Take a good look at your bathroom fixtures, I tell people at the Grand Island Holiday Inn before the Thursday afternoon session starts. Next year they’re going to be gold. The big news is the bankruptcy sale of the tournament’s venue to a ritzy resort company from Dubai for $4 million. They’re going to turn it into an upscale operation. Many are wondering if the bridge tournament could afford to rent the place once it’s all spiffy. Would we go back to the Adam’s Mark in downtown Buffalo? Shudder to think.
Our knock-out team may be out of our league as well, playing in the semi-final round. We’re in a little corner of the big ballroom, we surviving knock-outers. But we have our 5.36 gold points, so everything else will be gravy. Our opponents are the Mulhall team from Oakville, Ont. – Dave Duff and Tom Cowles at our table, a couple business-like but agreeable guys.
We open by setting them one trick on a 1 Club contract (!), but then it’s my turn to wince internally when Usha overcalls 2 Clubs on the second hand and goes down two vulnerable. That, we see later, costs us 11 Internaional Match Points. We make it up later in the round when we hold Dave and Tom to 2 No Trump, bid and made, on a hand where our teammates bid and make 3 NT. We win the first round, 16-11, and shut them out in the second round, 15-0. We’re 20 points ahead at the break and we’re feeling good.
We shouldn’t be. The roof falls in right away in round three. Dave and Tom start bidding and making 3 NT contracts and our teammates don’t. In two hands, they’ve made up that 20-IMP deficit and a couple more. In that round, they stomp us, 32-2. It’s the first round we’ve lost since our knock-out adventure began and we’re 10 points behind. The final round has four “pushes,” hands in which the results are a draw. In the other two, however, we prevail. One of them is a pass-out that gives us 5 IMPs. The other is another of their 3 NT contracts, this time down one, giving us 7 IMPs. Just enough. We win the match by 2 IMPs!
We now have 9.37 gold points and we’re overjoyed as we head out for dinner. Alison and Al don’t want to join us at the place where Usha wants to go, the very busy Beach House, which is kind of a glorified diner/bar. The Beach House is fast, though. We’re back at the Holiday Inn with more than an hour to kick around before the evening round.
I examine the knock-out brackets taped to the wall of the ballroom and discover that Usha and I are the only Western New Yorkers left in eight teams playing the finals. Our opponents are Kay team from Mississauga, Ont., specifically Kathy Hill and Linda Cook, who are high-spirited, even a bit goofy. We have a lot of laughs with them.
They also are really good. Although they’re in our bracket, they’ve played a lot of tournament knock-outs together (I recognize Linda from other tournaments) and both are Bronze Life Masters. Kathy, in fact, just reached Bronze in this knock-out game.
Usha and I make our fatal mistake in the very first hand. I open 1 Spade, she jumps to 4 Spades, we make two overtricks. At the other table, the Kay team answers the opening 1 Spade with a 4 Heart splinter bid and goes on to slam. Minus 11. Later, we hold up at 2 NT on an iffy hand, while the Kay team bids and makes 3 NT. Minus 10. We lose the first round, 27-1. Ouch.
In the second round, our teammates stumble. They fail in a 3 NT contract that Kathy and Linda make (they play it from the opposite direction, get a different lead). We lose this one, 14-1. At the break, we’re down 39 points.
As we’ve seen, a 30-point deficit can disappear in a flash and we hit our stride in the third round, winning 14-1, thanks mostly to my success in a 3 NT contract. That still leaves us with 26 points to make up. But the final round is essentially a draw. We win it, 20-19, we see when we do the tally, but we’ve already congratulated the other team. Alison and Usha seem unhappy at the defeat, but I’m not. We won 9.37 gold points, doggone it. I came into this tournament figuring I’d be lucky to win anything at all.