Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bridge Blog 899: Streak!

Two-thirds of the way through a middling game with Marilyn Sultz on Tuesday at the Airport Bridge Club, we suddenly caught fire. For nine boards in a row, every game was a top game. Or a near top. We had 51 match points out of a possible 54. Then we crashed for the final three hands.

When club manager Bill Finkelstein posted partial results for 22 of the 28 boards, we were tied for first North-South with something like 62%. But our sins weren’t entirely marked against us yet. The final tally saw us drop to 55.06%. Second North-South. First in the B strat. 1.58 points, half of them red since this was a North American Pairs qualifying game. Marilyn was overjoyed. Me too. 

Bridge Blog 898: Picnic

         The annual summer picnic may be my favorite Western New York Unit 116 event. It’s a double game and the food is, well, picnic fare and I never can get enough of that. Since Paul Zittel, the agricultural magnate from Eden, has been in charge of the vittles, they’ve been fabulous and this year’s edition again met those high standards – Wiedner’s incomparable roasted chicken, fresh-picked sweet corn that was really, really sweet, and the usual potato and vegetable trimmings.
         When Tova Reinhorn, the unit treasurer, was at our table, she rolled her eyes in alarm at how much money they lose on the picnic. Tickets are just $10 for ACBL members and I can imagine that it comes nowhere near covering the costs of hiring a director, paying for the food and renting the facility – the Carousel Room under the Grandstand at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg. This would be our last party in the Carousel Room, someone (Tova?) said. The rent’s going up. Next year the unit will be looking for a new venue.
         This picnic was further notable for attendance – 25 tables for the morning session, 23 in the afternoon – which unit officers said was a record. The morning session was split into three sections. The afternoon had two. Organizing it proved cumbersome. As a result, the 11 a.m. morning game started late and director Eugene Harvey couldn’t seem to catch us up. We were eating lunch at 3 p.m. and the afternoon game dragged on until 7. I’m glad I had the foresight to take the evening off from work. It was a loooonnng day.
         I never seem to earn more than a fraction of a master point at the picnic, although significant points can be won if you’re good enough. Ken Meier and Penny Shui came in first overall in the morning with 72.57% and were rewarded with 5.25 points, then notched 63.05% to finish in a tie for second in the afternoon and reaped another 3.16 points.
         Meanwhile, I kept my expectations low and was not disappointed. Having not lined up a partner, I was paired with Ted Kahn, who has his ups and downs. I hadn’t played with him for quite a while and had forgotten how disastrously enthusiastic his bidding can get.
Between the two of us, he played the majority of the hands – 11 of the 26 in the morning (I was declarer four times, but my North cards seemed singularly dismal) and nine of 24 in the afternoon (my cards improved – I was declarer on six, three in a row right before the final board. On the first of those three, Ted pushed me to 6 No Trump, down one to tie for a next-to-bottom board – leaving the bid at 3 NT would have tied us for top and given us an extra 15.5 match points).
I thought our morning game of 49.75% was respectable, given the circumstances. We were ninth out of 13 pairs and if a couple more hands had gone our way, we would have beaten the eighth place finishers – Pat Lakeman and Mary Terrana, with 50.89% -- and collected a fraction of a point.

The afternoon felt better, but turned out worse – 46.60%, eighth out of 12 pairs. Nevertheless, we were only one spot away from scratching. Seventh in B were Paul Zittel and Bill Feasley with 48.25% and they won a magnificent 0.16 of a point. Had that 6 NT bid stopped at 3 NT, we would have been sixth for an even more stupendous 0.19 of a point. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Bridge Blog 897: Did the train leave the station?

A month ago Bill Finkelstein, director of the Airport Bridge Club, yelled foul when I accused him of being too late in submitting the club’s master points for the ACBL’s monthly tally. Although they were listed as pending, meaning they’d arrived after the deadline, he maintained that he had a receipt proving that he sent them in on the 6th, which is the cut-off date.

Well, just because you have a ticket, it doesn’t mean you caught the train. Bill contends that he forwarded the points just in time again this month. He tried to check during lunch Thursday afternoon at the Mexican restaurant, but he couldn’t bring up the ACBL website on his phone. Now that I’m home, hooked up to the Wi-Fi, let’s see if he made it or missed it. ... Hey, he made it! 

Bridge Blog 897-A: Midpoint

With the year half over, I can’t complain about my master point production. So far, it’s 89.30, with 71.78 club points. The belated May total was 17.03. June, fattened by 11+ points during STaC Week, registered 21.24.
Among Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in Western New York Unit 116, I’m third in the Ace of Clubs race, which just measures points earned in club play, behind David Millward with 89.15 and Mike Silverman with 77.73. The rest of the Top 10 – Ken Meier, 69.32; Gene Finton, 59.78; Vince Pesce, 50.44; Fred Yellen, 49.97; Allen Beroza, 49.37; Bill Finkelstein, 45.11; Carolyn Siracuse, 30.99; and a very close 11th, Chuck Schorr, 30.98.
          In the Ace of Clubs unit-wide, David Millward is second, Mike Silverman is fifth, I’m seventh and Ken Meier is eighth. Jerry Geiger is tops with a whopping 108.99. Liz Clark is third with 88.37, Meg Klamp is fourth with 81.73, Ron Henrikson (!) is sixth with 76.98, Mike Ryan is ninth with 68.90 and Judi Marshall is tenth with 68.81. Holding down 11th is John Ziemer with 66.94 (how strange to have more club points than him) and 12th is everybody’s favorite sub, Tom Koralewski, with 66.53.
          Moving along to the Mini-McKenney, which includes all points earned everywhere, the Unit 116 Ruby Life Masters line up like this – David Hemmer, 123.56 (eighth overall in the unit); Ken Meier, 110.16 (15th overall); David Millward, 104.41 (18th overall); me, 89.30 (22nd); Fred Yellen, 88.41 (23rd); Mike Silverman, 84.76 (27th); Gene Finton, 62.74 (34th); Allen Beroza, 62.09 (35th); Vince Pesce, 54.10 (41st); and Bill Finkelstein, 46.16 (52nd).
          The Mini-McKenney leader for the entire unit, far ahead of the rest of the pack, is Saleh Fetouh with 313.01. Then there’s Mike Ryan, 147.58; John Welte, 144.69; Jerry Geiger, 143.82; Martha Welte, 143.74; Tom Koralewski, 131.44; Jay Levy, 124.72; David Hemmer, 123.56; Ron Henrikson, 122.65; and Davis Heussler, 121.12. Meg Klamp is 11th with 120.39. Eighteen players in the unit have finished the first half of the year with more than 100 points.
          Moving up to the District 5 level, which includes Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, on the Ace of Clubs list we Buffalo players hold the top four positions among Ruby Life Masters and five of the first seven.
Overall Ace of Clubs district leader is Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh with 119.48, followed by Jerry Geiger, 108.99; and Arlene Port of Pittsburgh with 104.09. David Millward is seventh, Liz Clark is eighth, I’m 24th, right behind former Buffalo player Bev Cohen.
Three Buffalo Ruby Life Masters show up in the Top 10 on the District 5 Mini-McKenney list. David Hemmer is fourth. Ken Meier is seventh. David Millward is ninth. I’m a distant 16th, 111th among all players in the district. Leaders once again are Ohio players – Sue Lan Ma from Kirtland Hills with 222.71 (just 11th among all players in the district), Charles Ladiha from Vermilion with 147.88 and Peter Merker from Mentor with 127.49.  
And who’s the biggest District 5 point winner at the year’s halfpoint? Good old Reanette Frobouck from Pittsburgh. She’s got 463.20. Second is Philip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, with 329.06. Saleh Fetouh is third. Ohio players fill up the rest of the district-wide Top 10.

Nationwide, the top three are Chris Compton of Dallas with 1,494.72; Ken Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., with 1,459.96; and the legendary Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., with 1,435.78. Overall, 16 players have more than 1,000 points this year. 

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.