Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 3 Wednesday December 24, 2014
George Town, Grand Cayman

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The actual digital photos have much better resolution than the enlarged photos.
Grand Cayman is one of the flattest islands in the Caribbean. I wonder if the inhabitants worry about the Ross Shelf.

Wednesday was Christmas Eve, but it certainly did not feel like it. For some reason I awoke at 2 a.m. I then tossed and turned for an hour or two with visions of everything but sugarplums dancing through my head. I woke up for good at seven.

Sue disclosed that she had purchased an Internet package, and she explained how to use it. The weird part of it was that that the only way to log off was to go to a specific website, This sounded to me like an accident waiting to happen, but in fact we never experienced a problem with it.

This is a Tender.

Sue had brought her fast laptop with Windows 8. I was using the Walmart special that I had purchased for our trip to Russia a few years ago. Fortunately, just before we left I had commissioned the Geek Squad to give it a tune-up. Its performance had risen to what I would deem adequate. I signed on and downloaded all my e-mail. My Inbox contained Christmas greetings from all of my friends at Target, Walmart, and the Great Courses. The only message of any importance was from Michael Dworetsky, who informed me that he would be able to play with me in Rye. I had an offer to team up with someone on the last day of that tournament. I shot an e-mail to him telling him that I had found a partner. I also removed from the website all of the references to the NABC in Providence.[1] I googled "Larry Cohen" in order to find out for Marguerite how old he was. He was born on 4/14/59. The whole process took me about ten minutes.

This is not.

For the first and, as it turned out, only time Sue and I went to the dining room on Deck #3 for breakfast. We met the Singers there. The food was good, and the service was excellent, but the buffet at the Oceanview Café was quicker, and the selection was a little better – as long as you did not want pancakes. Breakfast is not ordinarily a big deal for me. At home I usually eat only an apple in the morning.

By the time that we had finished breakfast, the ship had anchored near George Town, Grand Cayman. The port was not deep enough for cruise ships. Instead, rather large boats that are called tenders[2] ferried the passengers between the ship and the island. Sue and I had no interest in going to Grand Cayman. We had been there several times before, but Marty and Diane Singer planned to go ashore. Believe it or not, there are no taxes in Grand Cayman, a British territory. Half the people there derive their income from tourism; the other major industry is serving as a bogus headquarters for companies and individuals dodging taxes in their home countries.

Larry's lesson, which occurred during a short rain storm, concerned slam bidding. Not too much of what he said was new to me, but I was pleased that Sue attended the lesson. She and her partners have only a few of the tools needed for accurate slam bidding, and they are shaky about using the ones that they know.

There are two tenders in this photo, but they are hardly noticeable beside the gigantic cruise ship Navigator of the Seas.

My favorite part of the lecture was Larry's emphasis on a few maladies that are related to slam bidding or the process of teaching it:
   Premature Blackwood: when players use Blackwood as soon as they find a fit without using any of the other tools available.
   Hesitation Blackwood: When one player signs off after a break in tempo, and his partner overrides his decision. This one is illegal.
   Gerber Disease, which is reportedly at epidemic levels in Florida: Use of the Gerber convention for suit contracts because it saves a level.
   Lessonitis: Making a decision based on the knowledge of what the lesson is supposed to teach.

Jacques and his wife.

I went to the afternoon game early because I did not know with whom I would be playing. The partnership ladies paired me up with a guy named Jacques Sopkin. Our card was less sophisticated than what I was used to; I was pretty surprised that he never used count signals. When I was asked about this by one of the opposing teams, they also expressed surprise.

The breeze was quite stiff in the afternoon.

We played fairly well together, but not good enough to place. I felt more comfortable playing with Marty.

Christmas Eve was one of the two evenings that the ship requested that all passengers dress for dinner. I donned my suit, which did not appear any the worse[3] for having spent a few hours in my suitcase.

My entrée was lamb, and it was very good. On most evenings I dispensed with dessert, but Maryellen had raved about the apple pie on the previous evening, and so I decided to try it. It was not apple pie; it was apple-raisin pie. I have nothing but respect for raisins; I have often pleasurably consumed then from a red box. Nevertheless, I insist that they have no business in apple pie. Apple pie should contain apples – and sweet ones, not those horrible things that they grow in the northeast – and no other fruit. I choked down my helping, and I did not complain to the Federal Trade Commission about the false labeling only because by the time that the slice arrived we were in international waters.

From left: Sue, Maryellen Rice, David and Marguerite Levin, Larry and Donna Fleer.

The Levins described their snorkeling experience in Grand Cayman as a big disappointment. They were late in getting to the snorkeling area because five cruise ships were in port, and everything on and about the small island was crowded. There was also a dearth of snorkeling gear. The ship offered them a partial refund.

The time remaining in each round was always displayed on the screen in numbers more than a foot high.

The evening bridge round was, from my perspective, a fiasco. The directors had consistently allowed seven minutes per round plus one extra minute. Thus, if two hands were played in each round, fifteen minutes were allotted. This is ordinarily more than an adequate amount.

I played with Marty in the evening round. The game began with only eight tables and three boards per round. At the last minute a few more people arrived, and a ninth table was added. Linda took a board away from every table, and adjusted the computer to reflect the strange board combinations that resulted.[4] I am not sure why, but a considerable amount of confusion resulted. Marty and I finished at the first table on time, but then we had to wait for quite a long time at the next table or two. At the next three or four (out of eight) rounds we found ourselves starting the second hand with little or no time on the clock.

Can you see how I did it? I was very good at giveaway chess, too

The worst manifestation was at a table where we played aganst two ladies. Marty and I arrived quite late at their table, and there was no time at all left on the clock when we had finished the first hand. I got upset when the opponents began talking about Christmas rather than starting the second hand immediately. They upbraided me for not arriving on time. They had a point, but I play rather fast, and in no way had I contributed to our tardiness. It was not a nice situation.[5]

That hand that we played completely in overtime is shown at right. The contract was 5, and I, sitting East, did not score a single trick. Can you even imagine how that might be possible?

For Sue and me the best part of Christmas Eve was finding this towel on the bed.

At any rate, I played poorly, and I had a miserable stressful time. I always seemed to have to declare the second hand with no time left, and I made mistakes. We scored less than 50 percent, and I left the room with a very bad taste in my mouth about the entire experience.

Sue was even more despondent. She had no partner scheduled for the evening event, and she decided to skip it. I don't know the details, but the ladies at the partnership desk were evidently expecting her to play.

I decided that the best thing would be for me to play with Sue in the evening games for the rest of the trip. Sue tried to talk me out of this notion, but I think that she was happy that I insisted. This was the worst day of the cruise. Neither of us could get to sleep. It got much better.

[1]  I hand neither the authority nor the knowledge necessary to change the banner at the top of each page.

[2]  Because they tend the ship.

[3]  I would have worn it even if it was all wrinkled; before booking the cruise I had determined that no one from GQ was booked.

[4]  For example we played board #3 and board #6 against team #3.

[5]  I apologized to both of the ladies.