NEBridge - The View from B Low: Cromwell 2016

by Single Session Swiss

I think that I need a new byline. Not even one single-session Swiss was scheduled in Cromwell this year.

On Sunday the National Weather Service had predicted that the six days of the Cromwell Regional would be very cold (especially over the weekend), but dry throughout. Nevertheless, I discovered an inch or so of snow on the ground when I left Enfield on Wednesday morning, and it was still snowing.  I departed a little early. The roads were slush-covered, but there were no serious problems. I was startled to see the electronic sign on I-91 that indicated that the I-84 interchange was 13 miles and 30 minutes (!) away. I turned on the radio and learned that there were delays from Exit 37 south, but that was not unusual. Also mentioned was a tie-up at the Enfield Square exits, but I had entered I-91 just south of that. In fact, it only took me forty-five minutes to reach the Radisson, perhaps ten minutes more than usual.

Expert analysis of Wednesday morning's hands was provided by Harold Feldheim, Doug Doub, and Geof Brod. Judy is on the far end, looking at her hand record.

Sue and I had mismatched schedules. She played in all three sessions on Wednesday, and she decided to stay overnight in the hotel. I was playing only in the ABC Pairs in order to be back to teach bridge at Duggan Middle School on Thursday. Sue planned to drive home on Thursday evening, and we would drive back together on Friday morning, stay in the hotel for the weekend, and return home on Sunday evening in order to make sure that Giacomo the cat was OK. I was also booked for both sessions on Monday.

I played on Wednesday with my Northampton partner, Judy Hyde. In the morning we experienced several instances of erratic communication. I was quite surprised to see that our 47+ percent game was good enough for first in C in our section.

This was the view from our hotel room. Fortunately no parties were scheduled for the room on the other side of our balcony.

We played considerably better in the afternoon.  The highlight came on the last hand. Judy made 3 doubled, which was worth a lot. It could have been even higher. I was watching carefully, and I was quite certain that my left-hand opponent had discarded spades on the second and third diamond tricks and followed to the fourth. Despite my announcement immediately following the play of the last trick, he had rearranged his cards a little, and it was difficult to substantiate the revoke. I decided not to press the point.

Judy and I ended up with a score of over 57 percent for the second session, which was just barely good enough to finish first overall in C. This result earned both of us more than six gold points. If you are wondering how someone who has written a column called “The View from B Low” for more than two years was playing in C, you have not been paying attention to the new system of strats used by the ACBL. You can read about it here. For some reason the powers that be have decided that both the number of points in an open event and the distribution should be determined by whether a similar Gold Rush event is being played at the same time. If this makes sense to you, please send me an e-mail explaining the logic.

Most hotels have tiny waste baskets. I like the ones at the Radisson.

I expected to see Bob and Shirley Derrah playing in the Swiss in Cromwell on Wednesday, but they were not in attendance. I had purchased the materials to make badges for the sixth and seventh graders that we had been teaching at Duggan Middle School in Springfield. I had hoped to get the names of the sixth graders from Bob’s roster. I made as many badges as I could on Wednesday evening.

On Thursday morning I learned that Bob’s team had gotten stuck in a horrendous traffic jam the previous day. They had given up and turned around before they even reached Enfield. I began to wonder how many tables we lost because of the weather on Wednesday morning.

The stoppers in hotel rooms almost never work. I used my vitamins bottle to address the problem.

The classes went pretty well. My group of sixth graders seemed attentive, but the seventh graders were rambunctious. Last week the opposite had been true. One thing that I have learned from working with these kids is that no aspect of card play is intuitive. One young man, the fourth to play on a trick on which an opponent had played the king, chose the queen from his ace-queen holding.

I arrived at the Radisson shortly before 9 on Friday morning to man the Partnership Desk. As I was consuming my breakfast sandwich, Dave Rock told me that the hotel’s fire alarm had gone off at 4:45 that morning. I asked him if he had stood out in the freezing cold. He said, “Well, … the first responders assembled there, but I …”

I was scheduled to play in Friday’s Open Swiss, an event that I would never have chosen because of the new stratification system. The winning team in Wednesday’s Open Swiss had earned only 6+ masterpoints, compared to the 27+ points won by the top team in the ABC Pairs. My partner for the event was Sally Kirtley; our teammates were Jeanne Striefler and Carol Joseph, whom everyone calls C.J.

Peter Marcus explained when to call the director on Friday Morning. There was no head-scratching by the end of his talk.

We did not play very well, and we got some bad breaks. We only ended up winning two matches. Somehow I lost my yellow convention card holder (and the mechanical pencil that I always clip to it) while we were eating lunch. C.J. found it at a table that was not too far from where we were sitting. I have no idea how it got there.

The last victory was a very memorable one. I was admiring this hand when I saw Sally place the 1 card on the table:

♠ A J x   A 10 x x x   A K    ♣ K Q x

I bid Jacoby 2NT. Sally attempted to sign off in 4. I knew that our team needed a boost. I bid 4 NT, and she showed two key cards with the queen. I chanced 7. I figured that she had only accounted for nine points. Almost anything that she had in addition would be enough for the granny. She made it, and it was a good thing that she did. We tied the opponents on the other six boards, but we won seventeen imps on this one. Despite Barry Crane’s dictum, this was the fourth Swiss match that I had won by bidding a grand slam. In three of the four cases it was in our last round, which is the most important in a Swiss.

Here was Sally’s hand:

♠ x x   K Q x x x x   Q x x   ♣ A J

7NT does not make. A spade ruff is necessary for the thirteenth trick.

Only four A teams and four C teams competed in the Open Swiss. The other thirteen teams were all B teams! The only C team that placed was a quartet of ladies from New York City. They had driven up that morning on the ice-covered highways, and they barely were in time to enter. They got off to an extremely bad start, getting blitzed in both of their first two matches. Their perseverance paid off. I took their photo and photos of the other two winning teams, but I missed everyone in the pairs.

Friday evening I played with Felix Springer in the Knockout. Our teammates were Bob Bencker and Dave Landsberg. We got to play in a three-way. Felix and I thought that the first twelve hands were rather nondescript. We were therefore abashed when Dave told us at the halfway mark that they were depending on us. A quick tabulation revealed that we were in two huge holes. We did better in the second half, but not nearly well enough to salvage either match.

I wanted to play in the ABC Swiss scheduled for Saturday morning. Felix and Dave were game, but Bob was not feeling too well. We stopped by the Partnership Desk to see if anyone was looking. I found a card for Myrna Butler, whom I knew pretty well. I assured Felix and Dave that I could play with Myrna. I recommended that they play together on Saturday. We went with that plan.

It was too late to call Myrna that night, but I felt confident that I would be able to connect with her before the event started. I called her at 8:30 on Saturday morning and left a message. I also realized that I had mislaid my convention card. I went down to the Ballroom and eventually located it on a chair used to hold up a speaker. Evidently someone had found it and left it there.

Saturday at 9 a.m. we had the first meeting of the Communications Committee, which I like to call the CommComm. We basically outlined the ways that the district currently communicates with the members. I received permission to set up a Twitter account for the district. Its handle is @NE_Bridge. I plan to post several times per week. We also now have a Facebook page, NEBridge.

Twitter is easy; I can show you how to get started: e-mail webmaster@NEBridge.org.

After the meeting I went to the Partnership Desk and was disappointed to discover that Myrna was nowhere to be found. I told Dave and Felix that they should play together in the Open Pairs. I watched them for a few hands, and then I went to the room and took a nap.

In the afternoon I played in the Open Pairs with my 82nd partner, Bea Martini of North Providence. We played her card, but we had a lot of problems, and our opponents were uncooperative. I promised to go over the hands with Bea, but by the time that the session finished I had to run to attend the Executive Committee Meeting.

24 tables for the Pro-Am on Saturday evening. That's Bea in the blue sweater at the one in the foreground.

There was not a lot of controversy at the meeting. Everyone expressed support for maintaining the current time period of the Cromwell tournament and for meeting at the Cape tournament starting in 2017. The Tournament Committee must make a few adjustments to take into account the new standards (finally) promulgated by the ACBL.

In the evening I played with my first boss (1972) and 83rd partner, Mike Winterfield, in the Pro-Am pairs. I made one defensive blunder, but we connected pretty well. We finished with over 56 percent.

Fresh coffee and treats for the players in the Pro-Am.
The spears contained veggies, mushrooms, cheese, and cold-cuts. They were a big hit.

I had been looking forward to Sunday. The day began with a frigid (eight below!) trip to the Cromwell Diner for breakfast. My schedule for the tournament was so hectic that this was the only meal that Sue and I were able to eat together during the entire tournament.

I was scheduled to play in the 0-1500 Swiss with “the band,” Felix, Dave, and Ken Leopold. I partnered with Ken, who was really on his game. The rest of us played well enough to win all eight matches. Nevertheless, at no point in the event were we in the lead – until the very end. It was very satisfying. Sue also had a good day; playing with Judy Cavagnaro, she finished first in C in the Open Pairs.

If you see one of these lying around, it is probably mine. Don't go by the color; I have six of them.

Another inch or so of snow made the drive home a little unnerving. We stopped at Chuck’s in Rocky Hill for a celebratory supper with our long-time friend, Tom Corcoran. I cannot recommend the hamburger there. At the salad bar, however, I did get my anchovy fix.

As I prepared to leave on Monday to play in the Round Robin, I realized that I did not have my convention card. I had evidently lost it a third time! When I got to the hotel I made two sweeps of the ballroom before I located my card on our home table for Sunday's last match.

There were only two brackets, and this year the directors decided to make the top bracket a Swiss. Last year in the same situation the lower bracket was a Swiss. Our team, which consisted of me, Felix, Joe Brouillard, and Linda Ahrens, were the thirteenth seed out of thirteen. We somehow managed to come in second. The most remarkable thing was that the two made games that we lost because of revokes cost us only one victory point each. In both of those matches we won nineteen victory points even with the one disastrous hand.

At the end of the tournament I was bridged out. I had played eleven sessions in six days, and I had made the trip back and forth between Enfield and Cromwell quite a few times. Still, it was a great occasion. The attendance was pretty good, I had some success, I took a lot of photos, and I got to see some old friends. I only wish that I had had a little more time to socialize.