Back when I was golfing two or three days a week, it seemed to me that the perfect way to spend the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, would be to head to my favorite course and chase the little white ball around from sunrise to sunset, 72 holes at least. Maybe 90. Never did it and at this point probably never will, but lo and behold, the world of bridge came up with a facsimile.
Fittingly, they called it The Longest Day and, to give it an altruistic shine, they tied it in with a fundraiser on that theme benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association. Some 100 bridge clubs across the country signed up to take part. Locally, there were two Longest Days, one at the Airport Bridge Club, where new games of 12 to 16 hands would begin every two hours, starting at 9 a.m., $4 per game with food in between, and one at the Bridge Center of Buffalo, sponsored by Western New York Unit 116, with full-length games beginning at 6:30 a.m., alternating between open pairs and non-life-master pairs. (Results from only two games – the late morning NLM and the 12:30 p.m. open pairs – appear on their website.) At the Bridge Center, there also was a side game, where teams could challenge the Z Team, a group of expert players captained by expert player Jay Levy.
I rolled into the Airport Club a couple minutes before 9 a.m., thanks to waking up before my alarm clock went off, and settled into a 4 1/2-table Howell game with Judy Kaprove. We played 12 hands in all (with a three-hand sit-out) and had a good time, but in a small game like that, you need to do well consistently. We didn’t. “At least we didn’t break our record,” Judy said afterward, referring to our all-time low game of 24.48%. True, the record was safe, but we were still dead last with 37.50%.
The crowd swelled for the 11 a.m. game, allowing a seven-table Mitchell movement. Partner this time was my regular Wednesday compadre, Celine Murray. Celine, playing with Paula Kotowski, had finished just ahead of us in the 9 a.m. game. Certainly we both could do better. But I pushed the bids to the three level in the two hands we played against our opening opponents, Eleanor Whelan and Carlton Stone, and went down, registering minus 200 on each. This game went 14 boards, none of them tops. One of our best was an average-plus for a hand we didn’t finish playing because time ran out. Our final tally – 37.62%. Not only a slightly better percentage, but also not last. Judy Kaprove and Chuck Schorr brought up the rear East-West with 37.30%.
After two dismal games like that, The Longest Day was starting to feel endlessly grim. Well, at least there was the food that club manager Bill Finkelstein was putting out between sessions – Paula’s doughnuts after round one, a party sub from Walmart with coleslaw and potato salad after round two.
And there was hope. Friday partner Selina Volpatti agreed to come over from Canada to play with me in the third, fourth and fifth sessions and perhaps we might succeed in this, our warmup for the regional tournament next week. The 1 p.m. game had seven tables again and we were North-South. Who do we face first? Celine Murray, this time playing with Marilyn Sultz. They stifled us on two hands, making two overtricks on a 1 No Trump contract and going down just one at 4 Clubs, keeping us from something better. Our fortunes improved, however, and the 13-board session ended with us at 52.46%, third North-South and fourth in the B strat overall, winning 0.63 points.
People started getting bridged-out and punchy, making for more laughter in the 3 p.m. session, which was back down to four tables. Again, consistent good play was in order and we didn’t have it – two top boards out of 14 played, four bottoms. Our score suffered accordingly – 44.05%. A few new players arrived for the 5 p.m. session, just enough to make up for the ones who left. It was another four-table Howell and, since the 3 p.m. game ran long, we didn’t play the seventh two-board round. This time Selina and I hit our stride – six top boards, just two bottoms. In a tight cluster of winners, we finished third overall, but first in the B strat, with 60.14%, good for 1.35 points.
Now it was 7 p.m. and, not only was I bridged out after 65 boards, but I had to go pick up my significant other from the Ride for Roswell opening night ceremonies in the University at Buffalo football stadium. Most of the other players exited, too, and only one new player showed up. Without enough people to make a three-table game, The Longest Day at the Airport Bridge Club had an early sunset. Outside it was approaching the magic hour, perfectly mild and still sunny. I rolled down the windows, cranked up some tunes (Over the Rhine, a Cincinnati folk-rock band that’s my current fave) and took the long route via the local streets out to UB.