Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bridge Blog 896: STaCking Up

         It was a Buffalo player, Fred Yellen, who led the pack in master points in the District 5 Spring Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC) last week. He collected a grand total of 21.99, outdistancing Charles Smith of Erie, Pa., with 20.20, and Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, who both had 20.06.
        Just like a year ago, the Pennsylvania players dominated the upper reaches of the master point race, but not quite as dramatically. In June 2015, seven Pennsylvanians occupied the Top 10 spots. This year there were five. Also 12 of the Top 20 and 18 of the Top 30. Ohio had three Top 10 players both years.
        It was us Buffaloons who bumped those Pennsylvania people, although it wasn’t much of a bump. After Fred Yellen, the next Buffalonian on the list is Bud Seidenberg, eighth with 18.59. More familiar faces are tied for 17th – the Weltes, Martha and John, with 13.60. After that comes Tom Koralewski with 11.82 in 25th place and yours truly sitting 27th with 11.57. My best STaC ever.
        Other local players in the Top 50 include Mark Pascale (10.78, 31st), David Hemmer (10.46, 34th), Art Matthies (10.36, 35th – 4.71 of those points earned with me in two games Saturday), John Ziemer (9.80, 41st) and Jerry Geiger (9.35, 44th). 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bridge Blog 895: Longest and Strongest

        All those double sessions last week at the Airport Bridge Club during STaC Week (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) proved to be a good warmup for the summer solstice marathon – The Longest Day.
        Conceived as a dawn to dusk (or longer) card-playing extravaganza to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s devolved into something more modest because, let’s face it, most bridge players, no matter how fanatic, can’t keep focused for 15 or 16 hours. I recall those early attempts at holding a succession of games all day at the Airport Bridge Club, which petered out as players headed home exhausted late in the afternoon.
        Now I think the Airport Club has got it about right. Club manager Bill Finkelstein scheduled three extra-point games – 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. – and made them shorter, since the ACBL gives sanctions for games with as few as 12 boards on The Longest Day. (For those who wanted even more, there was an evening game of standard length over at the Bridge Center of Buffalo.)
The 10 a.m. game played 15 boards, three boards a round. The other two were 14 boards, two boards a round. The games moved well, the breaks for refreshments and lunch were appreciated and attendance was good – 6 tables at 10 a.m., 10 tables at noon, 7 tables at 2 p.m.

        The shortened game certainly agreed with me and partner Marilyn Sultz. Our Longest Day was an outstanding day. We were second North-South in the 10 a.m. session with 56.67%, earning 0.98 of a master point. Noon was better yet – first East-West and part of a three-way tie for first overall with 60.12%, collecting 1.91 points. We completed the hat trick at 2 p.m. with a 62.40% game, first East-West, second overall, 2.19 points. Wish they all could be Longest Days.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bridge Blog 894: Worse and worster

        My worst individual hand, in terms of the match point score, was a minus 2,200 on sacrifice bid that went sour. Mike Kisiel, who never let me forget about it, doubled me. I redoubled. Down four, vulnerable.
        Yes, that was the worst. Until today. Now I have a new all-time low on another sacrifice bid that went sour, spectacularly sour. Here’s what happened.
        It was the morning session at the Airport Bridge Club, the first game of STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) Week. Second round. Board six. Tova Reinhorn, sitting East and vulnerable, opens 2 No Trump. I’m sitting South with this hand:
        Spades: Q-10-8-7-6-2; Hearts: J-9-4-2; Diamonds: 9; Clubs: Q-9.
        So my devious mind starts thinking that a sacrifice in Spades could derail Tova and Dottie Soong. Something like 3 Spades, down three doubled. Minus 500 instead of a minus 600 or more.
        I check my convention card to assure myself that we are using Cappelletti and plunk down a bid of 3 Clubs, intending to indicate that I had one big suit. Dottie bids 3 Hearts. Tova says, “Transfer,” meaning Spades and I stifle a smile. My partner, however, who wants to remain nameless, decides to bid. 5 Clubs. Tova doubles. Does partner have a killer hand in Clubs? Or at least a partial killer? We’ll see.
        Spades: 9-5-3; Hearts: 8-6; Diamonds: Q-10-8-6; Clubs: 7-6-3-2.
        Nothing to do but take my punishment. Down nine. Minus 2,300. Had I trumped higher from the dummy on one of the last tricks, it would have been only down eight, minus 2,000, but then I wouldn’t be writing about it.
        Here are the other two hands:
        East
        Spades: A-K-4; Hearts: K-5; Diamonds: A-J-5-4; Clubs: A-K-5-4.
        West
        Spades: J; Hearts: A-Q-10-7-3; Diamonds: K-7-3-2; Clubs: J-10-8.

        According to the hand record, East-West can make a grand slam in Hearts or No Trump, a small slam in the minor suits. In Spades, they take nine tricks. Three Spades doubled would have been awful, but minus 1,400 would be better than a Heart or No Trump slam. Nevertheless, I was wrong, wrong, wrong not to bid 3 Spades directly. Partner informed me of something about Cappelletti that I did not fully realize, i.e., you don’t use it after an opponent’s opening bid of 2 NT.    

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bridge Blog 893: Diminished

OK, even though the Airport Bridge Club has posted its master point totals for May on a bulletin board at the club, those numbers didn’t fly through the air to the ACBL in time for inclusion in the latest master point tallies. And had they gotten to the ACBL on time, many of us Buffalo people would be sitting taller in the standings.
Consider that my total at the club for May was 16.24. Not as good as Jerry Geiger, who had 31.19, or Liz Clark’s 17.03, but ahead of Mike Silverman’s 15.98 and John Ziemer’s 15.40.
Stick those 16.24 points into the ACBL total and I’d still be in second place in the Ace of Clubs race (club play only) among Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in Unit 116 (Buffalo only), with 62.01, instead of falling to third behind Gene Finton, who has 50.91. And I’d be fewer than seven points behind section leader David Millward’s 68.84, though he may have collected a few more at the Airport Club after he came back from Florida.
Among all players in the unit, I wouldn’t be seventh. I’d be fourth. And Jerry Geiger, instead of being third with 52 points even, would be first with 83.19, ahead of David Millward and Meg Klamp, who has racked up 75.12 points in Florida.
Go over to the Mini McKenney races, which include all points earned everywhere, and I’m fourth among Ruby Life Masters with 51.82. Those missing 16.24 points would lift me to 68.06, but I’d still be fourth, behind David Hemmer with 105.30, David Millward with 83.02 and Ken Meier with 75.57 (plus whatever he earned at the Airport Club). Instead of 30th among all Unit 116 players, I’d be 21st. Overall leader is Saleh Fetouh, of course, with 299.54 points for the year so far.

District-wise, the missing points let a bunch of Pennsylvania and Ohio players break Buffalo's dominance of the top rungs on the Ruby Life Master list. David Millward still is leader, but Gene Finton is seventh and I’m 10th. I should be second and Ken Meier and Mike Silverman should be among the top 10. In the Mini-McKenney, I’m 34th. Oughta be 20th. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bridge Blog 892: Rats!

    I just checked the ACBL’s updated master point races and my total has barely budged from April. The Airport Bridge Club blew it. Again. The monthly tally wasn’t submitted on time. Guess I’ll have to start hounding club manager Bill Finkelstein.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bridge Blog 891: Nick of Time

Fears of finishing May without hitting that monthly goal of 15 master points turned out to be unfounded, but it took returning to the tables on Memorial Day with Judie Bailey in a holiday double session at the Airport Bridge Club to start turning the trick.
It wasn’t an entirely winning effort, but definitely worthwhile. A miracle of stratification put us into second place in the C strat in the morning – 0.47 of a point despite our mediocre 46.27% finish. Afternoon was much improved – 55.48%, second in our direction for 1.35 points.

Tuesday with Helen Panza was better still, another notch in our run of successes in May. This was our best game yet, percentage-wise – 63.43%, first North-South, second overall, for 2.19 points. Add that 4.01 to my unofficial tally of 11.39 for the month and, yes, that makes it. Thank you, bridge gods. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Bridge Blog 890: Flowering and wilting

The month of May started off merrily with a streak – a 59.23% game with Helen Panza, first overall for 2.48 points; a 54.76% with Barbara Sadkin, second overall, first in B for 1.53 points; 55% with Eva Schmidt, third overall, first in B for 1.64 points.
It didn’t stop there. In St. Catharines on Friday the 6th, Selina Volpatti and I were sixth overall with 56.88% and earned 0.47 of a silver point, that being STaC week over there. The next day I played the American Bridge Association tournament Swiss team game at the Airport Bridge Club and our team won four rounds, which may or may not have counted for ACBL points.
My luck extended into the second week – a 53.24% with Nadine Stein, first in B, 1.26 points; a 58.29% with Helen Panza, third overall, 1.56 points; a tie for first with Barb Sadkin in a home-style pairs game, another 0.30 of a point; a 53.57% with Selina in St. Catharines on Friday the 13th, fifth overall, 0.32 of a point; a 50.93% with Ron Henrikson the next day, tied for second in B, 1.21 points.
The third week, however, broke my spell. Three games out of the running (deeply out of the running). The only bright spot was a miracle of stratification on Tuesday with Marilyn Sultz, in which a 50% game made us second in B in our direction and yielded 0.68 of a point. Then I was gone for a week, off to New York City to visit the in-laws. No duplicate bridge for me there, just toll bridges.

Having leaped into prominence among the Unit 116 Ruby Life Masters in last month’s ACBL tally of master point races, I was wondering if I can keep up the pace. Total so far this month is 11.39. So maybe. But maybe not. I haven't played in a week and Memorial Day weekend activities are threatening to continue keeping me away from the tables.