At 3 in the morning we broke the study session. "All I want to do the first day is to remember who dealt and if it's my opening lead and no misdeals," Cave said prayerfully.
"And all I hope is I can remember that clubs and diamonds are 20 each," I said, "and spades and hearts are 30 each and a little slam vulnerable is 1,000."
"Seven fifty," said Cave.
The great masters were ready.
Alfred Sheinwold, author, bridge champion and director of the tournament, delivered the opening remarks the next day. "This is the biggest money bridge tournament ever held," Sheinwold said, looking out over a sea of Schenkens and Jacobys and Stones and a little puddle of Cave and Olsen, "but we're going to keep it on a very relaxed basis and not be rough with anybody.... If you lead out of turn or misdeal or something like that, it's not the end of the world."
"Oh, yes, it is!" Cave muttered.
"We'll swap the decks around to help prevent any cheating," Sheinwold went on, "and we'll have some casino men around who'll know what to look for if anybody starts dealing too skillfully."
Sheinwold said that only "Standard American bridge" would be played, but that each pair would be permitted three deviations, a remark which caused some raised eyebrows in the sophisticated audience. He meant that players would be expected to bid and play in roughly the normal style, but that teams could have a maximum of three special conventions or understandings, provided they carefully explained them in advance to their opponents. None of this meant a thing to Cave and me. Clean-cut fellows, we played as we lived: with no deviations. Our only conventions were second hand low, third hand high and always start with the fork at the farthest left unless you skip the salad.
Grimly we headed for the table and our first match. We would have to play eight-hand matches against each of six pairs and repeat the ordeal against six other pairs the next day. To qualify for the knockout matches for the big money, we had to win six of our first 12 matches. Ha-ha. "Now, don't worry, Ray," I said. "You'll shuffle just fine."
"And you'll score just fine," he said. "The only thing I ask is that you promise not to cry."