For several days I had been checking the ten-day weather forecast for the days of the Presidential Regional, and it appeared that we might just get six days tolerable for driving. That's rare for mid-February in New England. The first day, Tuesday, was wet, but with the temperature at three or four degrees above freezing, the driving was fine. My wife planned on playing three sessions, and I did not. So we took both cars. I gave Sonja Smith a ride to Sturbridge. Because I had heard that Stafford, CT, had received 1.5” of snow overnight, we took the I-91 to Mass Pike route. We arrived in enough time that I was able to purchase my breakfast sandwich at the McDonald's near the hotel.
There were depressingly few cars in the hotel's parking lot when we arrived, and the people that we saw were all from the Hartford Bridge Club. I need not have worried too much – the attendance was pretty good on Tuesday, and improved markedly later in the week. We ended up with only seven fewer tables than at Cromwell last year.
On Tuesday Eric Vogel and I were scheduled to play in the Open Pairs. Before the morning session I had been somewhat busy taking photos of winners of the Mini-McKenney and Ace of Clubs awards for New England. As we sat down to play, I realized that my camera was missing. I even asked Peter Marcus to let me make an announcement. No one responded, and so I went over to the area where I had stashed my backpack, and I discovered that I must have kicked my camera case behind the black curtain next to which I had placed the pack.
I was greatly relieved, but I was also still a little frazzled about the prospect of losing my camera (again). It was also very cold in the playing area. In short I was not prepared mentally to play in the first round, and I made an unforced error on defense on the very first hand. Eric and I never really clicked all day, and our scores reflected it.
The hotel had evidently not informed some of its employees and contractors that a large number of bridge players would be arriving. The service on Tuesday was horrendous, but Sally Kirtley was on the staff incessantly, and it improved considerably throughout the week. At the end of Tuesday's second session of bridge Tim Hill read an announcement that said that the hotel apologized, and the service would be much better on subsequent days.
I popped in on my Italian class at 6:45. I had missed the first half, but everyone was surprised to see me at all. When I got home I fixed myself a couple of bratwursts and watched TV.
Since Sue took Wednesday off, I drove in by myself the next morning. I met up with my partner for the day, Buz Kohn. We went over our card, but we did not cover two things. 1) I did not notice that we played new suits after a preempt were not forcing. Fortunately, the one time that this came up the opponent bid and took me off the hood. 2) We did not discuss how to bid six-card majors in the fourth seat. This, unfortunately, did come up, on the very last hand.
But our worst hand was the first one in the Midflight Swiss. We were East-West. Here was the bidding:
Since South had never agreed to spades, I initially assumed that North's 4NT was quantitative. However, the 5♥ response seemed to indicate that he had two key cards without the ♠Q. South took a long time to respond to North's 6♠ bid. I thought that he might be thinking of converting to 6NT. Maybe he had opened with a singleton honor in spades; people do that these days. But no, he bid 7♠.
The contract goes down on a trump lead, but I was sitting West, and I had a void in spades. So, he made it. At the other table they stopped at six.
North had eight spades to the KQ, a void in hearts, and an outside ace. Even with the void he intended his 4NT as key-card Blackwood. South's 5♥ response was a mistake; he miscounted his aces. So, after he discovered his error, he figured that if 6♠ was in the cards with two aces, 7♠ must be there with three. We were helpless.
We had an up and down event, more down than up. On the very last hand of the last round I was in the fourth seat with a six-card major and fifteen points. I was not sure that Buz was on the same wavelength, but I bid my hand the way that I thought was correct – 1♠ in the first round and 2♠ in the second. I would have bid 2♠ directly with a weaker hand. Buz passed my rebid, and we missed an easy game. I apologized for not bringing this up when we went over the card, but not for the bidding sequence.
Way back when, I had learned that it was OK to make a light negative double if you have five pieces in the major suit. I did that twice in this tournament, and both times it got us in trouble. The first time my counterpart bid two of the major, which catapulted them into a lucky game. The second time my counterpart passed, and my bid got us too high. I began to doubt the wisdom of this idea.
I discovered one interesting fact at this tournament. I can survive very well with just a cup of soup for lunch. On Tuesday they had cream of broccoli that was extremely light on the broccoli. On Wednesday they served a vegetable soup that they called minestrone. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday brought a reasonably tasty chili. At many tournaments I have gotten sleepy in the afternoon, but I stayed alert throughout this one.
Thursday was the KIKO, a knockout that uses a round-robin with Swiss scoring in each bracket to select the four teams advancing to the second day. Eric and I were scheduled to play with Ruth Kuzma and Phil Olschefski, or so I thought. As usual, I got there early on Thursday morning. I sat down to talk with Phil. It became clear to me after a few minutes that he was planning to play with a different set of people.
These things happen; we are all getting senile. Eric and I could just play in the pairs. On a whim, however, I went over to the Partnership Desk and explained what had happened to David Rock. He brightened up and said that a pair with 2500 points had just arrived without teammates. I recognized Bruce Fischer's name on the partnership request. He and his partner, Don Rankin, had driven up from Rhode Island that morning. I found them in the playing area and arranged to play with them. As it happened we ended up in the same bracket as Phil and Ruth's team.
We had a terrible first two rounds in the Swiss. We were clobbered by a pair of ladies from Maine and by Ruth and her husband, Bob. However we did very well in the second pair of rounds. At the lunch break we had risen to second place out of five. Since four teams advanced to Friday, we just needed to break even in the afternoon, which is what we did. The odd team out was Phil's team, even though they defeated us twice. On Friday we would face the ladies from Maine again in the semifinals.
Friday morning's match was a walkover. We were ahead by sixty-two imps after the first set of twelve boards, and we just coasted in the second set. The afternoon's final was against the top-seeded team, all four members of which were on my list of preferred partners. We played against Bob Sagor and Judy Hyde; Don and Bruce faced off against Felix Springer and Paul Burnham. We were behind by fifty-one imps after twelve boards. We rallied to win the second set by thirty-three, but the hole that we had dug was just too deep.
I took our opponents' photo for the Winners Board. I also waited to photograph Bonnie Murphy's team after they won Bracket 4 of the KIKO.
It was Valentine's Day. Judy Cavagnaro joined Sue and me for supper. I wanted to go to Las Cocinas de 12 Crane, a Mexican/Cuban restaurant in Southbridge that had six five-star reviews on Google. It was difficult to find; we drove right past it because it was all dark. I turned the car around and parked. Judy got out to check. She said that a sign on the door indicated that it had been closed by the city.
So, we doubled back to go to Friendly's, which was across the street from the hotel. I ordered a cup of chicken noodle soup and the Reuben Supermelt. The waitress brought Judy her cup of soup, but she did not bring mine. She quickly corrected the situation. What she brought, however, was the worst soup that I had ever tasted, and I have consumed a lot of soup. In fact, I have probably eaten more chicken noodle soup than anyone else in New England. This tasted oily or soapy. I only tried two spoonfuls.
At 7:30 I went to the meerting of the Providence NABC 2021 committee. Most of the time was spent deciding what kind of promotional tee shirts to sell. I did not participate in that judgment. Later Sue Miguel asked if we knew how many I/N players had attended the 2014 event in Providence. I said that I might be able to find out. I also was able to provide Joe Brouillard with a list of club managers/directors in New England. These were my first contributions to the effort.
Sue and I stayed in the hotel on Friday. On Saturday morning I encountered Sally Kirtley talking with Brian Glubok, a professional from New York City. He told me that he really enjoyed my one-page biographies of the presidents in the printed bulletin. He said that I had explained concisely something that he had never understood, why the U.S. went to war with England in 1812. That made me feel very good.
The Communications Committee meeting was poorly attended. Jack Mahoney, the district's President, suggested that we no longer meet at tournaments. I agreed, as long as I could attend the Tournament Scheduling Committee meetings to keep abreast of what is going on. I have enjoyed the CommComm meetings because they gave me a way of keeping at least a few people aware of what I have been doing. However, if people don't want to attend, I don't know what I can do.
Saturday morning marked the beginning of the Monster Knockout. I had high hopes because we had a good team. I played with Ken Leopold, and Felix played with Trevor Reeves. We were once again in Bracket 3. Our first match was a head-to-head against Peter Clay (North in our first Swiss match on Wednesday) and Paul Harris, the new president of EMBA. Their teammates were two much less experienced players.
Our team had a huge lead at the half, but Peter and Paul made some very aggressive bids that worked out for them in the last six hands. I also made at least one colossal blunder on defense. We held on to advance, however, and we also won both halves of a three-way in the afternoon. So, we qualified to play on Sunday.
Saturday evening's Executive Committee meeting was very interesting. Bob Bertoni, our District Director, had gone home sick. David Moss, the Director of District 24 (NYC and Long Island) was at the meeting as a guest. He explained his perspective on dealing with the ACBL. He thought that our officers and committee chairmen should interface directly with the people in Horn Lake. I don't know anyone present who could afford the time to do this. I don't know how the people in New York find the time. David plans to vote in Columbus for the plan to shrink the ACBL's Board of Directors in the interest of efficiency. We have always adamantly opposed this.
David said one other thing that intrigued me. Currently there are 25 geographic districts, and each has a director with a vote on the board. He said that he thought that perhaps the board should be composed of representatives of various interest groups – club players, social players, tournament players, international players, etc. Another possibility is to have various ACBL functions represented – marketing, data processing, tournament management, teachers, etc.
I am not at all sure what would work best. Time and again New England seems to come up with ideas that the players love, but the ACBL always seems intent on squashing them. I don't have time to investigate it more closely.
By the way, I was the only member of the Executive Committee who ordered fried chicken for supper. It was nothing like what I ate hundreds of times while growing up, but it was not bad by New England standards.
After the meeting I played with Sue in the Pro-Am. We got off to a good start, but then we made a lot of mistakes. I got discouraged and very tired, even with a couple of cups of coffee. I went to bed right after the last hand.
Our foursome got a bad draw in the semifinals on Sunday morning. Both of the other teams had already played (and lost to) the Wang team. So, we had to face them. Ken and I had one bidding misunderstanding, but it did not hurt us. The pair that we played used a strong club system, but they only employed the 1♣ bid once. It seemed as if their few mistakes never hurt them, and they always seemed to end up in the best contract. In any case we lost both sets.
While Ken and I were waiting for the other table to finish, his wife Lori announced that she and Y.L. Shiue had won the first session of the Super Point Series. That gave her the gold points that she needed for Life Master.
After we compared scores and learned the bad news, Ken asked me if I wanted to play in the last Super Point game. I had had enough bridge for one week. So, I drove home and made sure that the cats were OK.