03:18 16 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«The thrill of coming home has never changed» – Guy Pearce
The TOUR always dines together on closing night to remember that we are a family as well as a team. Since we compete daily, we need the break from the game and with that in mind we have a rule – no discussion of hands, system or hypothetical bidding problems. There is a fifty dollar fine for starting a conversation with » You hold…».
On the morrow we fly to our respective homes: Jim Looby to Las Vegas; Anne Dawson to Delhi, Louisiana; Jeff Roman to Bend, Oregon; James «Jake » Jacobson to Sioux City, Iowa; my wife Karen and myself to Elk Point, South Dakota. Our trips are long, mostly seven wearying hours or more, yet there is always a sense of relief and a burst of energy for me when I finally walk through my kitchen door. I cannot speak for the others, but for myself, the visits help keep me grounded.
Our week in Taos at the United States Bridge Federation Championships was a rousing success as we won two events to go with a second, a third/fourth a few other low places. Any time you win over 100 Masterpoints at a tournament you have accomplished a lot. Still, it i hard to forget the events you let slip away.
That being said, it does motivate me to make the effort to perform better next time – practice, practice, practice. The attendance broke 1200 tables, surprising everyone from competitors to the organizers. Congratulations to all those who worked so hard to please so many people. We thank all of you.
Next stop for the Bridge Road Warriors of the Great American Bridge Tour: Tucson, Arizona for another top tier American Contract Bridge League District 17 Regional.
02:28 15 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«The world doesn’t end just because one thing goes wrong» – Shelley Duvall
Today my partnership lost more than 75 IMPs in bidding errors, poor judgement or carding errors. We made mistakes that would embarrass far less experienced players than us. We felt bad for our teammates, as well as each other. We won every match.
I am constantly telling the athletes who train with me that the «…effort to play perfectly is a sure path to madness». My wife has said that I have been insane for years. Though I know that these words are true, I cannot help trying to be 100% all the time. Everyone works hard to make the working bid or play, everyone believes they can (no matter how much evidence they have to the contrary). Our humanity always seems to get in our way.
Our teammates Anne Dawson and Karen Lee Barrett played well, and deserved the victory they attained. We applaud their efforts. Meanwhile, my partner and I had our good moments, too. Just not as many as we should.
Edgar Kaplan once told me that if he held his minus positions to less than 1 1/2 Imps per board for the total number of boards in the match, his team would almost assuredly emerge victorious. That means in a 24 deal contest, he expected to make 36 Imps worth of mistakes. Someday I hope to only lose 36 IMPs – currently I am averaging 39.
I believe that every hand I play is an investment in my future as a player, therefore I play as I hard as I can all the time. Sometimes, I just run out of fuel – which happens to me far more often than I would like. Bridge is certainly a stamina event, and playing twelve hours a day does take its toll. The effort to never tire is crazy, too.
The best I can hope for is that the energy I do expend is well worth it. Today it certainly was. I made two excellent decisions: I chose the right partner and I selected the right teammates.
17:13 13 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«Rain is good for me. I feel I achieve clarity actually, when it rains. The longer I have to sit and wait, the clearer my game becomes for me» – Venus Williams
Taos, New Mexico is listed as a semi-arid climate. Except this week. While we have not experienced any disruption of the tournament, there have been flash floods and road closures all around us.
Bridge athletes being who they are, more than a few have weathered the storms, traveling around mudslides; circumnavigating the swollen rivers; generally taking their lives into their own hands to arrive at the site in time to play.
On the James Farley Post Office in New York City there is an inscription that reads «Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds». This translation of the original Herodotus’ Histories referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire well describes the commitment of these fiercely determined competitors.
There are many tales of fires in hotels, earthquakes, blackouts (I once tied for first in a Knock Out when a lightning strike took out the playing venue’s electrical transformer), blizzards, ice storms and other catastrophic events of biblical proportions delaying the start, or extending the session that the tournament player takes in stride. After all, it’s not like it’s the end of the world, and there is another deal to be played.
The Tournament Directors take it all in stride. With Director-in-Charge, Gary Zeiger, marshalling his troops, the Taos Regional has been remarkably well run. We thank all the staff for their excellent service to bridge.
There are two more full days of competition to go in Taos, we will not miss a minute.
12:34 12 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words» – Platus
While we hate losing, sometimes you just have to gather together as a team to enjoy each other’s company, commiserate and laugh. Our connection allows us to root for each other, primarily because we need to. We have been together as a team for almost five years and despite the fact that there are athletes who play better or who are better known, the cohesion of our group has ensured both our endurance and our success.
The revered Team Dinner, provides us the opportunity to wine and dine at some delightful establishment – tonight’s adventure was a trip to Martyr’s Steakhouse in Taos, New Mexico. There resides an excellent chef, whose wild boar and lamb shanks, fried herb polenta and spicy cream of asparagus soup were both interesting and flavorful. The wine selection was balanced, though the addition of a few more Cab’ss would not hurt. The service provided by our waiter, Justin, was excellent.
THE Wine: Barolo
Karen Lee Barrett (LEFT) and Anne Dawson (Right) enjoying lamb shanks and wild boar respectively at the GREAT AMERICAN BRIDGE TOUR Team Dinner..
When they run out of Barolo, Barbera D’Asti is an acceptable replacement.
The Taos Regional staff has also done a great job with their tournament. Despite there not being a convenient airport, the attendance numbers are strong, the events are all challenging and the hospitality is being enjoyed by all.
23:15 11 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it» – Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest football coach in history.
The life stock of a team is their losses. It is those failings that become an investment in their future, provided they survive them.
As in any business, when things do not go well, there is additional strain on everyone. The competitive environment is already a stressful one, no matter how much we enjoy the game. The passions always run high, and when the matches are down to the very last boards, the intensity increases exponentially. Only the emotionally fittest survive – win or lose.
Hence, it is sometimes easier to handle the catastrophic loss, where your team was simply out of the match from the first few deals. I know of no teams that have not been crushed at some point in their career, even the greatest experience devastating defeats from time to time. It is the loss by less than 10 imps that are the ones that seem to suffer endless review.
But each day of the tournament brings more opportunities for growth through adversity, toughening our spirit as we hone our skills. With luck and focus, our next session will be our best.
Karen Lee Barrett wore her flag boots in memory of 9/11. GS Jade Barrett
23:30 10 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«Show class, have pride, and practice character. If you do, winning takes care of itself» – Alabama coaching legend Paul «Bear» Bryant
Today our team:GS Jade Barrett, Karen Lee Barrett, Anne Dawson, Jim Looby, Jim Jacobson, Jeff Roman, won coming from behind in both the Semifinals and the Finals of the Enchanted Circle Bracketed Knock-Out.Enchanted Circle Bracketed KO Results
Every team we faced was a threat to win at every stage of the event. Every team has character and ability, every team is capable. Today was just our day.
I have written before about how virtually every match is lost as opposed to won, how the game is more about who makes the fewest mistakes, but when you are trailing you are sometimes required to bid more aggressively than you would otherwise, or take the second best line to make or defeat a contract. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes that means playing in a very uncomfortable manner.
Those with a big lead cannot afford complacency, either. They have to be even more vigilant, as they are well aware that a capable team will attack their lead at every opportunity. To a certain extent, in an odd way, they have to play a little uglier, too.
Knowing your IMP chart is critical, as well as learning to determine what par is on a board (the best both sides can do on a given hand, for example if you are at favorable vulnerability and have 9 tricks in Hearts and they have 10 tricks in Spades, par is 5 doubled down 2). If you have the skills well honed, no 40 IMP lead is insurmountable in a 12 board segment.
It is just hard to do.
18:03 10 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food» Chef Paul Prudhomme
A benefit of the six person team is that somebody gets a longer meal break. At noon, this is quite a luxury. Today, Anne Dawson and I spent a delightful 75 minutes at Michael’s Kitchen Cafe and Bakery.
A fixture in Taos for 39 years – plus a chef who has worked in that kitchen for 53 years – this establishment has survived economic downturns, changing tastes and the fickle nature of consumers for generations…and for good reason.
The moment we walked in the door, the aroma of freshly baked breads and pastries wafts as if on a gentle breeze to your nose. Now that is a greeting I appreciate. The decor is rustic and there is an ancient bar in the center of the room. Michael himself was there and I spoke with him for a few minutes. For a guy who turned the restaurant over to he kids, he still seems well involved as a host. And he is a good one.
I love places like this, where time stands still – or at least runs a little slower. The service was attentive, the prices comfortable and the food well above average. Another America’s Dining and Travel Guide and Great American Bridge Tour recommended eating establishment has been found. www.michaelskitchen.com
00:08 9 September 2013 by GS Jade Barrett, USA CSBNews correspondent.
«The Land of Enchantment» – Official State slogan of New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico is very high. At 6926 feet (2124 meters), the sea level dwellers are unaccustomed to the lower oxygen levels and they tire faster. Optimally, we would bring the TOUR team in a day or two early, but logistically it is hard to do. The city itself is small, just under 6,000 souls reside here. That in itself does not indicate a small tournament, as Gatlinburg, Tennessee host of the world’s largest annual tournament (regularly over 10,000 tables) is a city of around 3500 citizens.
This week’s adventure is a tournament that acts as a fund raiser for the United States Bridge Federation. Different American Contract Bridge League Districts run it each year, and Taos hosts their first tournament of this size ever. Our Bridge Road Warriors this week are Karen Lee Barrett, James Jacobson, Jim Looby, Anne Dawson, Jeff Roman, Bjorgvin Mar Kristinsson and myself. This is one of the strongest teams we field, and we will need to be at our best. The drive was a pleasant opportunity to reconnect the team, as a few of us had the week off, and after arriving at our home for the week and a couple of hours of napping, we launched ourselves into the fray.
We hope to see over 600 different athletes attend, and strong players have arrived in force. Bruce Ferguson and Brenda Keller, Becky Rogers and John Grantham, Becky and Roger Clough are just a few of the notable former World and North American Champions that we will compete against during our time here.
With a well played match to start the week, we have survived until the morning, where we have another opportunity to succeed in this truly enchanting land of duplicate contract bridge.