Worries about my heart persist on Saturday. I feel a pang here and there. Everybody is saying take it easy. If we lose in the semifinal round of the knock-outs in the morning, it’s agreed that I’ll not stick around for some secondary game in the afternoon – not even that suddenly-added Swiss team game that they announce as the morning session begins. No, I’ll just drive straight back home to Buffalo.
And then, via text messages during the morning game, my significant other and my health care proxy also are pushing me to give up on playing in big grand finale Swiss team game on Sunday. I’d lost my original Sunday partner, Selina Volpatti, who has a conflict, but on arrival Friday I’d met Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony in the parking lot, who said Gaurang Sheth was looking for a Sunday game. Gaurang is good and an agreeable kind of guy and a doctor, to boot. We talked on the phone later in the day and he said he’d do it.
So my first order of business Saturday is to sign us up at the Partnership Desk. But Gaurang is there and says he doesn’t want to drive all the way to Rochester on Sunday if we don’t have somebody lined up. I check back at the lunch break and the Partnership people have misplaced my little sign-up slip. Can’t find it anywhere. This is a sign. Looks like we shouldn’t play Sunday, I tell Guarang. Good, he says, his wife didn’t want him to go.
Plus, unless we’re really on top of our game, Sunday Swiss would be a pursuit of small returns. There already are gold points in our pockets, more of them after the Saturday morning match. Judie and I play a young couple – Jonathan Forde and Stanca Ciupe, who’s Romanian. He teaches math at Hobart-William Smith College in Geneva. She teaches math at Virginia Tech. They met in grad school in Ann Arbor, Mich.
They’re good players and they loosen up as the 24-board session progresses, but Stanca plays very slowly. Both times, the other table sends all six of their boards to us while we’re still on our fourth hand. Judie quips that the hands are taking so long that she’s forgetting which cards have been played.
Jon and Stanca start off by giving us a huge advantage, bidding a 6 No Trump vulnerable slam and going down two tricks. Our partners stop at game. We get an immediate 13 International Match Point boost. Good thing, too. We finish the first half of morning session with a razor-thin deficit, 27-26.
The second round finds Judie and me giving them two huge gifts, losing a pair of doubled contracts for minus 500 and minus 800 scores, minus 21 IMPs. On that group of six boards, we lose, 26-1. But they fade on final six on three big hands where our teammates succeed. Our margin here is 34-0. We win the semifinals. Instead of walking away with just 6.58 gold master points, we’re guaranteed at least 11.51, even if we lose in the afternoon, just for finishing second.
Our opponents in the final round are familiar faces. Buffalo players. Shakeel and Manju, teamed with David Colligan and Davis Heussler. They’re going to be tough. We get the Daves, who we’ve never played. Courtnay and Gary will have to deal with Shakeel and Manju’s individualistic bidding system.
Judie suggests we should just concede and go home early if we’re way behind after the first 12 boards, but the score at that halfway point makes it too close to call. On one set of six, we win, 22-12. On the other, we lose, 12-5. With a five-point margin, anything can happen.
And it does, thanks to a couple big hands – a slam that our teammates bid and make where the Daves stop at 3 No Trump, and a 6 Spade slam by the Daves that fails by one trick. Our teammates stop at game, make an overtrick and are awarded two more because of revokes. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen two revokes on one hand,” Courtnay says later.
The upshot is that we win comfortably on both sets of six boards – 16-4 and 23-11. We’re the champs! For winning our knock-out bracket, we collect a veritable bonanza of 16.44 gold points. (In the upper bracket, the reward for winners is even bigger, 30.28 – all the riches at these tournaments definitely are in the team games.) We also get immortalized. Our picture is taken for the Daily Bulletin. Here we are.
Needless to say, this makes the Sunday Swiss team game even more redundant. We’re staying home. Imagine my surprise, then, when my phone rings shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday. It’s a woman who wants to team up with Guarang and me. Seems the Partnership Desk finally found our missing slip.