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One Up, One Down from Atlanta
(Page of 2)

I played for ten straight days in Atlanta. This always seems like a good idea before the tournament starts, but in reality there always comes a point where the mental well has been entirely tapped. For me, that happened on the 2nd to last round of the National Swiss. I hit the wall harder than the Kool-Aid guy and all of my bridge synapses went on strike. On the first hand, I defended 3NT quite possibly as badly as one could defend it. I think every card I played was either the wrong signal, the wrong count, the wrong suit to unguard or I unblocked an honor that was winning a trick on its own. Declarer had no play but emerged with an overtrick. I tried to clear the cobwebs and went on to the next hand where we defended 1NT. Declarer won the race to 7 tricks, but we had an easy path to -90. At trick 12, I can play my minor suit spot over to my partner’s two good minor suit cards, but I decided to cash a spade and put partner to an unnecessary guess. As partner thought about what to hold (or perhaps pondered why he ever chose to play with me in this event), I stared catatonically at the dummy, probably thinking about how much I like mashed potatoes and the color purple. After a head shake and another cobweb clear, I only partially emerged from that funk only to imagine that I was declarer and the table was waiting for me to pick a card from dummy. I announced “small,” partner then correctly pitched his diamond, and I played a club at trick 13 to hold this to -90.

Immediately, I realized how unethical this might look to the opponents and I apologized, suggested they might call the director and ask about transferring that trick. Chris Moll, the opponent on my right, immediately said he had no problem with it, he thought it was amusing, and complimented my partner saying that he’s too good a player to get that wrong anyway. I was not surprised at all by this. I’ve not played against Chris too frequently and I don’t know him well, but my brief interactions with him have always been positive ones. I asked the Rueful Roberts what might have happened, and he suggested the trick probably would have been maintained but he also might have warned me about a procedural penalty in the future. Anyway, at a Nationals that seemed full of contention and strife, Chris’s gracious attitude about my faux pas stood out and I wanted to commend him for that. Coincidentally, I had the same thing happen to me declaring a hand this weekend at our sectional where a tired defender called a card from dummy, and I was able to share how I knew how she felt and tell her in Moll-like fashion not to worry about it. She said that made her feel much better. Thank you Chris for the invaluable lesson. 


Now to the down. My partner Barry Margolin and I played on day 1 of the National Fast Pairs. We had a reasonable 52% game in the first half, and what felt like a slightly worse game in the second half but one that was by no means disastrous. The burner said 43% so we thought we were done. We rose up to 45% on the last round, and I checked the scores hopefully. Sure enough, on board 16 we had a 3NT making 5 our way entered in the wrong direction. I went over to where they were accepting scoring corrections. The director looked at the board (essentially all 630’s and 660’s for E/W) and remarked that some of these are easy. He made the correction, and I asked if he could check the qualifiers. Happily, our names now appeared 4th from the bottom. The directors joked that celebrating might be a bit premature as there figured to be lots of corrections coming in from this particular event.

I showed up the next morning about 20 minutes before game time to buy an entry. On the wall was a list of qualifiers as of 9:30 PM Thursday. Sadly, we were no longer on the list, nor were we in the first six non-qualifiers. I asked one of the directors standing there what had happened, and he indicated there has been a lot of scoring changes. In addition, I knew there had been a bunch of penalties for slow play assessed and I wondered personally if some of those had been rescinded; after all, it can be very difficult to assign the actual guilty party in such a hectic event and I figured it could easily be possible for a few pairs on the bubble to make a successful case that their slow play penalty was unwarranted. I quickly checked the recaps in the room to see if there was an error I had missed from the morning, but they had not been updated and all the scores seemed right save for the one I had already reported. Disappointed, I got in touch with Barry, we made a brief run at trying to find teammates to play in the compact before settling on the 10 & 3 pair game, and had a couple of middling sets.

Last week, I emailed the ACBL to see if I could get my recap sheets to see how close we had come. On getting the recap sheets, I realized that the scoring error I had reported was no longer corrected. The link below is what was posted on Saturday August 10 (I assume the date at the top indicates when the recap was generated). Note that if we got the proper result as J4 E/W on board 16, we would have had enough matchpoints to qualify for day 2 as two pairs in our direction would have been behind us.

I wrote back to Keith Wells at the ACBL asking how this could have happened. Clearly, at some point between the bulletin being published (when we were in) and 9:30 (when we were back out), either a technological or a human error occurred which rescinded our correction. He gave a brief answer suggesting that my opponents might have objected or needed to approve the change, and when I replied suggesting that was unlikely to apply in this instance where the score change was obvious, he didn't respond. I also messaged Bryan Delfs who works for the ACBL on this site as he has been responding to some of the other controversies from Atlanta, and he did not respond.

I have three thoughts:

1. I think it would be a good idea for there to be a final list of all the players that played on day 1 of a national event on the wall. Include the qualifiers and the non-qualifiers. If I had been able to see a complete list and that we were out by 35 MP, I would have had just cause to disturb a director selling entries and take a look at the specific scores from yesterday to check on my correction which I knew to be 40 or so matchpoints in total. With no such information, I had no way of knowing where we were amongst the “non-qualifiers” and whether we had dropped off due to other scoring corrections around us. This isn’t a lot of additional work for the directors, who I know work very long hours at these tourneys for little compensation. It doesn’t require putting up 40 updated recap sheets, but just one additional sheet as a backup check for issues such as these. 

2. I think there needs to be a plan going forward that allows ACBL players to get a link texted or emailed to them when the final results have been posted in multiple day national events. This happens routinely in the world of road racing where I or someone interested can get my results almost immediately after I am done with a race or pass a checkpoint. The technology is there and it can’t be too expensive. 

3. Finally, I have to say I am very disappointed with the ACBL in how they handled my complaints. This particular event may be a bit of an outlier, but it still is a national event and they should take the qualification process seriously. Hearing that a pair should have been allowed to play in day 2 of this event but was denied due to an error on their part – I would think they would at the very least apologize and offer some sort of explanation how this could have happened. Both the guys I contacted were unresponsive. I know I have gone to 20+ nationals since I started playing and have spent plenty of thousands of dollars in card fees over the years (my partner in this case even more so). Neither of my emails was contentious or rude, and I understand that everyone makes mistakes and they are part of life. I just wanted an explanation, and wanted to let them know that this happened so it might not occur in future national events. Sadly, I’ve been left feeling that they don’t particularly care.

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