Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bridge Blog 912: Buffalo Regional Days 4, 5 & 6

         After a while, the Buffalo Regional Tournament and the Adam's Mark Hotel turn into a blur. Casting my fate to the Partnership Desk, I hook up Friday with Teresa Jackson, a winsome Polish-born Canadian who wishes I could play the two-over-one convention. We have two dismal rounds – 45.96% in the morning, 47.95% in the afternoon. No master points.
I’m available Saturday and when I run into Rex Ryan’s mom in the line for Friday evening hospitality, she says she’d love to play with me (she had a bad day Thursday too), but she’s leaving in the morning.
The phone rings at 9 a.m. Saturday. 585 Area Code. It’s Dolores Schwartz from Rochester. Well, actually Pittsford. She played with Rex Ryan’s mom on Friday. She and her friends need a fourth for the compact knock-outs.
The first K.O. round is a round robin, three teams, two winners, and we narrowly miss winning against both opponents. In the second part, a round robin consolation round, we beat both teams and collect 0.64 of a red point.
We regroup for the single session Swiss teams in the afternoon – Art Morth, who’s also playing in them, calls them “Loser Swiss” – but we’re not entirely losers. We win one of the four rounds and tie another, which gives us 0.38 of a red point.
The Sunday finale is the traditional monster Swiss team game – seven rounds, seven boards per round, 42 teams playing – and I’m attached again with Joe Miranda and Usha Khurana. This time John Marvin is with Usha.
We get off to a roaring start, a 30-0 victory point sweep of Ron Henrikson’s team, which includes a pair of Canadians. This, unfortunately, throws us up against some really good players – hard-of-hearing Jonathan Steinberg from Toronto and young Alex Hudson from Raleigh, N.C.
Joe asks Alex what he does in North Carolina and Alex taps the table. “Oh,” Joe says. “Bridge.”  He’s a pro.
Nevertheless, we manage to edge them, 24-23 International Match Points, thanks to an outrageous piece of luck. Alex doubles my 2 Hearts vulnerable overcall of his opening Spade bid, I redouble, expecting to get overcalled, but the redouble stays in. I make two overtricks, which prompts considerable discussion between our opponents. It also gives us a plus 1,640 score and 17 of those IMPs. The Hudson-Steinberg team recovers later, however, and finishes eighth overall.
That puts us up against an even better team, David Hemmer and Saleh Fetouh, who finish fourth for the day. They put us in our place, 22-8, with a few playing tips along the way. We bounce back with a 2 IMP victory before lunch. If we can win two more rounds, we’ll be rolling in gold points.
But we only win one. First we lose, 23-13, to John Welte (without wife Martha, who was concertizing on her violin) and Ten-Pao Lee, who go on to be first in the B and C stratifications. We recover against Canadians David Eddy and Ann Shaw, 27-18 IMPs, thanks to some serious luck in a series of three straight 6 No Trump contracts, setting them on one and succeeding on another which should have gone down. They nevertheless finish third in B.
We might have eclipsed them if we didn’t crash to a 30-0 IMP defeat in the final round against cheerless Canadians John Moser and David Baker. That helps them tie for sixth overall.
Our final IMP total is 106, short of what I thought it would take to win gold points. But I’m wrong. We’re fifth in B – earning 2.65 gold. It’s enough to put Usha over the top. She’s now a Life Master. Mission accomplished.
As for my personal mission, this is one of my better tournaments. Overall winnings, near as I can figure – 15.66 points, 13.78 of them gold. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bridge Blog 911: Buffalo Regional Day 3

Relegated to playing pairs again, Joe Miranda and I flame out in the final rounds Thursday morning (against Selina Volpatti, yet – we make her a point winner) and again Thursday afternoon. Our record couldn’t be more dismal – 47.09% in the morning, 42% after lunch.
Evening reunites me with newfound partner Terri Downey from New Jersey and Canadian teammates Alison Burkett and Jed Drew for the second installment of compact knock outs. Jed confesses to a terrible mistake on a sure 6 Club contract, which costs us 14 International Match Points and a shot at the final round. We lose to the Martin team – four women from Cleveland – 34 to 18. Take away those 14 IMPs from them and add in our 5½ point handicap and we’d be winners.
After a brief discussion of forfeiting the consolation round and going home early, we decide to take on the Petrov team again, even though they beat us Wednesday night. This time we play Petrov’s teammates, Alex Khrakovsky and Junko Hemus.
Junko, who wears glittery makeup and has a Versace scarf across her lap, berates Alex throughout the 12 hands we play. And for good reason. He takes seven bids to one of hers. And he hands us two outrageous gifts.
First he doubles me in a 5 Diamond contract and allows me to make it (16 IMPs). On the very next hand, he jumps in with a 4 Heart bid to take away a vulnerable 3 No Trump contract from me. Since I’m holding a 20-point hand (with A-K-Q-J-8 in Hearts) opposite my partner’s weak 2 Diamond opening bid, I pounce on him with a double. He’s not vulnerable, but he wins only four tricks. That’s a minus 1,400 and another 14 IMPs.

Although the Petrov team beats us 33-31 overall, we get 2.81 IMPs for a handicap, and that makes us victorious in the consolation match. 4.85 gold points! We’re elated. Especially Terri. She now needs only half a gold point for Life Master. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bridge Blog 910: Buffalo Regional Day 2

Plans fall apart. Our team abandons another run at the Knock Outs because Elaine Kurasiewicz can’t play with us on Thursday if we survive Wednesday. So we split up and play the pairs game. Joe Miranda and I keep our heads above water in the morning session with 51.36%, earning 0.86 of a red point for coming in 19th overall, ninth in the B stratification, but fail to improve on this in a slog of an afternoon, when we sink to 41.98%.
High points are the people we meet along the way. I finally play a round with Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, perennial leader of the District 5 Ruby Life Masters in the Mini-McKenney master point race. She’s surprisingly modest, beholden to her partner, Peter Petruzzellis of Pickering, Ont., who she describes as her mentor. We hold them to 50%, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down in the afternoon session. They’re fourth overall for the day, earning 5.72 gold points.
Another thrill is meeting a woman named Doris from Las Vegas, who says she's in town to see family. Family being Buffalo Bills coaches Rex and Rob Ryan. “You’re Buddy’s wife?” I remark. “Ex-wife,” she corrects me. Friendly and outgoing once we break the ice, she also does well – eighth overall, 5.20 gold and red points. Against her and her partner in the morning, we register a paltry 41%.
As for Usha and Elaine, they have a 43.14% game in the morning and don’t stay for the afternoon. Joe decides to throw in the towel and skip the evening game, but not me. I’ll hook up with someone somehow. Hey, you never know.
Sure enough, I’m drafted to join a team in the Wednesday-Thursday evening compact knock-outs. It’s my old friend Alison Burkett from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., soon to be living near Ottawa. She pairs me with Terri Downey, a player from down near Sea Isle City, N.J., down near Cape May. 
The team game turns out to be the only game at 7:30 p.m. Too few pairs turn out for the evening side game, so it's canceled. Once again, we’re in round robins and once again we survive, despite coming up against high-powered players like Buffalo’s Dian Petrov, who whomps us, 30-6 International Match Points, and young whiz David Saverin from Ottawa, stinking from cigarettes, who (amazingly) doesn’t. By advancing to Thursday night’s game, we’re guaranteed gold points, at least 3.77 of them. 
Here's the link to the latest tournament bulletin. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bridge Blog 909: Buffalo Regional Day 1

Love those round robins. Our team (partner Joe Miranda plus Usha Khurana and Elaine Kurasiewicz) is in three-way competition in the Bracketed Knock Outs team game as the tournament gets under way Tuesday morning and the prospects are good. Two of the three teams get to advance. And there are only five teams overall in the bracket.
We beat them both in the first round of 24 boards. We’re 22-0 and 26-18 (in International Match Points) against the Dorothy May team (Ron Henrikson, Joe Rooney and Bill Boardman), which gets eliminated. We squeak past the Sandy Scheff team (Christine Malarkey, Barbara Sadkin and Paul Kotowski), 0-17 and 23-5. They also beat the May team. We get to play them again in the afternoon.
It’s another round robin after lunch, another 24 boards. Despite a mishap or two, we outpoint the Scheff team, 22-15 and 2-1. We also might have beaten the Barbara Landree team (Betty Metz, Gay Simpson and Paul Zittel) if partner Joe Miranda had taken more care in bidding one of the hands and let the contract settle somewhere other than 6 Hearts, which went down one. That costs us 11 IMPs in the first round of six hands. We lose it, 12-1, and our 8-7 margin in the second round falls far short of making it up.
The Landree team also beats the Scheff team, eliminating them. So we get to face them again, head-to-head, in the evening finals. Win or lose, however, we get what we came for – gold points.
We build up a stupendous margin during the first 12 hands, winning 31-0 and 20-9. That inspires Betty Metz to take competitive risks against Joe and me in the 12-board finale, encouraged by a string of wildly distributive hands. Doesn’t work. We win, 14-10 and 43-19. As champs, we collect 6.28 master points. Gold ones.
This, however, is a pittance next to what the winning team takes home in the expert bracket. A team of heavy hitters from Ohio – Fleur Howard, Philip Becker and Hope and Brian Ellis – defeat Buffalonians Jerry Geiger and John Ziemer (plus a couple guys from Ithaca) in the final round to pick up 25.21 points. Consolation prize for Jerry and John isn’t so shabby either – 17.65 points. 
Just got the daily bulletin online, which has pix of everybody and all the results. Here's the link. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bridge Blog 908: Thank you, Canada

Here on the American side, it was Columbus Day weekend. Across the river in Ontario, it was Thanksgiving and it started Friday with an absolutely perfect early autumn day. The sun-drenched drive through a landscape tinged with reds and yellows along the Queen Elizabeth Way from Fort Erie was stunning.
At the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, women talked about making pies from scratch. Partner Selina Volpatti noted that one of her daughters would be doing the cooking this year. We celebrated instead by kicking up our game a notch from our 49% a week earlier.
On our first two boards in this 13½ table game, we captured 19 of a possible 24 match points, mostly from setting a 3 No Trump contract by two tricks when it either succeeded or went down one trick at the other tables.
We got our comeuppance on the next round when Paul Cronin and Donna Fettes bid 4 Spades and made an overtrick, an absolute bottom for us. The hand record says it should make 5 Spades, but nobody else bid game or took more than nine tricks in Spades.
But the bridge gods were good to us (good to me, actually) on the next board. Sitting North, I made a sacrifice bid of 3 Hearts on a holding that’s good for only seven tricks and fully expected to go down. Paul Cronin (East) expected that, too. He doubled me, but I made it, thanks to a mistake by our opponents, giving us a top board to offset the bottom.  

 S: 10
 H: K 10 8 6 4
 D: A 6 5 4
 C: A Q 8
S: A 5
H:  - -
D: K 9 8 3 2
C: K J 10 9 5 2
 S: K J 9 8 7
 H: A 9 5 3 2
 D: J 7
 C: 4
 S: Q 6 4 3 2
 H: Q J 7
 D: Q 10
 C: 7 6 3

How’s that for a cut-and-paste? Oops, lost the suit symbols. 
Anyway, we had a couple more tops on offense and no other bottoms. (Our successful slams, alas, were only middling.) Our final 53.99% made us fourth North-South, third in the B strat in our direction, fourth in B overall. Because it was a Canadian Open Pairs qualifying game, we got extra points, 1.16 of them, and they were RED points. Plus we’re qualified to go play in the nationals. In May. In Winnipeg.
Selina followed that up with a holiday venture over to our side of the border on Saturday to play at the Airport Bridge Club in a five-table game that was not quite worthy of celebration. Five bottoms, five tops, 50.23%. Third in the B strat for 0.98 of a black point.

Which makes me wonder – am I keeping up the proper ratio of colored points for my eventual arrival at Gold Life Master? The necessary 2,500 points has to include 25 percent of them. But a look into “myacbl” puts that question to rest. I already have those 500-plus colored points – 70.78 gold, 215.66 red (plus Friday’s) and 243.52 silver. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Bridge Blog 907: September Song

Has 15 points per month become my theme music? That’s what the year’s been singing to me. First six months were a fraction short of 90. July slipped to 12.34. August bobbed up to 14.91. And September? 16.28, with 14.76 coming from club play.  
This raised me a notch in the master point standings among the Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in the Unit 116 (Buffalo only). Now I’ve advanced a notch to third with 113.79 for the year, but the step up is through no fault of my own. David Millward, who used to be second, has disappeared from the list. Disappeared from every list. Did he not pay his dues?
Here are the Top 10: Mike Silverman, 141.64 (third overall in the unit); Ken Meier, 119.24 (eighth overall); me, 113.79 (ninth overall, also up a notch); Gene Finton, 84.10 (18th); Fred Yellen, 83.20 (19th); Vince Pesce, 71.47 (30th); Allen Beroza, 68.70 (31st); Bill Finkelstein, 53.05 (42nd); Chuck Schorr, 40.53 (70th); and Carolyn Siracuse, 37.10 (76th).
Overall Unit 116 Ace of Clubs leader continues to be Jerry Geiger with 190.56; still followed by Judi Marshall, 148.63; Mike Silverman; Ron Henrikson, 135.13; Liz Clark, 133.39; Tom Koralewski, 125.34; John Ziemer, 120.50; Ken Meier; myself; and Martin Pieterse, 112.05.
As for the Mini-McKenney, which measures all master points earned everywhere, I’m still fifth among Ruby Life Masters with 132.83 points, despite the disappearance of David Millward. Fred Yellen has passed me.
Ken Meier maintains his place on top with 193.41. He’s ninth overall in the unit. He’s followed again by David Hemmer, 160.52 (16th overall); Mike Silverman, 148.67 (19th overall); Fred Yellen, 135.20 (21st overall); and me, 22nd.
The rest include Gene Finton, 95.46 (36th); Allen Beroza, 83.35 (42nd); Vince Pesce, 77.06 (49th); Bill Finkelstein, 54.10 (71st); and Chongmin Zhang, 50.40 (76th).
Continuing to top all of the Unit 116 players is Saleh Fetouh with 395.55; followed by John Welte, 277.18; his wife Martha, 276.23; Jerry Geiger, 259.93; Dian Petrov, 248.93; Mike Ryan, 243.64; Tom Koralewski, 232.68; John Ziemer, 205.53; Ken Meier, 193.41; Ron Henrikson, 186.71; and Jay Levy, 186.63.
Go up to District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) and we Buffalo players hold down the top three spots and five of the Top 10 on the Ace of Clubs list for Ruby Life Masters. Mike Silverman is ninth overall in the district, Ken Meier is 19th and I’m right where I was last month, 27th.
Leading the club players in District 5 is Jerry Geiger’s 190.56. Next come two Pittsburgh players, Arlene Port and Patricia Katz, with 188.69 and 162.96, respectively; then Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 153.56; our Judi Marshall with 148.63; Ronald Franck of Pittsburgh with 146.71; Charles Smith of Erie, Pa., with 146.70; Judy Haffner of Pittsburgh with 145 even; Mike Silverman with 141.64; and Barbara Belardi of Pittsburgh with 139.52.
District 5 Mini McKenney finds two Buffalo players among the Top 10 Ruby Life Masters. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, remains the leader by a wide margin with 364.76. And she’s only ninth among all players in the district.
The runners-up include Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, 198.18 (48th overall); Charles Ladiha of Vermilion, Ohio, 193.63 (49th); our Ken Meier, 193.41 (50th); Christopher Wang of Pittsburgh, 165.54 (71st); our David Hemmer, 160.52 (78th); Jean Picone of Pittsburgh, 160.06 (79th); Martin Kumer of Monroeville, Pa., 156.16 (84th); Ami Elis of Pittsburgh, 154.88 (86th); Wayne Heritage of North Olmsted, Ohio,  151.71 (90th); and in 11th and 12th place, Mike Silverman, 148.67 (91st) and Fred Yellen, 135.20 (104th). My 132.83 makes me 15th, up from 16th, and 109th overall, up from 117th.
Among all players in the district, Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh remains on top. She now has 677.70 points. Then come Philip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, 543.20; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 502.81 and 475.91, respectively; and Kathleen Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, with 434.16. Our Saleh Fetouh’s 395.55 puts him sixth. Wonder if we’ll see them all at the Buffalo Regional next week?
Nationwide, the Ruby Life Master Ace of Clubs list is headed by Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., with 260.95; followed by Edward Lauch of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with 251.84; Richard Fronapfel of Danbury, Conn., with 245.42; and Doris and Gerald Berkman of Boca Raton, Fla., both with 243.54.
We three Buffalo-based District 5 leaders don’t raise much of a ripple. Mike Silverman is 108th; Ken Meier is 233rd; I’m 286th. And that’s it. The list cuts off at 99.31. Among all Ace of Clubs players nationwide, we don’t even register. That list ends at 161.62. Leaders there are Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta with 555.71, Kay Schulle of Purchase, NY, with 456.29, Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale with 446.73 and Sean Ganness of Miami with 403.83.
The nationwide Mini-McKeeney is another universe. The Ruby Life Master list is headed by Oren Kriegel of Chicago with 791.17. Next come Mary Jane and Michael Gladfelter of Columbus, Ohio, both with 654.48; Cookie Potter of Sunset Beach, Calif., with 584.34; Patti Mullendore of Houston with 548.66; and Sherman Gao of Orange, Calif., with 512.64.
District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is 29th; Peter Merker is 279th; and Charles Ladiha is 304th. Ken Meier is 307th. David Hemmer missed the cut-off, which is at 161.31.
And overall? Chris Compton of Dallas with 2,713.53, followed by Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla, with 2,404.53; Shan Huang of Toronto with 2,030.90; David Grainger of Roseville, Calif., with 2,021.78; and Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., with 2,010.76. The legendary Jeff Meckstroth is ninth with 1,886.79.

Former Buffalonian Joel Wooldridge is 28th with 1,231.44. District 5 leader Reanette Frobouck is 132nd. Unit 116’s Saleh Fetouh is 474th. The list stops at 385.91. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Bridge Blog 906: Fall Sectional Redux

Friday – I wracked my brain all week trying to remember who I’d promised to play with on opening day. I asked every likely suspect at the Airport Bridge Club, but no luck. Then I’m greeted as I arrive at the director’s table by Denise Slattery, who I haven’t seen in weeks. I’m greatly relieved. Denise is a fun player and I like her sense of humor. We also did well together at the Airport Club. Not well enough this time, though.
Chairwoman Betty Metz announced that there was record turnout for the morning game. Proof was in the parking lot. More cars than usual. 24 tables in the two-session pairs, 10½ tables for single-session pairs in the morning, 6 tables in the afternoon. An improvement on last September, when there were 20 tables for the two-session pairs on Friday, 13 tables for single-session morning pairs and 5 tables in the afternoon.
Saturday – Almost as big as Friday: 22 tables in two-session pairs, 11 in morning single-session, just 4 in the afternoon. Last September it was 17, 12 and 4. A few more out-of-towners from Rochester and Canada.
Sunday – The big experiment in Dupli-Swiss, in which boards were pre-shuffled and everybody played the same ones, had its ups and downs.
Ups: Hand records. You could review what you just played and have discussions about it, like partner Judie Bailey and I did for two days. (See Blog 906-A.)
Also no caddies. Tables were organized into groups of four and the eight boards each round were passed among them. I missed the caddies, though.
Downs: Confusion. People did not pass the boards clockwise, like director Brian Meyer requested, so sometimes we were left waiting for other tables to finish boards we still needed to play.
Also potential for overhearing other tables. We weren’t that far apart, although I didn’t pick up any revealing conversations about the hands myself.
Also the six-round format. Six rounds, eight boards, 48 hands. The old format of seven rounds, seven boards, 49 hands, offered teams that didn’t place among the leaders another chance to earn fractional points for winning rounds.
Winners in the Swiss teams were Rochester players and not familiar ones to me. Judie and I, unable to round up teammates from Buffalo, wound up playing with a couple I know from the Bridge Center of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont. – John Marskell and Joan Soifert. John and Joan are ordinarily good players, but they seemed to be having an off day.
According to the ACBL live recaps, which were sent by e-mail a few hours after each day’s action, Judie Bailey and I supposedly earned 1.81 silver points for the weekend – 0.29 Saturday morning, 0.62 Saturday afternoon and 0.90 Sunday. When the tournament results were posted on on Monday, however, our point count had shrunk. That total was 1.52. Did we lose that Saturday morning sliver of silver?  We wound up in a 4-way tie for 122nd with Barbara Kopko and Tim Anderson from Cattaraugus County, who we played on Saturday.
(Looking at the outcome, the thrill of sectional competition has to be weighed against the absolute wretchedness of the rate of return – $60 in entry fees for those 1.52 silver points. For $15, I earned nearly twice as many black points Wednesday by doing well in a two-session pairs game at the Airport Bridge Club.)
Sectional champ was Bud Seidenberg with 24.48 points, followed by Jay Costello, 22.99; Chris Urbanek, 22.94; and Mike Ryan, 21.91. Absent all weekend was perennial high-scorer Saleh Fetouh. He never misses these things. Wonder where he was. 
Still, four players over 20 points. Last September there were only two. Bud Seidenberg bagged an even 24 points then, but was second to Jay Levy (26.45). There were 12 players winning 10 points or more in 2015. This year 23 broke into double digits.
Four of them were the Rochester-area players who triumphed in the Swiss team game, which was worth 10.73 points. Out of a possible 180 victory points, they had 163 and were far ahead of the runners-up, who had 124. That second-place team included Bud Seidenberg and Chris Urbanek and it accounted for 8.05 of their points.