Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bridge Blog 930: Bits 'n pieces

          It took a game without a prearranged partner to derail my upward trajectory for the start of 2017.
Eva Posener, a lovely octogenarian who will tell you herself that she’s the weakest player in almost any room she enters, was pulled away from her usual role as kibitzer to her partner, Ted Kahn, to play with me on Monday, Jan. 9. It was something of a miracle that we finished over 50%.
          Nevertheless, the trendline clearly had topped out and it’s been a bumpy ride ever since. But not an unproductive one, point-wise. Here’s the recap:
          Monday, Jan. 9, with Eva Posener. 51.42%, fourth in B strat overall, 0.62 of a point.
          Tuesday, Jan. 10, with Pawan Matta. 46.25%. The downturn is real. No points.
          Wednesday, Jan. 11, with Marilyn Sultz. 54% in a three-table game. A dead cat bounce?  Second in B. 0.95 of a point.
          Thursday, Jan. 12, with Marietta Kalman. 59.58%, bouncing still higher with the best game of the year so far. Second in A, first in B. We get our names in the paper along with 1.90 points.
          Friday, Jan. 13, with Selina Volpatti at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. 52.53%, sixth in A, third in B in a 15½ table game. 0.44 of a point. No bonus points here.
          Saturday, Jan. 14, with no partner, assigned to play with Denise Slattery. Slid in with 46.82%, but still third in B and second in C (Denise has hardly any points). 1.09 master points.
          Monday, Jan. 16, no partner and unable to play both Martin Luther King Day games at the Airport Bridge Club. New orders at The Buffalo News oblige me to start my shift as night rewrite man at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. Assigned to play the morning session with Joe Rooney, we had a safe and sane game. 51.37%. Third in A, second in B in our direction. Fourth in B overall. 0.91 of a master point.
          Tuesday, Jan. 17, last game with Barbara Sadkin before she goes into the Cleveland Clinic for colon surgery and it’s a good send-off. 54.17%. She’s declarer in something like a dozen hands. I’m declarer just twice. Third in A North-South, fifth in A overall. 0.83 of a point.
          Wednesday, Jan. 18, Marilyn Sultz and I are the best of the gang of people bunched up in the second tier, well behind the leading group. 48.61%, fourth in A, third in B. 0.92 of a point.
          Thursday, Jan. 19, no partner (Barbara Sadkin canceled), so Pawan Matta came in as a sub. A joy to play with her, but results are just about as poor as last week. 47.81%. Once again, no points.  

          Unspectacular, to be sure, but points seem to be accumulating incrementally anyway – 9.40 at the Airport Bridge Club, 0.75 in St. Catharines. Eleven days to go and I’ve hit double digits. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bridge Blog 929: Closing out 2016

Despite the big winter storm that shut down the ACBL offices south of Memphis on Friday, they’ve managed to get the year-end master point race results posted. And thanks to Bill Finkelstein submitting his Airport Bridge Club numbers comfortably ahead of the deadline, we know what we got and where we stand.
For me, no surprises. Ace of Clubs total (club play only) is 140.73. Mini McKenney total (all points collected everywhere) is 185.17, slightly surpassing my goal of 15 points per month. Lifetime total is now 2,144.42. Continuing at this pace, Gold Life Master will come along somewhere around Christmas 2018. So what’s my place in the big picture? Let’s see.
Unit 116 (Buffalo) Ace of Clubs Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points). I’m a lonely third. Ken Meier’s on top with 177.78, then it’s Mike Silverman, 170.20; me, 140.73; Fred Yellen, 115.04; Gene Finton, 103.59; Allen Beroza, 97.48; Vince Pesce, 86.89; Bill Finkelstein, 59.48; Anne Watkins, 55.55.
Unit 116 Ace of Clubs (all players). I’m ninth. First, as expected, is Jerry Geiger, 242.96. Then it’s Judi Marshall, 178.31; Ken Meier, 177.78; Ron Henrikson, 174.63; Tom Koralewski, 170.29; Mike Silverman, 170.20; Liz Clark, 164.40; John Ziemer, 153.07; me, 140.73; Martin Pieterse, 140.27; Mike Ryan, 139.04.
Unit 116 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Masters. I’m fifth in a cluster of players bunched second to fifth. Way out ahead is Ken Meier with 283.84. Then it’s Fred Yellen, 194.06; David Hemmer, 189.99; Mike Silverman, 185.75; me, 185.17; Allen Beroza, 129.01; Gene Finton, 122.56; Vince Pesce, 102.63; Art Morth, 90.64; Chongmin Zhang, 62.39.
Unit 116 Mini McKenney (all players). I’m 22nd. Leader is Saleh Fetouh with 459.70. Then it’s John Welte, 393.09; wife and partner Martha Welte, 384.18; Jerry Geiger, 374.25; Tom Koralewski, 333.86; Mike Ryan, 324.78; Dian Petrov, 311.01; John Ziemer, 298.35; Ken Meier, 283.84; and Jay Levy, 279.21. Fred Yellen, David Hemmer, Mike Silverman and I hold down 19th to 22nd spots. In 23rd, the eminent Dan Gerstman with 184.25.
District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs Ruby Life Masters. We Buffalonians hold the top three spots. Overall, against all District 5 club players, we’re 10th, 14th and 30th. Then it’s Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, with 124.81, and Doris Kirsch from East Springville, Pa., with 123.71. Fred Yellen is seventh. Gene Finton is 12th. Allen Beroza is 15th.
Leader among all District 5 Ace of Clubs players is our Jerry Geiger, with 242.96. He’s followed by Arlene Port of Pittsburgh with 236.66; Charles Smith of Erie, Pa., with 207.60; Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 207.10; and Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh with 205.58. Judi Marhsall is ninth with her 178.31. Ken Meier is 10th with 177.78. Ron Henrikson is 11th with 174.63. Tom Koralewski is 13th with 170.29. Mike Silverman is 14th with 170.20. Liz Clark is 164.40 and 16th.
District 5 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Masters. Ken Meier is second, I’m 11th. Here’s the lineup: Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, 544.98; Ken Meier, 283.84; Charles Ladiha of Vermillion, Ohio, 247.85; Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, 237.89; Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh; 219.42; Unit 116’s Fred Yellen, 194.06; Ami Ellis of Pittsburgh, 192.46; Martin Kumer of Monroeville, Pa., 190.95; then three Buffalonians in a row, David Hemmer, 189.99; Mike Silverman, 185.75; and me, 185.17.
Ken Meier is 37th among all District 5 players. Sue Lan Ma is sixth. I’m 96th. Here’s how they line up: Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh, 926.07; Philip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, 715.21; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 613.89 and 586.99, respectively; Kathleen Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 550.42; Sue Lan Ma, 544.98; Don Sulgrove, also of Twinsburg, 474.42; Unit 116 overall leader Saleh Fetouh, 459.70; Mary Chilcote of Cleveland, 459 even; and Jan Assini, formerly of Cleveland, now of Pittsburgh, 443.74. Buffalo’s John Welte is 14th. His wife Martha is 17th. Jerry Geiger is 19th.
Now let’s go nationwide. Ruby Life Master Ace of Clubs leader is Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., with 348.07. Then come Billie Brown of Evansville, Ind., with 314.45; Ariel Libovitz of Houston with 314.23; Ricky Dashefsky of Delray Beach, Fla., with 306.14; Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with 305.46; and Ben Franz of Edgewood, N.M., with 304.34.
Ken  Meier is 132nd. Mike Silverman is 158th. I’m tied for 383rd with Wayne Kooiker of Sun City, Ariz.
Get to the overall Ace of Clubs list nationwide and the point counts are astounding at the top. Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta leads with 744.20. Then come Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, 617.73; Kay Schulle of Purchase, NY, with 574.31; Sheila Gabay of Newton, Mass., with 522.70; and Gail Wells of Dallas with 508.56. The top Ruby Life Master guy from Mississippi is 47th. None of us Unit 116 people are on the list. Wait, there’s Jerry Geiger at 306. You need at least 213.10 points to make the Top 500.
And (drum roll, please) here are the really big guys, the nationwide Mini McKenney players. Amongst Ruby Life Masters, leader is Oren Kriegel of Chicago with 1,294.90. Won’t stay Ruby for long. He’s 46th overall. Then come Mary Jane and Michael Gladfelter of Columbus, Ohio, with 791.22, both 174th overall, followed by Sherman Gao of Laguna Woods, Calif., 706.75; and Jay Segarra of Ocean Springs, Miss., with 644.23.
Topping all players nationwide is Chris Compton of Dallas, who racked up 3,420.55 points in 2016. Following are Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 3,145.22; Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., 2,680.31; Eddie Wold of Houston, 2,608.26; and Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, with 2,572.66. The legendary Jeff Meckstroth is eighth with 2,385.91. Buffalo native Joel Wooldridge, who currently hangs his coat in Astoria, Queens, is 29th with 1,665.96. District 5 champ Reanette Frobouck is 115th. You need 503.66 to make this Top 500 list. No Unit 116 players are on it.

Bridge Blog 928: No place to go but up

          Could 2017 have gotten off to a worse start? No, I’m not talking politics or the weather. I’m talking my game on Monday, Jan. 2, with Tish Schiffman, who helped me establish a new all-time personal low back in September (see Blog 904). We descended to the occasion again to kick off a new year at the tables with a 39.83%, dead last. No place to go but up.
          Sure enough, Tuesday was up. Joyce Greenspan and I turned in a 46.68% game. Not last. Sixth out of eight North-Souths. Improvement continued Wednesday with Pawan Matta, who came in as a substitute when the prospective partner I had in my datebook said I wasn’t in her datebook. A marginal step forward to 47%.
          Thursday the miracle of stratification smiled on me and Marietta Kalman, blessing us with 0.95 of a point, our first reward of the year. Despite a mere 48.15%, we were second in the B strat.
          A drive Friday to St. Catharines, Ont., where there was even less snow than we lucky Buffalo people got Thursday outside the lake-effect storm area, brought me over the 50% boundary, although not by much. Selina Volpatti and I fashioned a 50.15% score out of a boom or bust session that yielded three 13-point absolute tops (including a victory in a 3 Hearts doubled vulnerable contract – see Blog 928-A) and two absolute bottoms. Not surprisingly, our final score was 50.15%. Better than Thursday and good enough for another miracle of stratification – fourth in the B strat (seventh overall) and 0.31 of a master point (no double points over there).
          Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein lured Dottie May in to play with me in a four-table game Saturday and our play felt kind of hit-and-miss. And it was. If not for a good round against Paula Salamone and Eva Posener (9 out of a possible 12 match points), the upward trendline would have broken. Final score: 50.80%. Second in the B strat. And thanks to extra master point awards at the club: 1.23 points. 

Bridge Blog 928-A: Best hand(s) of the year (so far)

           I pick up the South hand and don’t even have to sort it to know that I’m not going to bid on Board 13 on Friday, Jan. 6, at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Ont.
          Spades: K-7-5; Hearts: Q-6-5-4; Diamonds: 9-7-5; Clubs: 9-8-4.
          Plus we’re vulnerable. Partner Selina Volpatti is the dealer. She opens the bidding 1 Heart. Sitting East is Ineke Bezuven and I forget whether she bid. I think not. If she bid, I’d overcall 2 Hearts, just to be competitive. Selina and I are aggressive, if nothing else. Ineke’s husband, John, bids 2 Clubs. Selina goes 2 Diamonds. After Ineke bids 2 Spades, I take a deep breath mentally and put down the 3 Hearts card. John doubles and the double holds.
          Ineke leads the Ace of Spades and Selina artfully accumulates nine tricks, losing only the four outstanding Aces. According to the hand record, North-South should take only eight tricks. East-West, meanwhile, should make 4 Spades or 4 Clubs.
          Turns out that it’s a case of North-South holding all the secondary honors with every King offside. Here’s North:

          Spades: Q-3; Hearts: K-J-7-3-2; Diamonds: K-Q-J-10; Clubs: K-7

And East:
          Spades: A-10-8-4-2; Hearts: 9; Diamonds: 8-6-3-2; Clubs: J-10-2.

And West:
          Spades: J-9-6; Hearts: A-10-8; Diamonds: A-4; Clubs: A-Q-6-5-3.

          Our 730 match point reward is unmatched. Next best North-Souths bid 1 or 2 Hearts and make overtricks for 140. Another bids 2 Hearts and makes it exactly. Two other 3 Heart bidders fall one trick short, but aren’t doubled.
          Surprisingly, only five East-Wests find a Spade contract (one was in 4 Clubs) and only two of them bid game. Topmost is 4 Spades doubled and made for 790 match points. Only one other E-W bid 4 Spades. The E-W winners, Diane Gordon and Andrew Russell get to play it at 2 Spades. They come to our table after the Bezuyens and we trade near-top boards with them.
On Board 15, Andrew bids the makeable 5 Clubs and we deprive them of an overtrick. Only one other E-W goes all the way to 5 Clubs and they make an overtrick. 
On Board 16, discretion wins the day for us. Diane opens a Diamond. Selina, with a 6 HCP hand, passes. Andrew, with 5 HCP, bids his four-card Spade suit. I have 17 HCP, but my best suits are Diamonds and Spades. I pass.
Diane goes to 1 No Trump. I still have nothing to say and that turns out to be just fine. I get to run off a lot of Diamond tricks and Diane’s down two vulnerable. Better than if we bid the 2 NT that’s makeable in our direction. Turns out two other E-Ws meet the same fate.

West (dealer):
Spades: 5-2; Hearts: K-10-2; Diamonds: Q-9-5-4-2; Clubs: A-K-6.

Spades: A-J-9; Hearts: J-9-8-5; Diamonds: 6; Clubs: 10-9-8-4-2.

Spades: K-7-6-4; Hearts: 7-4-3; Diamonds: 7-3; Clubs: Q-7-5-3.

South (me):

Spades: Q-10-8-3; Hearts: A-Q-6; Diamonds: A-K-J-10-8; Clubs: J. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bridge Blog 927: Not so high point

Partner Bob Kaprove and I thought we had a good thing going at the Airport Bridge Club on Tuesday, the first time we’ve played together in ages. In a run of what seemed to be average hands, there was the occasional peak like Board 16 below.
Indeed, our summary shows us a fraction over 50 percent heading into our final round against Linda Vassallo and Wilson McClaren. But then they bid a big Club hand to game and squeezed out an extra trick against us in a sacrifice bid, dropping us to 48.08%. Not last, but no points for us either.
My happiest moment came against Vince Pesce and Usha Khurana in the third round. It wasn’t one of our four top boards – those were all defensive, we were on defense more often than not – but it was one of our two best offensive efforts.
I’m East. We’re vulnerable. Bob’s the dealer. He passes. Vince, North, also passes. I open a Spade with this Aces-and-spaces hand:

Spades: A-9-8-7-2; Hearts: A-7-5; Diamonds: 2; Clubs: A-7-6-4.

Bob responds 1 No Trump. Vince, I believe, bids 2 Diamonds. I come back with my second-best suit, 3 Clubs. If I recall correctly, Usha bids 3 Diamonds and Bob goes up to 4 Clubs, which could be a little too high. After Usha leads an opening Diamond, Bob reveals the dummy.

Spades: 6; Hearts: Q-9-8-2; Diamonds: K-Q-10-9; Clubs: Q-J-3-2.

Vince wins the first Diamond trick, but then I’m in the driver’s seat, discarding my two losing Hearts on dummy’s high Diamonds, then cross-ruffing Spades and Hearts. It works. I take 10 tricks. Here are the other hands:

Spades: K-4; Hearts: J-6-4; Diamonds: A-J-7-6-5; Clubs: 9-8-5.

Spades: Q-J-10-5-3; Hearts: K-10-3; Diamonds: 8-4-3; Clubs: K-10.

The hand records, however, tell me that making 4 Clubs isn’t so special. East-West is supposed to make 4 Clubs. It’s our best contract. Fortunately, we found it. But it wasn’t an absolute top. We got 5.5 out of a possible 7 match points.

We were the only ones who bid 4 Clubs. Two others stopped at 3 Clubs and one of them made an overtrick. Top board, however, went to someone who bid 2 No Trump and made two overtricks. According to the hand record, it’s only good for 1 NT. Two other Wests played there, did that. Another wound up at 2 Hearts, which also is makeable, but went down one anyway. And some unlucky West got a bottom board by bidding a makeable 3 Clubs and managing to go down two. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Bridge Blog 926: Normalcy

Back to normal Monday after all those double sessions during STaC Week and it was a relief to be able to have lunch after the game and not have to race home and walk into work later that I oughta.
What’s more, partner Barbara Sadkin and I had one of our better days. As an unusually large number of scoring mistakes were ironed out after the game ended, our score and our winnings kept rising.
First we were 54.55%, third in the A strat, fifth in A overall, earning 0.66 of a point. Then we nipped up to 57.52%, still third in the A strat in our direction, but better overall, earning 0.83 of a point. And finally we rose to 58.12%, still third in A in our direction, but through the miracle of stratification, we were second in an expanded B strat, earning 1.06 point.
High point of the day came early, in the very first round, when we got our first and only absolute top board. Barbara, with a flat hand and 13 high card points, opened a Club. Holding five in that suit, I raised it to 2 Clubs. West, void in Clubs, doubled. Barbara then went 2 Spades, but that would be a four-card suit. Having only two Spades, I took it back to 3 Clubs. East, who had five Clubs headed by the Ace-King, doubled.
The hand record notes that this deal should make 3 Clubs. Barbara got an overtrick, thanks (I guess) to an over-ruff. It was plus 570. Second best at two other tables was a 2 Club bid doubled and making just two for plus 180. One East player won the bid at 2 Clubs and went down three. A South took the bid at 1 No Trump and made an overtrick. Best East-West score came from West winning the bid at 3 Diamonds and making it. Here are the hands:

North (Barbara)
Spades: A-K-9-4; Hearts: K-Q-2; Diamonds 10-7-4; Clubs: J-8-7.

South (me)
Spades: Q-7; Hearts: 6-4-3; Diamonds: A-6-2; Clubs: Q-10-9-5-3.

Spades: 6-5-2; Hearts: 10-7-5; Diamonds: K-Q; Clubs: A-K-6-4-2.

Spades: J-10-8-3; Hearts: A-J-9-8; Diamonds: J-9-8-5-3; Clubs: none.

Second-best effort came three rounds later – a 3 No Trump contract where I made three overtricks. That plus 490 tied for a top board. According to the hand record, North should make 6 NT, 6 Hearts or 6 Clubs, but South can only make a 3-bid in each of those suits.
I don’t see why South shouldn’t make it. Against No Trump, West does the natural thing and leads a Spade, I capture East’s singleton King with the Ace, take a marked Spade finesse for four Spade tricks to go with four Heart Tricks and four Club tricks. I save the Diamond loser for last.
A Diamond lead keeps South from making more than 3 NT, but since our bidding went 1 Diamond-3 NT, East didn’t drop a hint about holding the Ace of Diamonds.  Here’s the hand. North is dealer.

South (me)
Spades: A-Q-2; Hearts: A-Q-10; Diamonds: 7-4-3; Clubs: Q-J-4-2.

North (Barbara)
Spades: J-9-6-4; Hearts: K-9-6-3; Diamonds: K-9-8; Clubs: A-K.

Spades: 10-8-7-5-3; Hearts: J-4; Diamonds: Q-6-2; Clubs: 10-5-3.

Spades: K; Hearts: 8-7-5-2; Diamonds: A-J-10-5; Clubs: 9-8-7-6.

Bridge Blog 925: Thoroughly STaCked

        My hat’s off to the director who's been posting the results for last week’s District 5 Sectional Tournament at the Clubs. I believe it was Alex Bealles, who shows up regularly at our regional tournament. Every day he was on top of it. And now that it’s over, he’s promptly compiled the list of point winners.
         Turns out the most points anyone earned all week was 23.40. That’s Sandra McCall of Canonsburg, Pa. There’s a tie for second, Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 22.50.
         First among the Buffalo players and sixth overall is Art Matthies, who took home 19.17 silver points, 11.44 of them in that first STaC game Monday morning with Ted Kahn at the Airport Bridge Club.
Right behind him in seventh place is Jerry Geiger, with 18.95. Then we have Tom Koralewski in 12th place with 13.16 and Ted Kahn sitting 18th with 11.96.
John Ziemer checks in with 11.64 points and comes in 22nd, just ahead of John and Martha Welte, tied for 23rd with 11.57.
After that, it’s John Lyth, 37th with 10.32; Alan Greer, 38th with 10.31; Judi Marshall, 40th with 10.25; Dian Petrov, 43rd with 9.79; and me, tied for 45th with Elaine Kurasiewicz with 9.74 points and just ahead of 47th-place Sue Neubecker, who had 9.66.

In all, 1,015 players throughout the district got silver points, or at least slivers of silver points. And who should be the very last name on the list, with the slightest sliver (0.21) of a point? My good friend Judy Zeckhauser.