Archive for the ‘Regionals’ Category

Bob in Delaware

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

It’s a long way from Tunica, Mississippi, to Delaware – in distance and otherwise. I don’t mean that as a jab at either place. They’re just very different in many aspects.

On the other hand, when it comes to bridge players, especially those who fancy duplicate, they’re very much alike wherever you go. So I was looking forward to a return to the East Coast.

That part of the U.S. – the East Coast, that is – was my stomping ground before I dropped out of bridge for a time, so it wasn’t as though I was heading for a place I knew nothing about.

Delaware motto, as many of you may be aware, is known as the First State because that colony was the first to ratify the constitution after we had won our independence from England. It happened in 1787.

Since my return to the game, I’ve tried to get current on who’s who in the bridge world, so I have spent some time going through old issues of the Bridge Bulletin and the Daily Bulletins from the NABCs.

One name that kept coming up was a very interesting player from Delaware, a guy by the name of Dave Treadwell. I asked about him at ACBL Headquarters, and everyone told me he’s a great guy (he tells jokes that are so bad they’re good, if you get my meaning). I’m told Dave doesn’t go to many tournaments any more, but he does play at clubs a lot. I didn’t have a chance to meet him on my trip, but next time I go back, I’ll try to find him.

On my arrival in Delaware, I couldn’t help noticing one thing: water. It was coming down from the sky virtually the entire time I was there. The local newspaper had banner headlines on the front page about the “Nor’easter” battering the area. It was raining so hard at times the water was coming at us sideways, with the wind blowing steadily at 35-40 miles an hour.

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Soaked by a Nor'easter

Roads were flooded, but that didn’t stop my group – about 40 people – from heading for a tournament in Ocean View. The event was the District 4 North American Pairs Flight C final. My hostess, Dini Romito, told me that her Shuffles Bridge Club has had overall winners in the competition the last couple of years, so her players were determined to get to the event and defend their honor. Well, I can relate to that, so I was honored that they included me in the adventure.

I was very flattered when we arrived at the venue to see that someone had made likenesses of me. Just the face was bigger than I am, but the images were mounted on sticks like masks. It was very impressive.

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Will the real Bob L. please stand up?

I waited through the two sessions of the event to see how the Shuffles players did – and it was worth it. One Shuffles pair – Mary Boyd and Peter Harris – came in first overall. Third overall – good enough to earn a trip to Reno for the NAP final – were twin sisters Linda Regan and Laurie Shelton. They were ecstatic, and I must say I was excited, too.

Before we left, Dini called the authorities to see if a bridge that had been closed earlier might have reopened. It was open again, but they didn’t know for how long, so we took off right away.

We rested for a day before Dini told me she was taking about 20 of her students to the Ocean City Regional. It was there that I met Millard Nachtwey, who I was told is one of ACBL’s top tournament directors. Dini was very grateful to him for “taking great care” of her new players.

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At the Ocean City Regional

Just as I was ready to leave, it finally stopped raining. Nothing, of course, could have dampened my enjoyment of the trip. I will always have fond memories of Dini and her gang.  Below are a couple more photos of my new friends from Delaware.

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Bob in Tunica

Monday, November 9th, 2009

It was good to get back to Memphis for a little while, although I spent most of my time at the regional tournament in Tunica, Mississippi.

In case you don’t know, Tunica is in North Mississippi, not that far away from ACBL Headquarters, and from what I’ve been told, it will be even closer next year when the HQ moves to Horn Lake, Mississippi.

Anyway, we took off from the office the first day of the tournament, and as we drove – it’s about a 30-minute car ride – I kept seeing all these billboards for gambling casinos. Who would have thought that Mississippi would be home to such places! I find it interesting, by the way, that the state law says all such establishments must technically be riverboats (!??!). They get around that by having part of the structure of each casino sitting over some water. You sure can’t tell you’re over water when you’re in one of those places. It’s pretty silly, if you ask me.

The reason I know about this is the other surprise I got – that the tournament was in one of these casinos. Of course, before I dropped out of bridge for a while, there weren’t so many places to gamble – Atlantic City NJ was most familiar to me – and we would never have thought of having a tournament at a casino. Then again, how could I expect today to be the same as the old days?

I had a lot of fun in Tunica, I must admit, mostly from meeting different people.

Tournament Director Su Doe

Tournament Director Su Doe

The Tunica tournament is well attended, so there are lots of TDs around. If there’s one constant in bridge, it’s the TDs. They are still as interesting and people-oriented as the ones I knew “back when.” They dress differently, of course – no suits and ties – but that’s true of the players as well.

Rick Beye shows me how the Bridge Pad works.

Rick Beye shows me how the Bridge Pad works.

I was wandering around the playing room where a pairs game was about to start, and I encountered Rick Beye, another TD, setting up the Bridge Pad scoring devices. I must say that I found them fascinating. My fellow players and TDs from the past would never have believed that so many aspects of a bridge tournament could be categorized as “automatic.” I already knew about ACBLscore from some of the other tournaments I attended, but I didn’t know about the Bridge Pads. The little device sits on the table, and when an auction is completed you just enter the contract. When play is over, you enter the result, and the East-West pair pushes a button to okay it. The result goes straight to a computer the TDs are running, and scores are available after the session nearly immediately. Very smart!

Retired National TD Jack Hudgins, who lives in Memphis.

Retired National TD Jack Hudgins, who lives in Memphis.

After I got a Bridge Pad lesson, I ran into a TD who used to work in the eastern part of the U.S., where I did most of my “damage,” you might say. That would be Jack Hudgins, who worked a lot in the Boston area before moving to Memphis many years ago. Jack told me he still misses the tournaments, but not so much that he would give up his regular golf game to start back up again.

Judy Dever, a bridge player who also works at the ACBL.

Judy Dever, a bridge player who also works at the ACBL.

As you can imagine, many of the people who work at ACBL Headquarters are also bridge players. I like being photographed with attractive women, and the ACBL has its share, as you can see from the photo above. Judy laughs a lot, which I enjoyed immensely. I do think players in this new era have more fun overall than many I knew way back when.

TD Nancy Watkins, from the Atlanta area.

TD Nancy Watkins, from the Atlanta area.

I had a chance to talk to Nancy Watkins, who I met on my trip to Atlanta. She was telling me about all the fun she had running the second Youth NABC that took place during the Summer NABC in Washington DC. Nancy told me about how she got started with bridge and how she and some friends played a lot of “giggle bridge” at her home. I hope I run into her again soon. She is a lot of fun.

Ellie Weems, Sandy Smith, TD Dan Plato and Ginny Claar.

Ellie Weems, Sandy Smith, TD Dan Plato and Ginny Claar.

I had a reunion of sorts with Dan Plato, one of the most fun people I have run into on my travels. Dan is a TD and he hosted me for much of my stay in Atlanta. He is such a fun person that you can’t help laughing whenever you’re around him. He wouldn’t pose for a photo with me while I was in Georgia, but I made him get into the photo above during the Tunica tournament. He complained, but I think he enjoyed it, maybe just a little bit.

As always, the people I met at the Tunica tournament were warm and welcoming. They made me feel really good about getting back into the bridge scene. I can’t wait for the next trip!