In retrospect, my best St. Catharines Sectional Tournament moments Saturday and Sunday came from getting there both days and going out to dinner with partner Selina Volpatti between the afternoon and evening sessions Saturday.
The trip to St. Catharines looked iffy both days. Saturday morning I had to drop my sweetie off at the Buffalo airport first. I wanted to hit the terminal by 11:30, she wanted to leave our house at 11:30, so guess who prevailed. It was 11:55 when I left airport property and hit the expressway. Miraculously, the miles zipped along and I was at game in a little more than half an hour.
On Sunday, the morning forecast was for a couple inches of snow, which is sort of what it looked like from my window. Anticipating a slow go, I left at 9:05 to get to the 10:30 Swiss teams game. No wait at the bridge. No snow on the Queen Elizabeth Way. I arrived with nearly an hour to spare and found Selina already holding down a table in the hotel coffee shop.
For dinner Saturday, I deferred to Selina’s native instincts about restaurants. Jack Astor’s or Wildfire, she asked. Chain vs. local? Local, of course. She’d been there the previous day with her Friday partner and shared the chateaubriand (served for two) and was ready to repeat the experience. And a fine experience it was.
The experience at the bridge tables, however, left a bit to be desired. Our fraction over 50% effort in the afternoon felt respectable, but we needed 54% to scratch. We’d make it up in the evening, we decided, and it felt like we were, but no. We limped in at 47.12%. In the double session score, we were eighth out of 14.
Our first setback in the Swiss teams game on Sunday came at sign-in. At the Buffalo sectionals, the stratification is determined by average master points. Here in St. Catharines, it’s decided according to the highest individual point count. Average points would have kept us in the B/C/D game. Individual points put us in the A/X section with the sharks.
Not having lined up teammates, we picked a pair from partnership chairwoman Kit Nash – Herb Heller and Sally Kellar. Like Selina and I, they were an international partnership, but in more ways than one. Herb, an 80ish widower in Pittsburgh, and Sally, a 70ish widow in the north end of Toronto, met online 10 years ago and have carried on a long-distance relationship ever since.
Needless to say, the sharks got us. We took a 30-0 victory point shellacking in the first round, which should have given us easier opponents. It did in the second round, but that turned out to be our single moment of glory.
Our only other chance of winning came in the final round, when Selina and I bid a makeable slam and didn’t make it, while our opponents stopped at game and took all 13 tricks. We wound up next to last among something like 24 A/X teams, ahead of the people we beat in the second round.
It didn’t look like a good day for the other Buffalo players, either. The team of Saleh Fetouh, Bud Seidenberg, David Hemmer and Chris Urbanek got only 99 victory points, well out of the running. Ken Meier and John Kirsits, who Selina and I might have hooked up with, played in the B/C/D game, needed victories in five rounds to scratch and only got four. The only happy face I saw belonged to Sushil Amlami, who managed to squeeze into the 299er game and finished second.
One consolation about playing in the A/X game is that winning an individual round is more rewarding. Win a round in the 299ers and it was worth something like .14 of a point. Win in the B/C/D and you got .21 or .22. An A/X win was good for .32. My total for the tournament – 1.52.