Three A.M. this morning found me tossing, turning and completely unable to conjure any state resembling fluffy from my pillow, you can thank my flat pillow for my getting “Part 1” posted. Roughly fifteen hours later finds me in a Target quoting the first Back to the Future movie to a bed-pillow, “I’m your density,” I said poking the not-too-soft not-too-firm pillow through its sanitary plastic wrapper, “I mean, your destiny.” It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m going to die alone in Mississippi. But first ….
Sunday morning was the Swiss teams. I woke up with a nasty, persistent headache that nothing seemed to alleviate. I ate breakfast. Drank coffee. Took Tylenol. Went for a walk to a Starbucks to get more coffee. Nothing helped. One of our teammates has over 2,000 masterpoints and while I could swear that I’ve played on a B/C/D Swiss team with someone in that category in the past (perhaps it’s a regional thing?), at this tournament at least that propelled us up into the A/X flight.
In the first round we played a team comprising two co-workers and their spouses. At the other table, things went fairly well. But at our table, the wheels came off — we had exactly one plus score and we lost IMPs even on that board. At one point a bidding misunderstanding landed us in a hopeless 6♣ contract. The opponents didn’t bother to double us even though we clearly had nowhere to run, this small act of mercy didn’t cost them anything, they would still go on to win all of the victory points for the match — that’s how bad it was. On the bright side, our strategy for the day was set, we were going to beat up on the other teams who were doing poorly.
In the second match, Clark and I sat down against a pair we’d played against the night before. We’d hit it off then and the good vibe continued, it made for a very enjoyable eight boards and the four of us decided that we should just opt to play each other for the rest of the day. I lost my d_mned mind on this this hand.
I’ve asked a couple of respectable, very aggressive players their opinion on what to bid over my partner’s 3♣. Both said they would very reluctantly bid 3♠, knowing full well it might end in disaster. Sometimes a blatant disregard for life and limb pays off, I bid 4 which was promptly doubled. At the time, my reasoning (what little there was) was that, were he completely broke, Clark would have picked one of my majors and that I knew where all of the high card points were — both opponents have in fact limited their hands pretty definitively. That’s all true, but somehow the all too real possibility of partner sitting there with something like 0=2=4=7 and little else save the KJ of clubs didn’t occur to me. Still at the other table they played in 2♥ making three, so win thirteen for the good guys. I wasn’t there for the comparison, but I was told that MM made Clark repeat the score three times.
We lost the next round, but it was at least close. The longer we played the warmer the room got until between rounds I was hanging around outside with the smokers without a jacket just to cool off enough to bear the thought of going back inside. My head was throbbing and each hand was starting to be a struggle. On one fairly routine 4♠ contract I got to a very simple ending with a high cross-ruff and even though I’d worked pretty methodically to get to that point it still took what felt like an eternity to work out the actual logistics of it, my brain was refusing to cooperate. Card after card, hand after hand, Clark and I both somehow managed to keep doing the right thing. Going into the last round I was rather grimly determined to at least leave with a 4-2 record instead of 3-3. I wanted my d_mned match award.
There was a time when it would have been hard for me to imagine bridge could ever feel like a grind. But recently it feels that way more often than not; and, as I said, looking forward to this tournament was the first time I’d really been looking forward to playing bridge in awhile but here too it definitely felt like work. So imagine my surprise when we finally compared the last round score and MM’s partner mentioned that we were in the hunt for first in “X”. Clark offered to text me the final results so we could hit the road. We did. He did. To my further surprise, we won “X”. I was pleased, of course, but mostly I just felt relief; partly because I didn’t want any of my teammates to feel like I’d wasted their time and partly because I felt like for once the “hard work” of playing bridge paid off. But was it fun?
Seeing Clark was wonderful, he was as they say, “A sight for for sore eyes.” Dinner was amazing. Hanabi was fun. But was the bridge fun? Yes and no. The second round was fun, but in hindsight my recklessness on what turned out to be the key hand is somewhat disconcerting to put it mildly; I thought I had gotten past making those kinds of wildly speculative bids. My instincts may be pretty good, but they’ve led me down the path of -1400 before and they’ll do so again if I don’t start tempering them with good judgement. You’d think the rolling disaster that was the first match would have had a more sobering effect on me. Maybe I needed a brush with death to put me back on the straight and narrow. Anyway, I’m looking forward to St. Louis.