Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise Buttons

Larry Cohen’s 2014 Holiday Cruise

Day 8 Monday December 29, 2014
At Sea

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The actual digital photos have much better resolution than the enlarged photos.
Pogo put me to shame on the jogging track. She had a good record at the tables, too.

I enjoyed quite a good night's sleep, and I awoke with a lot of energy. Since they always served plenty of Danishes at the lessons anyway, I decided to skip breakfast, and I headed up to Deck #14 to take a long walk. I did forty laps, which, at least according to the sign posted on the aft end, amounts to five miles. I encountered Pogo Albig just as I was beginning and then just at the end. I asked her about this, and she confirmed that she had walked 5.5 miles in the early morning and then another 2.5 miles later.

The ship was headed north up the coast of Nicaragua towards Honduras, which was the home country of our waiter, Francisco. I had read that Honduras was the murder capital of the world. I got a chance to talk with him one evening, and he admitted that there were problems there, but he thought that the country was addressing them and that the United States was helping. I appreciate that these issues are complicated, but I can't help but think that we could do a lot more.

It was obvious to me that the cruise ships went out of their way to avoid Cuba. Every day several of them could be seen sailing all the way around the biggest island in the Caribbean en route to much less colorful places like Grand Cayman. Ours had done it once and would do it again. I had to think that, once relations with Cuba start to improve, the cruise lines would rapidly act to start scheduling stops there. On this day our ship was ignoring Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala in order to reach Belize. Colombia obviously had finally gotten itself removed from the black list. I wondered how long it would be before the cruise lines find it acceptable to schedule visits to these other countries.

Larry confided that he wore colored shirts because Maria liked them.

The weather was warm and clear, but the headwind was very strong, especially at the beginning. The strongest blasts were in the corridor between the forward elevators and the Mast Grill. It was so strong that it was a struggle just to walk there. Despite the wind the ship seemed pretty steady, and the waves did not seem that ferocious.

Larry used the VuGraph to display the sample hands. The challenge here was to make 4 with the lead of the K

The lesson on Monday was on the throw-in play,[1] in which a declarer intentionally allows a specific opponent to win a trick at a point in the play when he/she will be forced to lead a suit that produces an extra trick for the declarer. The most common case is when the opponent on the declarer's left must provide a ruff and a sluff or lead an undesirable suit – frozen[2] or with a tenace.[3]

David and Marguerite Levin.

I vividly recalled the first time that I recognized and implemented a throw-in play at the Simsbury Bridge Club. It was one of the most satisfying moments in my bridge career. Larry presented a number of hands with throw-in opportunities. He singled out David Levin for recognizing the solution to the most difficult one. He predicted that David would soon have five hundred points. His wife Marguerite chipped in, "No, he won't; he plays with me."

After the declarer tried to make the hand, Larry explained how to do it with all the cards face up.

The lady who sat across from Sue during the four practice hands told us that she had been on every Larry Cohen cruise since the sudden death of her husband five years ago. Nevertheless, on the hand that Sue was supposed to be the declarer she went through Blackwood and ended up bidding 7NT. It evidently did not occur to her that it was pretty unlikely that 7NT would be the right bid on a hand designed to emphasize the throw-in play. Throwing in an opponent on a grand slam contract even once is a concession of defeat.

I had a very easy hand to play. Sue was unable to figure hers out, even when the contract was adjusted to the prescribed one, 6.

No brats today.

I decided that if they were serving brats at the Mast Grill, I would try one (or two or three) at lunch. I stopped by, but they were only serving the usual fare of hamburgers and hot dogs. No sale. I went to the café, and I selected an assortment of dishes, as usual.

I signed on to the Internet for a few minutes and found no e-mail of any consequence. However, I was delighted to read that Michigan had signed Jim Harbaugh, one of my favorite players of all time, to a long-term contract as head coach. I had long thought that they should have hired him after he turned around that pitiful program at the University of San Diego back in 2005 or 2006. If they had, perhaps the numerous fiascos of the last few years could have been averted.

This is Carol.

The afternoon game was the cruise championship, which meant that more masterpoints were at stake. I turned on my tournament intensity. Marty and I got off to a good start, and I thought that we might have a chance to win. However, when we turned the corner, our luck abruptly changed, and we finished with a respectable score but no cigar.

The most bizarre aspect of the session did not occur at our table; Sue told me that on one hand her partner Carol had passed on the first round of bidding, but for some reason she thought that she had opened 1. She entered the auction at the next opportunity and covered up the pass card. She then slyly moved some of the bidding cards in front of her so that the 1 card was exposed. It looked as if she had bid 1 and then made a second bid. I am not sure of any more details than what I have reported.

We sat at a square tables, but it was not by a window.

Sue and I were scheduled to meet the Singers at the Silk Harvest restaurant for supper. I pulled out my ancient sports coat, a tie, and a pair of black pants that now fit again after hanging in my closet for five years or so. I wasn't elegant, but at least everyone realized that I had made an effort.

I had wonton soup followed by beef and broccoli. The wonton soup, which had only one dumpling and a big stick of bok choy was just ridiculous, and the entrée was unexceptional.[4] The waiter, who was dressed in a black coolie outfit, acted as if there was something wonderful about this approach to eating. Maybe I would have enjoyed the food more if I had tried to use chopsticks, but I doubt it.

The ship charged a premium of $30 per passenger (plus tip) for this experience. I do not understand the attraction at all. The food in the dining room had been uniformly good, and the atmosphere was more pleasant there. As far as I can tell, the $60 charge only allowed us to trade a large round table with good lighting for a small square one with somewhat dimmer lighting.

I had brought my camera (inside its bag) to take photos, but I placed it at my feet under the table and forgot about it. I only remembered it when we were walking through the bar perhaps forty yards from the restaurant. I immediately made an about-face to return to the restaurant to try to retrieve it. About halfway back I encountered a lady from the restaurant staff who was following us to present it to me.

Sue and I had the usual problems in the evening game, but I, sitting East, managed to make an excellent (albeit impossible on this layout) slam (6) on hand #5 when South made the mistake of leading the ace from her ace-queen holding in clubs. A lot of experts advise leading aggressively against a small slam in a suit contract, but that lead gave me my twelfth trick. Despite several misunderstandings Sue and I managed to finish tied for second.

We went over the hands at a table on Deck #5 that overlooked the area called Celebrity Central where the entertainers occasionally put on performances to promote the shows. One young lady in a flesh-colored leotard did some acrobatic moves on a large ring that was no more than three feet off the ground. Another waved a long ribbon around. There was also a juggler who did nothing more spectacular than juggle three bowling pins. None of them moved me.

When we returned to the cabin I sent an e-mail to Sue's sister Karen with details of our flight back to Connecticut. I discovered to my chagrin that nearly all of our Internet minutes had again been used up. Whenever Sue got on Facebook, she seemed to lose all track of time, but the ship's computer did not.

[1]  The throw-in play is sometimes called an endplay because it requires removing all of the opponent's safe exit cards and therefore most often appears near the end of the play of the hand.

[2]  A suit is "frozen" if the first side to play it gives up a trick. The club suit in the VuGraph photo is frozen.

[3]  A tenace is a pair of cards of which one is the highest remaining in the suit, and the other is the third highest. AQ is a tenace. KJ is one if the ace has been played.

[4]  I found some reviews of this restaurant on the Internet, and they all seemed to agree with me.