There was an air of discouragement around Usha Khurana and me as we drove out to the Grand Island Holiday Inn Wednesday morning for the second day of the Buffalo Regional Tournament, but I was determined not to breathe it. OK, we got slam-dunked in the Tuesday morning knock-outs (by a team that went on to win the B section) and we posted 38% games in both sessions of open pairs afterward. But, I assured Usha, we got the bad bridge out of our system. We’ll do better today.
For our second stab at the knock-outs Wednesday afternoon, our teammates were Ron and Cynthia Helfman, who often do well together, and our opponents included our pickup teammate from last year, Alison Burkett from Kitchener, Ont., who picked up Buffalo player Rich Cramer-Benjamin, and another Kitchener pair – Louise, tall, dark-haired and tart of tongue, but sweeter than I’d surmised before we met her, and Al, a genial octogenarian who is head and shoulders shorter than Louise.
We were gratified to discover that we didn’t do badly at all against them in the first half of the session – we were down only seven International Match Points after 12 boards. Under 10, anything can happen, Louise says. And it might have happened for us except for two hands.
One came in the first half, when I let them play and make 4 Hearts vulnerable, failing to go for a non-vulnerable 4 Spade sacrifice (which actually made 4 Spades doubled at the other table). Instead of a minus 15 IMPs, it would have been only minus 1 IMP and we would be ahead of them by seven points at the interval.
The other came in the second half, when Usha bid to game with unfavorable vulnerability, without any encouragement from me, then went down four doubled for minus 1,100. That was another minus 15. And we lost the second half by only 7 IMPs, too.
Without those boards, the second half score would have been a plus for us and we would have gone on to round two. Instead, we went to dinner at the Beach House and figured we’d play the single-session Swiss team game at night. When we returned, however, Cynthia determined that there were no gold points to be earned in that particular Swiss team game and decided we’d fare better in the open pairs, where a chance for gold existed, slight as it might be. Neither of us came anywhere near gold status, but Usha and I were nearly 10 percentage points better than Tuesday – 47.50% – and the Helfmans were a little better than that. Thursday, I assured Usha, we’ll be even more improved.