched the back of my eyelids rather than the second half.
I was pleased that Eric was able to come play on Friday. We had played together a few times at the Hartford Bridge Club and at the Cape tournament, but I was not very certain that we had a strong enough partnership to compete in the NAP over the weekend. I hoped that two sessions in the open pairs might sharpen our game enough to make us competitive.
We scored 48 percent in the morning, which was not horrendous. At lunch I went to the NABC Providence meeting. This was pretty much a waste of time. Only four or five people were there. It would have been a better idea to go over the hands with Eric or to attend the expert panel. I did get to see the new logo for the tournament.
The afternoon session was awful. I brought a large cup of Diet Coke with me, and I seemed fairly alert throughout. However, nothing went our way. I reconciled myself to the prospect that we would have two chances in the NAP – slim and none, and I had heard a rumor that Slim had left town.
Sue's team somehow won its semifinal round, and they only lost the final round by fifteen or twenty imps, which is pretty close in a twenty-four board match. The team that beat them also consisted of HBC players. They came out of the Swiss as the top seeded team, and they were 32 victory points ahead of Sue's team.
Sue was very happy to have won four points, and she was not disappointed that two-thirds of them were red, not gold.
Sue and I decided to go to Bertucci's for supper. We were seated right beside the table that they had given us last year. I remembered because my chair stuck out halfway into the doorway to the kitchen. It was easily the worst seat in the house.
I had a strong hankering for spaghetti and meatballs. The meal was pretty good, but I could not finish it. I don't know why so many restaurants insist on providing such huge proportions. Practically everyone leaves with a box.
Sue left for home the next morning and took all the leftovers with her.
Saturday morning started with the meeting of my Communications Committee. I announced that Joe Sackett had approached me after one of the pairs games and volunteered to help me with the website. I definitely need help, but it will be somewhat difficult to figure out what to have him do. Most of what I do on the website is pretty thoroughly integrated with the programs that I have written for the database of player information. The most time-consuming tasks involve the database, emails, and the bulletins.
Eric and I got off to a promising start in the NAP, but we tailed off in the last few rounds. We finished under 50 percent again. We were close enough that with a really good round it would still be possible to qualify to play on Sunday, but I was not sanguine about our chances. In fact, we ended up with almost exactly the same score in the second session.
This might have been my last chance to play in the NAP. It was disappointing but not surprising that it would end like this.
They served (what else?) pasta and meatballs at the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday evening. There was a good deal of news. The district's financial situation, at least for now, had been stabilized by the great success of the Warwick tournament. Exciting new sites have been found for the Gold Mine, the GNT, and the Senior Regional. The Mansfield tournament will be expanded to six days next year. A sectional will be run alongside the Gold Mine. The Cromwell tourney will run from Tuesday through Sunday.
The depressing news came from District Director Bob Bertoni, who relayed his fears that at the upcoming meetings the ACBL will destroy or at least maim the Knock-In Knock-Out that has proven so popular in our region. The primary argument against it seems to be that it makes life more difficult for some tournament administrators because this event makes the other events look less attractive.
After the meeting I watched the first half of Appalachian State v. South Carolina. App State appeared to be the better team in all respects.
Saturday morning began with the semiannual meeting of the Board of Delegates. Jack Mahoney was elected as the new president, and Curtis Barton was chosen as vice-president. The usual suspects maintained their positions. The terms of office are two years. The same information that was presented at the Executive Committee meeting was reiterated to the larger crowd. People seemed enthusiastic about the two new proposed sites in Springfield and Marlboro.
Sue did not attend, but Eric served as her alternate. He told me that he had arranged for us to play with Ann and Bob Hughes in the Mid-flight Swiss.
We got clobbered in the second round when our counterparts bid and made several highly improbable games, and Eric and I were more conservative. Our team won four of our other matches (only one of which was by a decisive margin) and tied one going into the last round. The team we played in that match was one victory point ahead of us. At our table the opponents declared two or three ridiculous contracts, which Eric and I easily defeated. I usually have a pretty good feel for these things, and I was confident that we had easily won the match. However, on the very first hand our opponents had bid 4!h and made eleven tricks. I knew that our defense was not perfect, but I was shocked to learn that at the other table our teammates had bid only 2!h and made only eight tricks.
It was not their fault. Eric's lead cost us a tempo, and I picked the wrong switch when I took my only trick. This allowed declarer to pitch a passel of losers on dummy's diamond suit. So, we ended up with a second tie, which cost us a place in the overalls.
The tournament was a disappointment almost from the start to the end. However, the prospects for the next few years are quite exciting. I'll definitely be back.