Bermuda RegionalFebruary 4th, 2010
What’s not to love about bridge in Bermuda? This tournament is far and away the classiest in the ACBL, and if you have room in your schedule for only a few tournaments per year, you should definitely make the Bermuda Regional a priority.
A few caveats: Bermuda is expensive. Flights are expensive, rooms are expensive, food is expensive, and entries are expensive ($13/session — but that money goes toward some pretty fantastic prizes and hospitality). This just isn’t a tournament you can do on a budget — but it’s so worth it.
Bermuda is a tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (about 700 miles due east of the Carolinas), with lots and lots of wind. Sometimes it is too windy to land a plane, especially for US-based airlines which have tougher restrictions for landing in windy conditions. This year, several flights got turned around without landing, and people were late by a day or two to the tournament. McKenzie and I hedge our bets by flying in early each year. The tournament starts on Saturday night, but there’s a Friday night club game, so we’ve always arrived on Friday in time for the club — planning for this allows us one extra day of flexibility, just in case. (Side note — the Bermuda Bridge Club is the only club I’ve ever seen with a full bar. Bermudians know how to party.)
So the Bermuda Regional is not the easiest tournament to get to, but once you make it, you’ll be glad you went to the trouble. The tournament kicks off on Saturday night with a charity game and a formal cocktail party. Players are encouraged to dress formally. Formal dress is not a requirement, but you will feel severely underdressed if you don’t participate. Most of the men wear tuxedos, and I embraced the opportunity to wear a fine evening gown. It’s so nice to see everyone get all spruced up, and it really sets the tone for the rest of the week.
This tournament is probably a lot different from what you’re used to. The events are scheduled horizontally, and there is only one full KO, which runs Monday through Thursday, afternoon sessions only. Pair games are in the evenings (with side pairs running every session). This makes it easier for the locals who work during the day — they can still come in the evening and play championship events.
You’ll find that the stratifications are much lower than you’re used to as well, with flight A starting at 1250 points. Most Bermudians just don’t have the opportunity to score lots of masterpoints, unless they travel extensively to the US for tournaments. There are plenty of strong and expert players on the island, but most have fewer than 1000 masterpoints, and nearly all have fewer than 2000. That’s why the strats are so low.
Hospitality at the Bermuda Regional is second to none (lots of my MABC friends are making faces at me now, but it’s true). There’s always a wonderful array of desserts and snacks between sessions and at night, and you’ll definitely want to be there the night that Gosling’s sponsors the cocktail party. Gosling’s is the best rum in Bermuda — mix it with Gosling’s ginger beer and you’ve got the national drink of Bermuda: the Dark & Stormy. Mmm…
Location & Alternative Accommodations
The tournament is held at the Fairmont Southampton (not to be confused with the Fairmont Hamilton 20 minutes away). Room rates are about what you’d expect from a luxury hotel in a hot vacation destination, and for an optional additional fee, you can purchase the meal plan. Whether you stay at the host or another hotel, I definitely recommend purchasing the meal plan. The food here is top notch, and it’s just too much trouble to try to get out to other restaurants on the island — you can’t rent a car, and cabs aren’t cheap either.
- 3/4 of our team enjoying dinner at the Pompano
I recommend staying off site at the Pompano Beach Club. It’s about a 15-minute taxi ride from the host, but dozens of other bridge players stay there, so you can always share a cab and a table at dinner. The meals at the Pompano are nothing short of perfection. I’ve never eaten better in my life. It’s still not cheap, but it’s a good bit less expensive than the Fairmont, and the general consensus is that the food and service is better at the Pomp. The meal plan here includes breakfast, where the chefs are more than happy to make anything you want, and as much of it as you can handle, and a five-course dinner each evening.
The Prize Banquet
Do not come to the Bermuda Regional and skip the prize banquet! I don’t know of any other tournaments that hold such a ceremony at the finale, and certainly no other tournament with better prizes. For each of the championship events — Charity Pairs, two 2-session Open Pairs games, two 2-session Swiss Teams games, and the Championship Knockout — the tournament awards prizes to all of the winners (including lower brackets and strata). Individual prizes (beautiful Waterford crystal) are presented to the winners at this formal banquet, and each winner’s name is engraved on a trophy kept at the Bermuda Bridge Club. McKenzie’s name is on four of the trophies so far — he’s hoping to hit for the cycle within the next year or two.
- McKenzie and his partner Jean Johnson pose with one of their two trophies from the 2010 Bermuda Regional
The banquet is so much more than just an awards ceremony — there’s great food and drink, live music and dancing, and you’ll have the opportunity to rub elbows with VIPs from the ACBL and the Bermudian government. I was seated next to 2010 ACBL President Rich DeMartino and his wife Sandy at dinner. We chatted about the future of bridge, especially with regards to the junior program. I’m pleased to say that I’m confident our new President will work hard to promote the game we all love. I’m sure he’ll also be signing the praises of the Bermuda Regional throughout his term. As always, a spectacular tournament.
For hands and more photos from the 2010 Bermuda Regional, read McKenzie’s writeup on DoubleSqueeze.com.