I usually see the Events Center at the Erie County Fairgrounds filled with vendor booths and greenery for the early spring garden show, Plantasia.
Without the landscaping and the hoopla, it’s depressingly stark and barn-like, making the shockingly small opening day turnout for the Buffalo Regional Tournament seem even smaller. There was a general longing to be back at the Holiday Inn on Grand Island, where the tournament held forth for the past half-dozen years. Or even at the Main-Transit Fire Hall in Williamsville, the favored venue for the Unit 116 sectionals.
Location, location and location were working against it in several ways. Many players from the northern suburbs gave it a miss, figuring it was just too long a drive. A few St. Catharines players came over from Canada, but it’s much more of a haul for them, too. It’s easier for the Rochester players, but only a few made the trip down the Thruway.
It was a diminished experience in almost every way. Pat Rasmus, whose stellar hospitality made the tournaments on Grand Island brighter, was running boards around during the morning knock-out team game, wearing a T-shirt that said “Caddy.” As for the hospitality – plastic bowls of chips and popcorn, a few two-liter bottles of pop and a pitcher of beer from the taps in the Event Center Café, which otherwise was closed.
At regionals, the big ambition is to succeed in the knock-outs, a head-to-head team competition in which the winners advance to the next round and the big pot of gold points at the end. Our team – Usha Khurana, her delightful Indian friend Mona Karna from Sarasota, Fla., and Usha’s frequent partner, Joe Miranda – refused to consider the possibility of needing to find alternative plans if we lost.
It was in my head that I would be playing with Usha, but no. Usha and Mona were a pair. I would play with Joe and, although we never played together before, his approach is pretty much like Usha’s.
Even so, it took the better part of the first round of six hands to work out the kinks. Twice I failed to give Joe a return that would have defeated our opponents, a well-practiced pair of retired teachers from London, Ont., named Margaret and Wilma. This proved costly, accounting for most of the 19 International Match Points we were behind at the midpoint after 12 hands. We did better on the second set of 12, stepping up an already aggressive offense, but there were no opportunities for a big score. We lost that round by a single IMP. Oh well, there are more knockouts Wednesday.
Along with the other knocked-out teams, we turned to the open pairs in the afternoon and, by now, Joe and I were pretty much on the same page. Our coup was a top board against a familiar pair of opponents, Barbara Sadkin and June Feuerstein (See Blog 801-A). For the final round of the session, we faced off for two hands against Usha and Mona and flummoxed them with an unexpected opening bid from Joe (See Blog 801-B.)
We finished with 54.49%, first in B East-West in our section, second in B overall, for 2.39 red points. Usha and Mona also scratched, despite our shenanigans. Third in C overall North-South with a 47.60% for 1.45 red points.