Gatlinburg Tournament 2013 Buttons

Gatlinburg Tournament 2013

Day 2 Thursday April 18, 2013

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While I waited in the lobby for Michael, I watched the guy in the flat hat make omelets to order.

Although I found the bed to be quite comfortable, I was out of it by 4:30, which is a little too early even for me. I lugged my computer over to the bed, and I struggled with the Internet for quite a few minutes. I was unable to get the e-mail program to stay on-line. I found this development very puzzling. I had never experienced this problem in any other hotel. Occasionally I had had trouble sending e-mail, but receiving had never been an issue. I had implemented this routine successfully in many different hotels including quite a few in Europe.

Michael and I met in the hotel’s lounge at 7:30 for breakfast. We walked the short distance down to the Log Cabin Pancake House. James Shepard, the cab driver, had related that his wife had reported that the food there was pretty good, although he made it very clear that he should not be held personally responsible for the recommendation. The restaurant was made up to look like a log cabin on the outside. The inside was festooned with flags from various large universities. Several Big Ten schools were represented, but I did not see a flag for Michigan.

I wonder how they got the wagon up on the roof.

I ordered pigs in the blanket, and Michael had a bacon and cheese omelet. We both thought that the food and the service were quite good, and the prices were certainly reasonable by East Coast standards.

Where is the M?

Michael wanted to walk around after breakfast, but I told him that I needed to go back to the hotel. I like to dedicate at least a half hour after breakfast to allowing my digestive system room to decide what to do with breakfast. I also wanted to take a short nap before we did battle at nine o'clock.

Our bridge schedule for the day called for us to play in a compact knockout in the morning. If we survived the first two rounds, we would play in the semifinals on Friday. The afternoon session was devoted to a full knockout, and it continued in the evening. If we won twice, we would get to play in the semifinals on Friday.

We met up with Bob and Pat at the stanchion for section V, which was pretty close to the concession stand in the middle of the huge room. Bob had already purchased our entry. Since I had paid for the previous session, Michael coughed up the cash for this one. Bob asked us if we had a preference of North-South or East-West. I said that we would rather play East-West.

Look in Enfield.

It was apparent from the first hand that we would be able to do better against this level of competition. We won our first match handily. The only interesting thing occurred in the second hand. About halfway through the play I realized that we had scored the first hand wrong. At the end of the hand everyone had agreed that I had taken eleven tricks, but I suddenly announced that I had only taken ten, and I named the three tricks that I lost. The opponents thanked me, and one of them remarked that Diogenes was looking for me.

The second match was equally uneventful, and we also won that one by a comfortable margin. So, we had qualified to play in the semifinals on Friday, and the worst that we could do was fourth place out of sixteen. The double success improved our moods considerably.

During the morning session I ran into Paul Lord, with whom I had teamed up at the Hartford Bridge Club a few times. He lived in Montreal and consulted with insurance companies, some of which had headquarters in Hartford. However, he had not made an appearance at the club in at least a year or two. It was nice to reestablish contact.

Just before lunch I saw a diminuitive lady whom I had met a few years ago at the regional/sectional tournament in Hyannis. She had told me then that she had worked as a vice-president in the legal department at the Hartford when I was an actuarial student in the same company in the early 1970’s. We had a few mutual acquaintances. She informed me that one of them, Don Sondergeld, was also in Gatlinburg and was, in fact, on her team.[1]

We ate lunch at the concession stand. I had a bland ham sandwich and some chips. Most people seemed to go for the hot dogs or the chili. They certainly had a large number of candy bars available, but I do not have a sweet tooth.

After lunch we played in the full knockout, which means that we played 24 hands against the same team. At least, that is what it usually means. The team that we played had six members, not four. So we played the first twelve boards against a pair from the UK, Ian and Peter (although Ian addressed his partner as PAYter). They played a variation of ACOL that was a little strange to us. Nevertheless, we held our own, and at the halfway point our foursome was ahead by 19 IMPs.

In the second half we played against a couple from Houston. We did not think that we had played badly against them, but when we compared scores with our teammates, we determined that we had lost the second half by 21 IMPs, which meant that we had lost the match by two lousy IMPs. This was a very discouraging outcome that bordered on bitterly disappointing.

In the afternoon I saw a few people from the Boston area with whom I was slightly familiar. I also saw Mark and Bruce, the fellows from New Hampshire who often had teamed up with Sonja Smith and David Rock at regional and sectional tournaments. Steve Smith and I had eaten supper with that foursome in Sturbridge between the sessions of the NAOP qualifier a few years earlier.

When I went to the men’s room I noticed that the tournament staff had posted signs warning the players not to use the Touch of Paradise taxi service. Instead, the tournament now recommended the Smoky Mountain Taxi Company. Michael and I speculated as to what could have caused the rift in the relationship. I suspected that it was due to overcharging in the name of Jesus.

Michael and I had three options for the evening: (1) play with Bob and Pat as a team (and probably get clobbered) in the A/X one-session Swiss again; (2) play as a pair in the side game; or (3) take the evening off. It was easy to eliminate #3. There was nothing in this town that interested me in the slightest except bridge. Michael and I decided that we had already had our quota of humiliation. We therefore chose the side game.

I recommend the Cherokee Grill.

Michael and I walked down to the Cherokee Grill for supper. Although our waiter, Raimundas, warned us that it was not his favorite, I ordered the “fried chicken.” It was chicken, and it was fried, but it was not exactly what I expected. It consisted of a large piece of white meat that had been breaded and fried on a bed of mashed potatoes with a vegetable (!) gravy. I liked its taste, and I liked the fact that they served broccoli as a side dish. It was much cheaper than the steak dinner at the Peddler Steakhouse, and I liked it better.

A peculiar thing happened when it was time to pay our bills. We got separate American Express folders, but mine had the customer copy of Michael’s bill and no merchant bill. Michael had the merchant copy and the detail. So, I had to ask Raimundas for my check. He hurriedly brought it and apologized.

I figured that Raimundas’s accent sounded Russian, but his name made that seem unlikely. My second guess was that he might be from Lithuania.[2]

I went back to the room, took care of my teeth, and rested for a few minutes. I met Michael back at the Convention Center in time for the evening game.

The side game was held all the way down at the other end of the gigantic room. It was evident almost immediately that the atmospher in this game was much less intense than in the team games. Everyone was friendly, both in the sense of amicability and in the sense of giving us gifts in the play of the hands. One declarer even made a completely unnecessary revoke (failure to follow suit). We scored a 56% game, were the top C team, and won 2.22 master points. It was a nice way to finish the day.

My brain at 9:30.

However, I did notice that at about 9:30 my brain had turned to mush. I played the last few hands strictly on instinct. I could not have kept detailed track of the play of the hands if my life had depended on it. This did not hurt us too badly in the pairs game, but it might have been fatal if we had been playing in the second round of the knockout. I resolved to do whatever was necessary on Friday to maintain my energy and attention into the evening session.

Having a good session probably should have made it easier to get to sleep. If we had done poorly, I would have had a difficult time trying to forget about our bad hands. Instead, I puzzled over why I could neither send nor receive e-mail. For a “phonophobe” like me e-mail is a lifeline. For the last decade or so I had seldom been without it for more than a day.

[1]  I searched the results sheets rather thoroughly, but I never did discover how they fared.

[2]  I think that my guess was right. The first page of a search for Raimundas on Google yielded two men named Raimundas. Both were born in Vilnius.