My distress was palpable as I arrived about 9:50 a.m. at the Event Center at the Erie County Fairgrounds. My Tuesday-Wednesday knock-out team was going into overtime, having unexpectedly gained admission to the Thursday morning semi-final round. But my Thursday partner, Judie Bailey, didn’t know about it yet. I left messages for her Wednesday night, but never got a call back. Now I had to break the news at the last minute.
Bless her soul, she did the expeditious thing when I found her at the registration table and explained my dilemma. She asked partnership chairwoman Faith Perry for a new partner for the morning pairs game. She got Eva Posner, Ted Kahn’s friend. Eva most likely had fewer master points than anybody else in that big barn of a room, so few that she and Judie, who has more than 1,000 points, qualified for the C stratification.
Meanwhile, I scanned the room in vain for my teammates. Instead, I met the captain of our semi-final opponents, Sherill Bain from Oakville, Ont., who had the same missing team problem. At least she knew where her’s was – hung up at the border, where security was even stricter than usual because of the gunman killing the soldier in Ottawa on Wednesday.
As we pondered which of us would have to forfeit, I saw Usha Khurana come through the doors. Her car, which had been flashing its check-engine light, broke down. Teammate Joe Miranda drove from his home in Hamburg up to Amherst to get her and her partner Mona Karna.
A few minutes later, the Bain team arrived with tales of other drivers cutting them off in line at the international bridge. Finally, we got to settle down, shuffle and play. When we broke to compare scores after 12 boards, it was clear that our team was not only good at finishing second in round robin play, but also good at finishing second head-to-head.
The Bain team was ahead by 37 International Match Points, an insurmountable lead, but we did our best to surmount it in the second set of 12 boards. We made up half the deficit in the first six hands. But the rest of the way we couldn’t go. They won by 14 IMPs. We needed two big scores. If Usha and Mona had bid the 6 No Trump slam that the Bain team missed, that would have been one of them.
Nevertheless, just by showing up and playing, we got our master points – 2.64 gold, 1.32 red, 3.96 total. Had we won the semi-finals, that would be 4.66 gold, 2.33 red, 6.99 total. Winning the entire knock-outs in our bracket would be good for 6.60 gold, 3.30 red, 9.90 total.
Judie Bailey, meanwhile, had a superior game with Eva Posner – 50.60% – and finished first overall in the C strat, earning 2.12 red points. Playing in the B strat in the afternoon, we did better – 57.60%, third East-West, sixth overall, fourth overall in B, for 1.35 red master points. We were 0.15% behind the pair that was third in B overall (Damn, if I took that winning King of Clubs on Board 10 like I shoulda, we’d be third).
Our best round was against Eva Posner, where her partner, Marcia Turley, gifted us with a top board by inadvertently discarding a winning Ace on the next-to-last play, giving Judie an overtrick on a 3 Club contract (the printed hand record says it only makes 2 Clubs).
Random notes: Attendance continues to improve. The Thursday bulletin reports six tables in the morning pairs series, 27 tables in the Wednesday-Thursday knock-outs, 16 tables in the stratified open pairs, eight tables in the afternoon pairs, 14 tables in the Wednesday-Thursday compact knock-outs and 4.5 tables in the evening pairs. That’s 67.5 tables total.
Hospitality also is looking better. Nibbles at the end of the afternoon game included pasta salad (with and without onions) and hot dogs.
Meanwhile, sentiment toward the venue seems to be softening. A Cleveland-area pair in the afternoon game thought it was just fine. Judie Bailey found it agreeable, too. It helps to have a bigger crowd. There were more directors on duty Thursday, as well.
Personal tournament tally so far: 2.64 gold, 5.06 red, 7.70 total. That’s already 67% better than the 2013 Buffalo Regional. My total then was only 4.59.