The 1998 Fall North American Bridge Council Nationals were held in Orlando, Florida. Orlando is a three hour drive from my home, so I wanted to attend. From the schedule, it was clear that another National would not be held in the state of Florida for at least three years; if even that early. I had played a little during the first weekend, advancing to the third round of a knockout event. I was playing with a partner that I had just met, as my only regular partner, Marty Lavine, now lived in Chicago. Mirtha (from Geneva) was a lovely lady, but it was clear that we viewed the game differently. We both did our best, but neither played as well as we would have with a partner who played our style.
Marty would be coming into Orlando for the second week of Nationals. Of course, that week was Thanksgiving week, so I would be leaving Orlando the day before he arrived. Marty had been my bridge mentor, and he and I had developed a fairly specialized system we play with each other, so it would be a shame if we weren't able to play together. Marty's plane tickets had him returning the next Saturday, so the most we could play together would be one day if I were to retrun the Friday. I was able to persuade my wife to be understanding if I went back to Orlando the day after Thanksgiving, promising to return on Saturday. This was no mean feat, given the amount of time our two young daughters require in addition to her work.
Marty and I spoke on Tuesday as to which event we would enter on Friday. Available events were Open Pairs (a one day event), the North American Swiss Championships (a three day event) and the Reisinger. Marty recommended the Reisinger. I was certain that he was joking. The Reisinger is one of the three North American Majors and the top event of the Fall Nationals. Entry is limited to 48 teams. A three day event in total, the field is cut to 20 teams after the first day for the Semi-Finals, and then cut again after the second day to a field of ten for the Finals.
Marty's logic was that we could play in the Open Pairs, perhaps do well, and leave with some masterpoints. We might qualify for the second day of the Swiss team event, but would have to leave. If that happened, we would be left wondering how we might have done if we had stayed. But, we could enter the Reisinger, meet the top players in the world and have them beat on us for a day. Since there was no chance that a team of amateurs would qualify for the Semi-Finals, we wouldn't feel guilty when we both left Saturday morning. If, by some quirk of fate, we managed to win a board or two against someone famous, that would give us something to talk about for years.
Our team for the Reisinger would be our Captain, Stan Christie (Gold Life Master - 2,500+ masterpoints), Marty (Silver Life Master-1,250+ masterpoints), Randy Corn (Gold Life Master as well), and myself (Club Master - between 25 and 50 masterpoints). As you may have noticed, there was a weak link in the team, and it was named "me." Actually, I may not be as bad of a player as my masterpoint total would seem to suggest, as I have only been playing duplicate for about year and most of the time I play on the Internet. Still, many of our opponents win more masterpoints a year than most of us had total. One player in the field, Paul Soloway, had recently passed the 50,000 masterpoint milestone. I don't think the ACBL has even created a name for that.
My family had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal on Thursday. Call it indigestion or nervousness, but I could not sleep that night. I managed to catch a few hours between from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m, woke early on Friday, and hit the road. My three hour drive turned into four as I hit gridlock around Disney World. Evidently the Friday after Thanksgiving is a popular time to visit the Mouse. My plan of a good night's sleep and a relaxing drive was obviously not faring well.
Slightly before the event began, I met Stan. I would have met Randy, except he wasn't there. As a result, Stan had to find a new partner for the afternoon. He found Henk Uijterwaal from Amsterdam (RIPE-NCC on rec.games.bridge), and the two hastily hammered out a convention card in about ten minutes. Evidently, Randy was planning to join us for the evening session.
The Reisinger is unique among the three bridge majors due to its scoring format; Board-a-Match. The same hand is played by two teams against each other. The two results are compared, and a team either gains a win (one point), a tie (one-half) or a loss (zero). It doesn't matter whether the loss was by a 20 point overtrick or a couple thousand for the vulnerable grand they found and you didn't. As Horton would say, a zero is a zero, no matter how small.