Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bridge Blog 759: Nothing lasts forever

Especially a streak. I knew mine was doomed in the first hands I played Monday with Barbara Sadkin at the Airport Bridge Club. We drew the initial sit-out and started playing with three straight disasters, including a board fouled by the first table that played it. Amazingly, we recovered to post a 49.35% game. Take away those first three hands and it would have been 53.04%, enough to continue the streak.
Nothing could have saved me on Tuesday, however. Playing with Joyce Greenspan, I rediscovered my love for seven-card suits and my penchant for bidding them up too far. Within two rounds, I’d registered a score I hadn’t posted in quite a while – a minus 1,100, down four doubled vulnerable.
Turns out that wasn’t a bottom board. Somebody else bid a slam. Our only bottom of the day involved another highly-distributional, highly-competitive hand against John Kirsits and Linda Wynes. Linda opened a minor suit. With them vulnerable and us not, I jumped to 4 Hearts, having seven of them, A-K-J-10-x-x-x, figuring I was good for 7 or 8 tricks. John bid 4 No Trump. Linda bid her Aces. John went to 6 Spades. I bid 7 Hearts. He finishes with 7 Spades. If it were No Trump, I would have doubled. But not in Spades. John didn’t have any Hearts. Linda was void in Clubs. John raked in all 13 tricks for a score of 2,210. Our only consolation – we weren’t dead last, though it looked like we were at first. The correction of a scoring error lifted us to seventh place among eight North-Souths with 42.86%.

Bridge Blog 758: Hot hands in Toronto

Hottest players in the Toronto Easter Regional Tournament last weekend were a pair of visitors – Joseph Silver of Hampstead, Quebec, which Wikipedia identifies as an on-island suburb of Montreal, and John Carruthers of Kingsville, Ont., which (Wikipedia again) is over near Windsor and is Canada’s southernmost municipality with town status.
Silver and Carruthers tied for first with 70.79 points, 25.70 of which were earned in the big Sunday Swiss team finale. Buffalo’s Saleh Fetouh was embedded in a team of Canadians that finished fifth in that Swiss game, earning 8.57 points. He also was the top local point-winner in Toronto, bringing in 41.98 points. He was 16 th overall.
Next Buffalo players on the list are the father-son team of Yichaun and Wufeng Lao, tied for 69 th with 25.37. Right behind them is Chris Urbanek, tied for 71 st with 24.66. Top people from the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catherines were Lorna Jackson and John Mackay, tied for 111 th with 17.78.
Best Swiss team made up entirely of Buffalo players was the combo of two married couples – Bob and Judy Kaprove and Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony. They tied for third in the B/C/D Division and won 6.11 points.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bridge Blog 757: Streeeeeak!

What a week! What an amazing week! After the auspicious sessions that started it off so wonderfully on Monday and Tuesday and miraculously continued Wednesday (see Blog 755), things bogged down a bit, but never got entirely derailed.
The lovely Dianne Bloom and I got off to a terrible start on Thursday, mangling our first four hands, failing to find a 3 NT contract, taking an unwise low-level vulnerable sacrifice (me), missing a chance to set the opponents at 3 NT (Dianne didn’t cash her Ace of Clubs when she had a chance) and letting them make 4 Spades (me tossing the wrong card in a squeeze play).
But then we found our footing and chalked up a 50.60% game, third in the B strat North-South, collecting 0.28 of a point. Had we just managed a 50-50 record in those first four hands, we would have finished second overall North-South with 55.65%.
As for Friday, Good Friday, Canada was eerily quiet. Many stores were closed. The normally bustling Pen Center mall was deserted. All the shoppers were on the bridges heading for the U.S. Cars were backed up to Thompson Road in Fort Erie waiting to cross the Peace Bridge. Inbound to Canada, however, almost nothing.
Plus, some of the best players at the Bridge Centre of Niagara were in Toronto for the annual Easter Regional (so were the electronic scoring devices, which belong to Unit 166 – we scored the rounds on pick-up slips). Same probably applies to some of the best Buffalo players, which could be a big reason why more of them didn’t zip down the Thruway to Rochester last week (Blog 756).
Nevertheless, my confidence about my weekly game with Selina Volpatti in St. Catharines was shaken by our miserable 42% outing a week earlier. It was shaken even further when our East-West opponents bid and made a 6 Spade slam on the second hand of the day, a phenomenon we saw repeated a few rounds later when someone bid and made 6 No Trump against us. We also lost a hand we should have nailed against a very slow pair when the director took away a board. Despite all that, we still managed a respectable 52.31%, fourth out of 11 North-Souths overall, second in the B strat, for 0.39 of a point.
The big question on Saturday, then, was this – will the streak stretch to six? I never know when I’m playing with Marietta Kalman. A year ago, it seemed like we were bidding on different planets. Now we’re much more attuned and on this particular day, we turned out to be very well attuned.
We were on defense on 17 of the 28 boards in this four-table Howell game, but we were nailing our opponents to the wall. Where other declarers would go down one, we’d set them two. And when we won the auction, we were making overtricks. It felt really good, in the way that making a succession of top boards can make your feel.
In all, we had 11 top boards. And as the partial results were posted, our figures threatened to lift us into bridge immortality, since any game over 75% is registered for all to see in the ACBL’s monthly Bridge Bulletin magazine. In the end, however, we fell just short – 74.40%. Still, it was the best game I’ve ever had and only the second time I've surpassed 70%. First by a very wide margin, Marietta and I earned 0.80 of a point.
So what does a week in the winning column produce? Lessee. 0.40 of a point for the 60.51% game with June Feuerstein on Monday. 0.63 of a point for the 62.73% game with Barbara Sadkin on Tuesday. 1.60 point in the double-point game on Wednesday. 0.28 on Thursday. 0.39 on Friday. And 0.80 on Saturday. Looks like 4.10.
For the month, add in the 2.13 in the sectional and another 0.35 at the club. That’s 6.58 with a week of double-point games ahead.



Bridge Blog 756: Rochester reciprocity

Talk to people from Rochester and they have well defined impressions of Buffalo. They follow our sports teams. They come to our concerts. They know their way in and out.
Talk to people from Buffalo about Rochester, however, and you enter terra incognita. Sure, we recognize that it’s the place where the Sabres have a farm team, where the Bills hold their pre-season practice, the birthplace of Kodak and Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, but not much else. Even I, knowing  Rochester reasonably well from having friends and music business dealings there for the past 30-odd years, can get confused by that city’s version of Elmwood Avenue, which because it’s a diagonal street, shows up in the most bewildering places.
Same phenomenon is in effect for the sectional bridge tournaments. This year, Buffalo’s spring sectional took place just one week ahead of Rochester’s, and the reciprocity – or rather, the lack of it – is stunning.
While Canadians were by far the largest group of out-of-towners among the 174 players who earned points at the Buffalo sectional, there were nine from the Rochester area. On the following weekend, of the 129 players who scratched in the Webster Recreation Center outside Rochester, only half a dozen were from Buffalo. Four of them – Saleh Fetouh, Jay Levy, Donna Steffan and Jay Costello, most likely a Sunday Swiss team – were tied for 75th place with 1.04 points. Our other representatives? Thomas Koralewski and Davis Heussler, tied for 88th with 0.84 of a point.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bridge Blog 755: Doubled up

I was reminded how much I miss double-point games when one of them made an infrequent appearance Wednesday at the Airport Bridge Club. Thanks to a unit game crosstown at the Bridge Center of Buffalo, the unit sanction applied.
Not that I had much hope of taking advantage of it when I arrived to play with Wednesday partner Celine Murray. She’s been driving her partners crazy with her off-the-wall bidding this week. But for some reason, she was well within the limits this time and I restrained myself from doing anything too outrageous, as well. No serious mistakes, we agreed as we entered the final rounds in a 4½-table Howell movement. The result was a 57.64% game, half a game point behind the leaders. Second overall in this session was worth 1.6 points. Thanks to those double points, this more than doubled my total winnings at the club for the month.
P.S.: Out of curiosity, I checked the BCB website to see the results over there and found no indication at all that it was a special game, although the Unit 116 website says it was supposed to be. In an eight-table Mitchell movement, Judi Marshall and John Ziemer were winners, as they likely would have been if they played at the Airport Club, but that only got them 0.80 of a point.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bridge Blog 754: Not exactly an April shower

This cruelest month isn’t exactly raining down winnings. After priming the pump with the 2.13 silver points in the sectional tournament, my club play came up dry almost all last week.
The exception was my Monday game with Barbara Sadkin, where our 52.78% was fourth overall and brought us 0.35 of a point. After that, it was 48.38% with Flo Boyd on Tuesday, 43.75% with Celine Murray on Wednesday, a painful 41.12% with Dianne Bloom on Thursday and a disappointing 41.92% in an extra point session in St. Catharines, Ont., with Selina Volpatti on Friday.
Can you blame me for taking the weekend off to begin cleaning the yard of its winter wreckage and catch up with some social obligations?
The time off apparently was a tonic. June Feuerstein and I turned in a 60.51% game on Monday, earning .40 of a point. Then Barbara Sadkin recovered from a late flight home from Passover in Chicago to join me in a 62.73% game Tuesday, second North-South for .63 of a point. Despite that, the month is half over and it’s still pretty dry – only about 3½ points.

Bridge Blog 753: Extremely belated sectional notes

The visitors did pretty well at the Buffalo Spring Sectional back on April 4 to 6. Although local players held down six of the top 10 spots among the point leaders, the out-of-towners had 12 of the top 20.
Here are our leading local master point winners and their positions among the top 30:
Chris Urbanek, 16.17, first.
Bud Seidenberg, 14.87, second.
Fred Yellen, 11.85, sixth.
Jay Levy, 10.37, eighth.
Saleh Fetouh, 10.20, ninth.
Davis Heussler, 9.95, tenth.
Peter Shui, 8.07, 13th.
Bill Rushmore, 7.58, 15th.
Donna Steffan, 6.54, 21st.
Kathy Pollock, 6.29, 22nd.
Jim Gullo, 5.67, 25th.
Stan Kozlowski, 5.54, 26th.
Ten-Pao Lee, 5.37, 27th.
Judy Graf, 5.32, 28th.
Joan Rose, 5.25, 29th.
Penny Shui, 5.22, 30th.
In all, 174 players got points (up from 147 a year ago) and the tournament logged 157 tables (up from 139 last year). Me? My 2.13 points put me pretty much in the middle of the list. 81st.