How big is the St. Catharines Sectional, partner Barbara Sadkin asks as she navigates her Acura SUV through the stiff wind on top of the skyway bridge over the Welland Canal. Bigger than ours, I tell her.
Quite a bit bigger, we discover when we arrive at the miniature convention center tacked onto the rear of the tall Holiday Inn on Ontario Street. In addition to the open pairs game, there’s a 299er game, a beginners game and a women’s game, although I detect a couple old dudes sitting amongst the ladies. Will they be disqualified because of gender, I wonder.
There are two sections in the open pairs, with 10 and 10 ½ tables, which all by itself is about the size of the bad-weather Friday afternoon session in the Buffalo Winter Sectional. And although I know virtually all the St. Catharines players, there are quite a few from Oakville, Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo and even Toronto, some of whom I recognize from the Niagara Falls Regional.
My old buddy Alison Burkett from Kitchener is there, as well, and I think she's the East-West winner in our section. Although we do par against her on two hands (according to the hand records) and slightly better than par on the third, she takes us for 15.5 out of a possible 24 points.
What there aren’t many of are Buffalo players. Those who are there made it count, however. Winners in our section North-South are Kathy Pollock (with a guy I’ve never seen before) and Bert Hargeshimer with Christy Kellogg.
Barbara and I make our presence worthwhile, as well, although we don’t get to play our usual aggressive game. My forays into noble sacrifices work on one occasion (5 Diamonds doubled with an eight-card Diamond suit, down 2 not vulnerable, for a top board, one trick better than the hand record indicates and foiling a 7 Heart vulnerable East-West slam) and fail miserably on another (5 Diamonds doubled, down 3 not vulnerable, outbidding East-West’s vulnerable 4 Spades, which doesn’t make it, according to the hand record).
Nevertheless, our final tally is better than we expect – 56.71%. First in the B strat, earning 1.20 silver points. We even get a prize – a souvenir tournament ballpoint pen.