The Bridge Road Warriors: Santa Clara Regional 2013

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The Road Warriors of the bridge world are considered lucky by many of the peers. They are frequently told how great it is to being doing what they love to do as a job.

By GS Jade Barrett
On 2 September, 2013 At 9:58

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Santa Clara Regional, 2013

79th All Western Championships Regional Results

Great American Bridge Tour

Great American Bridge Tour

23:18 1 September 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“I have always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got” – Alan Bond
 
  The Road Warriors of the bridge world are considered lucky by many of the peers. They are frequently told how great it is to being doing what they love to do as a job. Sometimes they agree, despite the fact that they are almost too worn out to socialize.
 
       Road Warriors come in several types:
 
      * The full time Professional *
      * The full time Amateur *
      * The full time Director *
      * The full time Caddy *
 
       While there are unique characteristics of all categories, they also share more than a few issues. The coast to coast travelers are almost all permanently jet lagged. The difficulty of eating in any way resembling a healthy manner. The near impossible task of exercising. The packing and unpacking as they relocate from city to city, hotel to hotel is also a constant. Some travel heavy, others carry light,  but all have to face the discomfort of moving weekly. While the Great American Bridge Tour flies almost exclusively, more than a few of the travelers make the transition by car, often driving fourteen or more hours to the next tournament site. Personally, I find driving five or six hours passable, longer than that unpalatable. In any event, we all travel Sunday night or Monday morning to start the whole process over again.
     So it has gone for my traveling since 1990, relocating virtually every seven days for over forty weeks a year.
      I’s a living.

Great American Bridge tour

Great American Bridge tour

16:31 31 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.

 
“No matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shake the soul and let the glory out” – Al Gore
 
 We just had a difficult loss, not because the margin was so narrow, but because so many members of our team were disappointed in their personal performance. Guessing poorly or being unlucky are just those things – they are not included in the evaluation of anyone’s efforts. An inadequate effort is the sole reason for this failure.
 
It is not surprising that every human snatches defeat from the jaws of victory from time to time (Michael Jordan has stated that “26 times I was trusted to take the winning shot, and missed”), for some of us, it has become an art form.
 
“It is one thing to lose, another to lose in spectacular fashion” a late friend said to me. “If you are going to go down in flames, do it with style and panache”. Easy words for Charlie Coon of Gloucester, Massachusetts, a man who won North American Championships in each of six decades.
 
Still, it disturbs us when we do something foolish, something silly or something careless. We all make mistakes our novice friends don’t make. Many time World Champion Alan Sontag’s take on this has stood the test of time well – “It’s not the handling of the difficult hands that makes the winning player, there aren't enough of them. It is the ability to not mess up the easy ones”.
 
 Today we were not as winning as we could be.

  01:27   31 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“But one discarded dreams and got dressed, and made what one could of the day” – Dick Francis Whip Hand
 
As we enter Day Four of the All Western Championships, we have already won one event, made the Semifinals of two more, and have a 5th and a 5/6th. We have been competing in three sessions of Swiss or Knock Out team events a day.
 
North American Regional bridge tournaments are marathon affairs (and we apparently like them that way, there are over 350 majors a year), with events at 9:00, 13:00 and 19:00 of either 24 or 26 boards a session. Each session lasts somewhere around three hours, causing the Great American Bridge Tour staff to sit at the tables for roughly eleven hours total before our work day is done. At least we have a reasonable break between 16:15 and 19:00 for dinner and a nap.
 
This is typical of American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) tournaments; no one has to play every session, but the traveling teams  are very likely to. This requires an emotional stamina that is rarely seen in other lines of work, for every team loses far more often than they win. It is therefore critical for our company to field six person teams – we simply  cannot play each session with all of our heart every hand; the athlete needs a rest, the partnerships need the occasional break from each other.
 
I have suggested that three hours of competition is like five hours of work. Multiply that by the total number of sessions of a given ACBL Regional (usually 17) and you are suddenly busy for eighty-five hours over the seven days. Now consider that I personally attend thirty nine weeks of tournaments every calendar year. Just in tournament time, I play upwards of 3,665 hours a year.
 
 No wonder I have a sleep debt larger than the USA’s fiscal deficit.

00:14 30 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your tricks of war” – Napoleon Bonaparte
Geoffrey S. Jade Barrett en Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

Geoffrey S. Jade Barrett en Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

The Bay Area of San Francisco and Silicon Valley is or was home to many of the USA's greatest bridge athletes. Grant Baze, Lew and Joanna Stansby, the Martel’s, Mike Lawrence, Rita Shugart, Rose Meltzer, Kyle Larsen, Ron Smith, Karen Barrett and so many others created a powerful learning environment for every level of play, for much of the game is learned by osmosis. The downside of an insulated field is that everybody learns how to beat everyone else.

In Fred Karpin’s excellent text from 1960, Psychological Strategy in Contract Bridge, he maintains that no expert truly plays a “book game” – you become too easy to play against. With this in mind, we rotate our partnerships as well as our opponents in order to avoid providing too much practice for our adversaries. We do not want them to know us too well.
 
While our team plays either Pressure 2/1 or Havoc, we all have our minor style differences. Jeff Roman, Blair Seidler and myself are all greater risk takers, while my wife Karen, James Jake Jacobson and Anne Dawson are fairly tame. This blend of styles works well within the partnerships, providing for more dynamic decision making. And often spectacular results (from both perspectives: good or bad). One thing for certain, we are never dull.
 
And this is what Karen wrote us:  Hmmm, perhaps “tame” is not the correct adjective. In a partnership, it is best to have a pitcher and a catcher. Two pitchers sometimes leads to large negative numbers . I play catcher with Jade and pitcher in some other lineups. Karen

10:00 29 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“Well, I always had this desire to celebrate and be a part of things I thought were really great” – John Hodgman.
 
Since matches do not always go well, it is important to celebrate your survival of them, win or lose. Hence the “Team Dinner “.
 
We have experienced some amazing restaurants in our extended travels, finding some unexpected excellence in the most unlikely of locales. Tulsa, Oklahoma is home to one of the best Italian restaurants we have ever had the pleasure of dining at – Cafe Ravenna. There are many others: Grand Coulee, Washington has a great Mexican restaurant which (we can never remember the name of, but always stop at); Deep Cove Chalet – a truly magnificent restaurant on the Saanich Peninsula, just north of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; Willow Creek  in Evergreen, Colorado and  Café des Artiste in Puerto Vallarta, MX…and we constantly are on the lookout for more.
 
Team Dinner is important for bonding, so much so that we forbid discussions regarding methods or hands for the most part. It is not that we do not want to work on our weaknesses, but that we need the time to share our enjoyment of each other. To this end, I add my own words:
 
    “Celebrate your successes. Embrace your failures” – GS Jade Barrett

12:48 28 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning” – Billie Jean King
 
 Monday Evening sees the start of the first major event of the week at the 79th All Western Championships here in Santa Clara, California. The Kit Carson 4 session Knock Out represented an increase in the quality of the field with the arrival of the World Class team of  Rourke, Jacobus, Cheek and Hampson, as well as local powers captained by Gene Simpson, Billie Miller and Kit Woolsey.
 
Since every team is strong, it is not all that unusual that three of the other four favorites have fallen, leaving our Great American Bridge Tour team in a better position to succeed, but by no means assured of victory.
 
The difference between a Major League Baseball player and a second division one is that the Major Leaguer is great 29 1/2 days while the lesser performs at the level 29. The separation of top level bridge athletes from the second tier is less than that.
 
 For my personal beliefs on the factors that determine the quality of a player, I believe that the ability to withstand loss is primary. To face down defeat after defeat and come back with the conviction that you will be victorious is the hallmark of greatness in humans in general – in a champion it is required. A great competitor also has very little concern about how their game looks – they are focused on winning. It is better to take an ugly action that wins as opposed to making the perfect book play that sustains the loss.
 
For our team,  I prefer great competitors over great technical players. Though to be fair, I would rather they be both.

17:37 27 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism, the way you play it is free will” – Jawaharlal Nehru
 
The Great American Bridge Tour is known for an exceptionally aggressive style of play based on a Losing Trick Count hand evaluation. When the hands lend themselves to this attacking 2/1 system named “Pressure” (as suggested by several different opponents after facing the method in its early stages of development), the results can be astoundingly good.
 
The flip side of the coin is that when the cards run bad, the pressure is on us. The  system is fun to play, and has stood us well over the last ten years or so. It certainly can be argued that it is not the best system, but it is ours and we accept its eccentricities. All we know is that while our erstwhile opponents may be confident, no one is comfortable playing against us.
 
There is an amazing amount of room for creativity in the game – no perfect system, no perfect philosophy. The best any athlete can hope to do is to compete with passion and vigor, utilizing methods that match their personal proclivities. They most also bring their full attention to every deal, counting out the suits and high cards,  looking for partner’s signals and maintain an emotional balance.
 
Every bidding system should include a judicious quantity of serenity.
 
Every player has their day, make every effort to make this day yours.

 
11:49 27 August 2013 by  GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
 
“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose” – President Lyndon Johnson
       Our team arrives from different corners of the USA: Louisiana, South Dakota, New Jersey, Iowa, Hawaii and California. The trek is long for all of us, but worth the effort, for the Santa Clara Regional is a large competition (over 2500 tables over the seven days) where over 1900 players compete.
 
     The names are familiar to many players from the USA, not so much to those from beyond our shores – though the Internet has changed that somewhat, providing a crossing of the seas that makes every game something of a local one. Anten, Gross, Mohan, Horiguchi, Smith, Russell, Boyd, Bertens, Nemiro, Doner, and Miller, who join a host of other fine athletes and those who direct them in addition to our own team of Barrett, Dawson, Seidler, Roman and Jacobson guaranteeing a powerful field. With 155,000 or so members in the  American Contract Bridge League – 40,000 or more of whom travel to our larger tournaments – it comes as no surprise that there are many reasonably unknown strong competitors.
 
     The opening competition is one session, either Swiss or Pairs as you choose. This initial event functions as a social gathering in many ways, as friends greet and catch up on the news. The play is still serious, of course, and our team is disappointed with a narrow loss in the first of the four matches.
 
     The week is young, however, and as has always been the case, we have lost before and mixed in with our successes, we will lose again. But not if we can help it.

79th All Western Championships Regional Tuesday results

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