NEBridge - The View from B-Low: Mansfield 2017

by Single Session Swiss

Ignoring the “Check Engine” light on my ten-and-a-half-year-old Honda, I set out Wednesday across the northeast corner of the Nutmeg State en route to the last tournament of the year in Mansfield, MA. I planned to play all five days with Ann Hudson, who was back in New England in expectation of the imminent delivery of her first grandchild. My wife, Sue, planned to join the festivities in Mansfield on Thursday evening after she had supervised the middle-school bridge classes that we taught in Springfield.

My first stop was at the Welcome Desk, where I picked up a cool little domed sticker. I affixed it to my camera case right next to the one from Warwick.

As usual we got off to a bad start in the Open Pairs. The only hand worth remembering was #19, which we played against Doug Doub and Yiji Starr. I was sitting West, holding a seven-card club suit headed by the AK. Yiji opened 1, and I, of course, overcalled 3. I was startled when Ann alerted the bid. Doug doubled to show his hearts. For some reason Ann bid 3, which occasioned Yiji to ask her what my bid meant. She said that it showed both minors. At that point I remembered that we were playing Colorful Michaels over major suit openings. If I had bid 2NT, it would have shown diamonds and hearts. 2 would show clubs and hearts (different colors).

Yiji, who was happy to let us play 3, passed. I was not too embarrassed to bid 4, and no one doubled. After the hand Yiji called the director. Horace Gower said that if the information given was consistent with our agreement, I was under no obligation to disclose the mistake. This did not surprise me. Over the years I have made many bidding mistakes, and I have learned to keep my mouth shut if I am declarer. I went down only one. Fortunately both of us had this marked correctly on our convention cards.

At lunch I attended David Metcalfe's question-and-answer session concerning the rules of bridge. I asked him what the proper procedure was in a Swiss if you thought that you might not finish on time. He said not to play the last hand, and “there is no reason to involve the director.”

I told him about Marilyn Wells's assessment of a three-IMP penalty on our team when I declined to play the last hand in Nashua. He said that he did not understand why she was upset at me. Oh, well.

At lunch I was shocked to see Sue sitting with her partner, Judy Cavagnaro. At first I thought that she must have blown off the sessions with the middle-schoolers, but in fact she is just a maniac. Here was her plan: Make the ninety-minute (assuming no traffic) drive to Mansfield, play in the afternoon and evening sessions. Then drive back to Connecticut after the evening game. After the three sessions at Duggan Academy on Thursday she planned to drive back to Mansfield for the evening game. Sheer lunacy!

Ann and I played a little better in the afternoon. We did not reach the grand slam on #3, but we might have if we had switched chairs. Here is what I think the bidding should be:

South West North East
1 P 2 4
5NT P 7

2 was an inverted raise. I am not sure that I would actually have had the guts to use the Grand Slam Force, which asks partner to bid a grand slam with two of the top three honors, but if there was ever a good situation for it, this was it. In actuality, Ann rebid 5, and I raised to 6. Maybe I should have bid 5. That would probably have excited her.

Only six pairs, all very good players, found the granny. Three did not even bid slam.

At the end of the session I should have taken photos of the winners, but I was too lazy. Ann wanted to eat her fruit cup (and mine) for supper. Since Sue intended to play in the evening, I ate by myself at the Longhorn Steakhouse. I had the French onion soup and ribs. Both were mediocre. I also tried the Blue Moon on tap. Never again.

Ann and I had hoped to play in the Mid Flight Swiss on Thursday. I had registered us as seeking teammates on the horrendous ACBL software, and I also filled out a card at the partnership desk, but as of 9:15 we still had no teammates. Then I saw Judy Hyde and Bob Sagor standing in the hallway perusing the scene. It turned out that they, too, were looking for teammates, and we happily hooked up with them.

I was shocked and delighted to catch sight of Ginny Iannini, my partner in several regional events a few years back. I had not seen her since she dumped me. We were supposed to play in one event in North Falmouth this spring, but she bowed out in order to go to the march in Washington to protest the climate policy (or lack thereof). I asked her about that trip. She said that the bus broke down before it arrived to pick them up. She actually seemed relieved that she had missed that bus trip. It's not Selma, and we're not teenagers any more.

We lost our first match, as usual, but that was followed by three big wins. After lunch we lost two close matches, but we finished by defeating the team that was leading the pack in both the seventh and eighth rounds. So, we won the event, right? No, the team that we defeated in the seventh round won big in the eighth round. So, we only finished second, but we won a lot of masterpoints.

Left back in Enfield.

While Sue was playing in the Super Point Pairs event (except the first board in which Peter Marcus, of all people, sat in for her as she was parking her car and texting her whereabouts to her partner), we four teammates went to TGI Friday's for supper. The others all enjoyed salads. I had a French dip sandwich, which, for some reason had very sweet onions in it. We all had a very enjoyable time. Dining with friends at district tournaments creates great memories.

On Friday morning Sue and I went to the Looking Glass Cafe for breakfast. The food was OK, but the service was more than a little slow.

Ann and I, as well as Bob and Judy and lots of other people, played in the Mid Flight Pairs. Before the game started I introduced myself to Kim Gilman, who had won the Open Pairs on Thursday playing with Haven Sharaf. They agreed to let me take their photo. As I adjusted the focus, the camera locked up. Uh, oh, a dead battery. I always keep a spare in my camera case, but when I looked there, the slot was empty. Alas, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my charger, and the spare battery was probably in it.

What to do? There probably was a Best Buy in one of the nearby malls. I considered buying a new battery at lunch, but I discarded the idea because the battery probably would not be charged. I decided to buy a new charger instead.

Can you read the battery numbers that each of these is designed for? They are right there in black and black.

I went up to my room and googled “Best Buy Mansfield MA” on Yoga, and discovered that a store was no more than five minutes away. The salesman had a hard time finding a charger. He finally spotted a “universal” charger that, according to the back of the package, could charge a Canon NB-10L. It cost $40, but it did have something that my other one did not, an adapter for European outlets. I bought it.

The hard part was figuring out which of the eight adapters was the correct one. The completely black adapters were labeled with black lettering about 1/1,000 of an inch high. My dad would have called the font “condensed mustard seed.” I had to hold the things up to the light and bend them at just the right angle. After a good twenty minutes of eye strain, I found the right one and assembled my new charger. My friends Felix Springer and Trevor Reeves were scheduled to play North-South in the afternoon. I plugged the charger in near their table, and asked them to keep an eye on it for me. It only took about an hour to charge the battery fully.

I made due with a lunch of a bag of chips and a Diet Coke, but I was quite satisfied that I had solved a difficult problem in a short amount of time.

Judy and Bob won the event, ...

Bob and Judy had had an extremely good first session. They were in second place at lunch, just barely behind the leaders. Their second session was also pretty good, and they ended up winning the event. I was very happy that I had a fresh battery that enabled me to snap their photo.

... but they did not win one of these babies.

Ann and I actually recorded the best score in the second session, which qualified us for the highly prized souvenir tote bag that was given to winners of sections. However, we finished far behind Bob and Judy and a few others in the overalls. I don't know if anyone realized (yet) that these bags were left over from last year.

Sue and I intended to go out for supper with a bunch of friends from the Hartford Bridge Club, but somehow we missed them. Instead, Sue, Judy Cavagnarro, and I went to Bertucci's. I had the Ultimate Bertucci pizza, and it was absolutely delicious.

The Communications Committee meeting on Saturday morning primarily focused on what we could do to make our voices heard concerning the horrible ideas that the new CEO of the ACBL, Bahar Gidwani, seems intent on implementing. He wants to eliminate a lot of regional tournaments, presumably because most of the districts are seeing marked decreases in attendance. Since we in New England have figured out how to make our events attractive and how to get the word out in a creative and appealing manner, we have seen increased attendance for the last two years. Needless to say, we do not want to see our efforts subverted. Unfortunately, there was no consensus on how we can best address this issue. We are determined to do something, however.

The Ultimate Bertucci might be the best pizza that I have ever eaten in the U.S.

The big event of the tournament for Ann and me was the qualifying tournament for Flight B of the North American Pairs. The competition was extremely tough. All of the qualifiers from last year were there as well as the first-place qualifier from the year before and plenty of other very good teams. Ann and I had a horrendous morning, and the afternoon could not make up for it. We did not qualify to play on the second day. Since we had comfortably qualified last year, this was a major disappointment. Bob and Judy also missed the cut, and so we decided to team up again in the Mid Flight Swiss on Sunday.

The food at the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday evening was by far the best of any that I have so far sampled. In fact, the hotel seemed to have upped its game in every area.

This was Bob Bertoni's last meeting as president, and a lot of compliments were paid. The big surprise was that, based on a rosy assessment by Treasurer Joe Brouillard, there will be NO INCREASE in entry fees for the time being. If problems occur in the future, increases may be necessary at some point. Because of a few special circumstances, the profitability of some tournaments has been somewhat overstated.

Sunday morning brought the semiannual breakfast meeting of the Board of Delegates. A few years ago these were rancorous affairs, but the mood has improved with the district's economic health. This time, however, the current District Director, Mark Aquino, and the previous one, Rich DeMartino, both warned that some of the ideas being promoted by the new CEO of the ACBL could be extremely detrimental to what has been accomplished here.

At the end of the meeting the new president, Lois DeBlois, asked everyone to take one of the bags that were awarded as prizes on Friday. Rats. I had planned on nonchalantly pull out my bag every so often in order to intimidate the opponents. Now everybody would have one.

Incidentally you can pronounce the new president's name in any of three possible ways, but she insists that the first “Lois” be pronounced the same as the second “lois.” I prefer the French form, Lwah DeBlwah.

Needless to say, our team lost its first match in Sunday's Swiss. Bob, our captain, told us that we should win our next three, eat lunch, then split the first two matches after lunch, and finish with two victories. We did as directedd in the morning. We won by large margins the three remaining matches. However, we also won both of the next two rounds. We then narrowly lost both of the last two matches.

I was really annoyed at the manner in which we finished. On one hand I went down three for the third time in the tournament against the same pair – Tom Seder and Steve Diamond. In the last round our teammates played well, but our bidding was atrocious.

By the last match I was at my wit's end. I had played only two hands all day, and both were disasterss. I got to play one more in this match, but on that occasion I ended up making 2 with five overtricks, which was a terrible result.

The hand that bothered me the most was one in which Ann opened 2. Believe it or not, I was looking at Q J 10 9 x x    A K x    x x    x x. I bid 2, and she rebid 2NT, which meant that the opponents had at most eight points. I waited a few seconds to develope a clear plan. After a Texas transfer I would bid 4NT to see how many of the missing key cards she had. She clearly had at least two. If she had all four I planned to bid 7. If she showed three, I would bid 6. In the unlikely event that she indicated only two I would stop at 5.

My plan collapsed when she did not complete the transfer; she bid 4NT instead, something she had never done before. I figured that she must have either a singleton A or K in spades or two small spades, in which case most of her points would be in the minor suits. If she had the former, I still did not know whether she was missing another ace. If she had the latter, five was the most that we could make. Maybe I should have bid 5 or 6 or 6NT. I had devised a reasonable plan that her bid had deprived me of the ability to implement. I passed in frustration, and, in fact twelve tricks were easy. She had the singleton ace.

One of our opponents in an earlier match had also rejected a Texas transfer in a similar situation (with bad results). If your partnership allows this, you should have clear agreements about what it means, and you probably should alert it.

Ann and I garnered over twenty-six masterpoints in this tournament, but it seemed to me as though we had played pretty badly. Maybe I have forgotten the first rule of true happiness – maintain low standards.

Afterwards, I took a lot of photos of winners. I was particularly interested in the results of Flight B of the NAP. My good friends and frequent partners, Felix Springer and Ken Leopold, were in contention. It took a long time for the directors to determine the results, but in the end Ken and Felix finished third, which qualified them to represent the district in the finals in Philadelphia in the spring and a $100 subsidy to boot. Here was the order of the finishers in Flight B and Flight C:

Flight B:
1. Jack Mahoney & Dan Morgenstern
2. Ajit Pai & Venky Venkataramani
3. Ken Leopold & Felix Stringer
4. Reid Barton & Michael Lieberman

Flight C:
1. Arthur Keefe & Jon Kasdan
2. Paul Durda & Saul Franklin
3. Skip Page & James Hickey
4. Susan Lincoln & Keith Kimball

Before the tournament many were worried that the weekend knockout might suffer from so many players wanting to compete in the NAP. The attendance in the NAP was good, but the knockout also drew forty-nine tables, which is only one fewer than in the very first Monster in Cromwell. On that occasion there was no prestigious event like the NAP to draw players away. It seems clear that the players like knockouts.

Now we all face three months without a regional tournament. I guess that I will make it through somehow. Two knockouts are scheduled in Cromwell, and I plan to win at least one of them.

By the way, the “Check Engine” light on the Honda disappeared shortly after I returned to Enfield.