Now I know what it felt like to be the pitcher who gave up Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. I put the player with the most master points in Buffalo – Dan Gerstman – into first place overall in the morning session at the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament on Saturday on the very last hand.
Gerstman is declarer after Judie Bailey and I, bidding Spades, push him up to 4 Hearts on a very distributional hand. But then, after taking our first three tricks with the Ace-King of my six-card Diamond suit and the Ace of Clubs, clearing the dummy’s doubleton Diamonds and singleton Club, I lead the Queen of Diamonds. Wrong. Gerstman discards one of his two Spades and ruffs my Queen in the dummy, where the Ace of Spades resides. Had I led another Club, the dummy would still ruff, but Gerstman couldn’t shed a Spade and I’d win a trick in the suit with my King.
It’s worth at least 7 game points for him, perhaps 10. Either way, it’s just enough to lift him past the other leading pair. I kick myself mentally for it all through lunch. Those extra 7 to 10 game points make no difference to us, however. Our percentage would improve slightly from 54.54%, but we’d still be 10th overall, sixth in the B strat, and we’d still win 0.47 of a silver point.
The morning turnout of 27 ½ tables shrinks to 20 for the afternoon and Judie and I can’t tell if we’re doing better or worse. This time we play Gerstman and his Toronto partner three hands instead of two with similarly dismal results – 14 out of a possible 51 game points, vs. 14 out of 50 – missing a game bid on one hand, allowing them an extra trick on the second and playing 3 No Trump, making nine tricks, instead of 4 Hearts, making 11, on the third.
Nobody else beat us that badly, however, as a look at our scoring summary shows. We’re better than 50% against all the other pairs except one. Beginning against neophytes Jeff Thier and Lynn Witmer, we get 36 game points out of 51. Next comes a Canadian couple who see us bid and make two straight 6 NT slams, 33 out of 51. After that, we get 34 out of 51, 30.5 out of 51, and 31.5 out of 51. We’re humming along at better than 60% until we stumble against Strat C players Judy Zeckhauser and Marilyn Shuman, where Judie rejects my 2 Spade bid (which makes 3, even though she has a singleton) and wins the auction at 3 Clubs, down three vulnerable. Against them, we’re only 24.5. And then comes Gerstman.
We rebound in the final rounds, however, and outdo our morning effort – 56.86%, fourth in A in our direction, third in B, fifth in B overall, winning 1.15 silver points. Total for the tournament – 3.52. Mission accomplished. So for the Swiss team game Sunday, no pressure, no frenzy, just fun.