Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 2 Tuesday December 23, 2014
At Sea

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The actual digital photos have much better resolution than the enlarged photos.

The first time that I looked at it my watch reported that it was a little after 4 a.m. That was obviously too early to get up, and so I lay in bed fretting about my missing camera, whom I would be playing with at the regional in Rye, NY, our cat Giacomo, and the impending collapse of the Ross Ice Shelf. Forty or fifty scenarios passed through my consciousness before I finally fell back asleep at 5:30. I got up at around seven and padded upstairs to the bridge room. The door was open, but no one was there.

Our cabin and the bridge games were in the forward section. Nearly all of the dining rooms, restaurants, and cafés were aft.

I decided to skip breakfast. Instead I walked some brisk laps of Deck #14, which featured a maroon oval around the swimming pool one deck below. The oval was optimistically called the jogging track, but it mainly served as the only way to get from the forward elevators to both the Oceanview Café, which is where most people ate breakfast and lunch, and the bizarre grassy area that was dedicated to putting and other kinds of games. So, anyone using the track needed to devote a fair amount of energy to avoiding the pedestrians. Since the track was only one-eighth of a mile in total, a lot of time must be spent making turns and dodging other passengers.

Most of the joggers only did a few laps, but one young blonde lady definitely impressed me. She not only did a lot of laps; she was pretty fast. I don't know who she was, and I never saw her again.

As for me, I did thirty-two laps. When I finished, I washed up and then went to the lesson quite early. I saw Larry and told him about leaving my camera behind. He told me not to worry about it, and shortly thereafter he informed me that Sandi Murray had it. I thanked her profusely when she returned it to me. This was a great relief.

The classes were even better than on the previous cruise.

Before the lesson began my designated partner, Carol, informed me that she would not be playing with me. Evidently she had partnered with someone else in the previous evening's game, and they had hit it off. So, for the second bridge cruise in a row I had been unceremoniously dumped before the first hand. I wonder what the world's record for premature partner-dumping is.

Accept no substitutes.

Shortly after I received this news, the partnership ladies notified me that I would be playing with Marty Singer. I later learned that he was from northern New Jersey, but he and his wife Diane had recently bought a place in West Palm Beach, FL, in which they spent the winters. Marty and I agreed to go over our convention card after the lesson.

Larry's first lesson was on avoiding finesses. His point was that before taking any 50-50 finesse, the declarer should look for plays that have better than a 50 percent chance of succeeding. His teaching method in this cruise was slightly different from what he did on the Regional at Sea in 2012. It involved three phases. In the first phase he explained the concept and illustrated with specific examples. In the second phase we analyzed hands in the workbook. The final phase involved four predealt hands. Each person at the table got to play one of the four hands. I got a very easy one, but Sue had a lot of trouble with hers. In my opinion, this is truly a great way to teach bridge concepts. It is comprehensible to the beginner, and it is not tiresome for the more advanced player.

When I heard the topic, I was not surprised that Larry began the presentation with the "Nice Lady" story that he told two years ago. You can read about her here.

We never used most of our agreements, but it was assuring that we had taken the time to make them.

Marty and I went over our card for nearly an hour. He is a much more deliberate guy than I am. He reminded me of one of my partners in Hartford, Michael Dworetsky. They both help people manage their investments, and they have very similar mannerisms at the bridge table. I agreed to play Bergen raises, Cappelletti against both strong and weak notrump, and Roman Keycard Gerber after a Jacoby transfer. He agreed to play Unusual over Unusual. I also insisted that we have a weak second call for responder when opener reverses. We decided, for the sake of simplicity, that a 2NT rebid would be weak, and all other bids would be forcing.

Sue and I then walked over to the Oceanview Café for lunch. The lunches on this ship are very pleasant. The selection was absolutely mind-boggling, and the quality also seemed to me to be pretty good from the beginning of the cruise to the end.

We sailed along the northern coast of Cuba all day long. I tried to shoot some photos of the coastline, but it was too far away and the atmosphere was too hazy.

Eighteen hands were played in all of the afternoon games. Marty and I did pretty well, but not well enough to place in A. Sue and Carol, on the other hand, finished in first place in their section. Don't ask me to explain it. The Lord is known to work in mysterious ways.

The most memorable hand for Marty and me was against the team that was recognized by everyone as the best. On the hand displayed at right we were willing to try a dicey 4 contract with only 23 points. Because of favorable placement of the cards, we could actually make five with very astute play. However, they bid 4, and I, holding three aces, well-placed clubs, and only three hearts, doubled. We played perfect defense and beat it by three tricks.

South, who had bid 4 out of the blue, may have been hoping that we would bid 5 or pass. In addition, if we had not found the uppercut in clubs, he could take six spades and two diamonds to go down only two. There was no violation of the LAW.[1] Each side has nine trumps. We can take eleven tricks in hearts; they can take seven tricks in spades. South had a tough call, especially since he did not know anything about either one of us. He only needed one more trick for his bid to be correct.

This photo would be a lot better if I had had my camera with me when the ladies came through this door.

The long wall of the bridge room had a door. Up until the middle of the round no one had ever used it. Then all of a sudden two young ladies – apparently entertainers – came through the door from whatever was on the other side. They stood there for a minute or so trying to grasp what was taking place. One of the bridge players asked one of them if they were part of the staff. They both smiled and one replied, "Actually, we just came out of the closet." I laughed out loud, but no one else did. They hastily retreated back to the other side of the door.

Sue and I had two other priorities for the day: buying our excursions and obtaining Internet access. I had already decided on the excursions in which I was most interested. Sue and I went down to the desk, and she made them explain exactly what was involved in each of the canoe rides that were required in the excursions that I selected in Panama and Costa Rica. The lady at the desk seemed convinced that anyone who was reasonably ambulatory could handle them, and so Sue and I signed up for the same excursions in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Belize:
   Cartagena: Deluxe Cartagena and Fortress;
   Panama: Inner Circle: Authentic Expedition to an Emberá Indian Village;
   Costa Rica: Sloth Sanctuary and Canoe Adventure;
   Belize: Wildlife Adventure Tour.

I then tried to locate the iLounge, which is where the Internet guy hung out. Just as I arrived, he announced that he would be off duty until 7. So, I was unable to purchase a package.

I sat next to the Levins at supper, and I learned a little more about them. Marguerite is a professional musician and music instructor. Her primary instrument is the clarinet. David is the Chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at Boston University. This news confirmed my contention that practically everyone involved in tournament bridge has an interesting backstory. The only problem was trying to participate in a conversation with them. I know absolutely nothing about David's field, not even enough to ask an intelligent question. I also doubted that Marguerite would be interested in any tales of Rocco DeMart, who for a few years gave me saxophone lessons in the basement of Jenkins Music Store in Prairie Village, KS.

The Levins complained about their classification as a B team. They said that the cutoff for C teams was 300 masterpoints, and they were certain that they were both below that threshold.[2] They received only token sympathy from someone forced to play in flight A regardless of his partner.

I learned from our cabin stewart, Mel, that the see-through shower stall in our cabin had been used as a teleportation chamber in Tomorrowland.

My entrée at dinner was flank steak with some kind of sauce. It was pretty good, but what I really enjoyed was the French onion soup. I found it on the left side of the menu, which meant that it was available every day. I ordered it again several times.

Sandi Murray came to our table and announced that she was going to try to implement a less rigid policy of seating at dinner. She said that she hoped that more people could get acquainted if they sat at different tables. This certainly seemed like a good idea at the time, but …

In the evening game Marty and I played East-West. For the third time in a row we were followed by the Fleers. Marty and I had a very good game – well over 70 percent. We might have recorded the highest score of the entire cruise if we had been allowed to play our late-play hand against a less experienced team. When everyone is playing only fifteen boards, each hand can affect one's total score by up to seven percentage points.

After the game Sue, who is much more of a night owl than I am, decided to investigate some of the ship's live music offerings. She also volunteered to sign us up for Internet access if she could.

I went to sleep pretty satisfied with my new partnership. However, Marty and Diane planned to go ashore in Cozumel, which meant that I would have to find a partner for the afternoon game on Wednesday.

[1]  The Law of Total Tricks states that when the high-card points are distributed relatively equally, the total number of tricks that the two sides together can make with their best suit as trump is roughly equal to the total number of trumps the declaring teams hold. In this case East-West have nine hearts, and North-South have nine spades. The eighteen trumps is the same as the number of tricks that the two sides can take combined: eleven for East-West and seven for North-South.

[2]  They were definitely right about their points. I checked on the Internet. They may have been wrong about the threshold.