Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trumps in Toronto

Strong Body, Strong Mind: Trumps in Toronto
I am an avid duplicate bridge player…..why, you ask? It surely is a stark contrast to my otherwise youthful, athletic existence. I love all challenges, and I am intense and competitive in everything I do. Bridge is one of the oldest, and most complex games in the world. There are more possible combinations of 52 cards than there are seconds since the beginning of the universe, making it impossible to simple memorize patterns and apply rules.
I have been fortunate to represent Florida at the national level four times. In July we traveled to Toronto to compete in a national team competition with two other of our Jacksonville friends. We first had to win at the local club level to gain the right to compete to win our district.  All four of us are solid intermediate players with enough brains and passion for bridge to win our fair share of local games, so this was not much of a problem.
All four of us still work full time and lead fully, busy lives, so we are all very realistic about the time and importance we can spend on our bridge game. We love to play, and we love to play at a high level and try to win, but we all understand that it is not the end of the world if we don’t. Sometimes life gets inn the way and we don’t play our best.
The District competition was very intense this year. There were several solid teams with players I recognized, players who had won the event before, including The Loebs with most of their former winning team still intact. They were probably the best team in the room on pure depth of bridge knowledge and experience. Of course we had to play them first………head to head, and only one of us would advance.
We had a misunderstanding right off the bat, and we went for -1400 and a huge point deficit. We stayed focused, played hard, and were ahead by a decent margin at the half.  I could tell that it was bothering them we had caught up, because they starting making some unforced errors.  We played hard the second half and made few serious errors.  They also played hard and made up some ground, but we still came out ahead. We had two more solid victories and we were the District 9 champs and headed to Toronto for Nationals.
The competition was intense on the first day, as 25 teams vied for 16 spots.  We had never had a good national showing in this event, and we were bound and determined to make it past this qualifying round.
They key is staying positive, focused, and executing your game plan, rather than letting the opponents and mistakes distract you into not playing your best. It is very difficult to develop razor sharp mental focus and endurance, when we also work full time jobs, and cannot devote enough time to working on our bridge game. This first day of play would last for eight hours, with a dinner break in the middle.
We played fairly consistently and won 3 of our first 4 matches, heading in to the break in good spirits. Even when things are going well, we could not afford to get complacent. All the teams were the best from their district, and they all wanted to win! We finished out the day with 6 wins, 2 losses and 4th place.
As the number 4 seed, we were able to choose our opponent for the round of 16.  In this round you play the same team all day to the tune of 96 deals to determine a winner. We chose a Canadian team we had beaten handily in the round robin.
The first half of the match was fairly tight. We were behind by only 8 international match points, a deficit that could be made up in one hand. We had played a bit sloppily, so we needed to rest well during the dinner break and come back fighting for the win. The third quarter we decimated our opponents, making up over 40 points and pulling ahead. The last quarter we kept it tight and did not give up very much, so we won and advanced to the round of 8!
The round of 8 was played in a special closed room with no spectators, and playing screens.  The barrier divides the table in half and you only see one of your opponents, but not your partner or the other opponent. The bids go on a tray which is passed under the barrier during the auction. Screens are used to minimize cheating at high levels of play, and we were new to this. It was very intense and exciting.
The team we played was really tough.  We kept it tight for the first half, but they were making far fewer mistakes than we. They definitely seemed to have better focus then we did, and handled the fatigue of playing long hours several days in a row, much better than we did.
It is particularly challenging for Bill and I to maintain a razor sharp focus for many sessions in a row. We are both natural extroverts to the max, and we love to socialize and make friendly conversation.  In bridge that is costly to us………once we start talking between hands, we make too many mistakes to play to our full potential.  When we get fatigued, or have a few bad deals, we both are more likely to revert back to being social and not using all our brain cells on the cards in front of us.
We honestly fell apart in royal fashion in the third and fourth quarters of this match against a very tough California team. The mistakes just snow balled into more and more losses, and we lost the match by a lot.  This team ended up winning the entire event, so we were not ashamed to lose to them at all.  I was very proud and excited for our team to have played at this level, and placed 5th-8th in this event.
Everything I take on in life I tend to do with passion and intensity. I approach my work, hobbies, relationships and philanthropy that way.  I could enter easy bridge events and play a more relaxed game, but it just would not be me. I love to go to the big tournaments and play against the best players in the country. The losses are exhausting, but the wins are even more rewarding.
That is kind of how I feel at the end of an intricate real estate transaction. I would love for all the moving parts to move along perfectly and smoothly, but it rarely happens that way. Unexpected obstacles always present themselves, and I thrive on navigating them and creating the best result for my customers.

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