Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bridge Blog 810: Absentia

Third anniversary of my life master hat trick – life master, bronze life master, silver life master, all in one fell swoop at the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional on Nov. 10, 2011 – I’m out cold for a TURBT “procedure” to remove a growth from my bladder.
When I wake up enough to understand what’s going on, it’s bad news. Bladder cancer. Good-bye, hopes for gold life master. Good-bye to lots of things I know and love.
But wait, there’s hope, even when the skies turn black, the temperature falls from 70 to 30 and you’re plugged into a catheter and gobbling antibiotics and anti-spasm pills. Bladder cancer strikes five times as many people as it kills every year, I read on one of the cancer websites. It’s survivable.
What will it take to survive? The urologist isn’t optimistic about the lab results from the tissue samples. The bladder will have to go, she says. The top urological oncologist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute isn’t so certain. They interpreted the lab results a bit differently. First, they want to take another look in there after I’ve healed up. A second TURBT procedure. Mid-December. Then there will be a definite decision.
I went back to work for most of an evening on the fourth day after the procedure, but I fatigued easily. I still need a nap every day. And I have to hit the washroom every hour. It wasn’t until this past Friday, 11 days after the procedure and a night off from work, and three days after the big Buffalo snow disaster (which left only a couple inches at my house) that I felt ready to return to the bridge tables.
I used to pride myself on sitting through an entire game without heading off to take a leak. On Friday and Saturday, I made that dash to the men’s room before and after the game and twice between rounds of play.
Meanwhile, I didn’t forget everything I knew, not even my bad habits, but somehow the results were good anyway.
Friday with Celine Murray, our 54.20% put us third in a three-way scrum for the top in a three-table game at the Airport Bridge Club and gave us a master point.

Saturday with Beverly Dale, despite some unfortunate bids (See Blog 809-A and Blog 809-B), we finished second overall in a 4½-table game with 58.33% for 1.31 master points. Now my hopes are officially bolstered. That goal of 1,800 career master points by the end of the year is within reach.

Bridge Blog 810-A: Zig

Beverly Dale was disappointed. I should have given her a better bid, she said, and she would have gone to game on Board 25. As it was, we stopped at 3 Clubs and made three overtricks. Everything worked out right. Here’s the deal. I’m sitting North and I’m dealer. East-west is vulnerable. We’re not.
Spades: K-9; Hearts: 6-3; Diamonds: 10-4-3-2; Clubs: K-Q-10-3-2.
I pass and so does East. Beverly opens a Club. Since she will open a short Club and since she admonished me for bidding inverted minors when we played together two weeks ago, my response was 2 Clubs. I believe East bid 2 Spades. Beverly bid 3 Clubs and I passed. Here are the other hands:
Spades: A-7-6; Hearts: A-Q-8-2; Diamonds: None; Clubs: A-J-9-8-7-5.
Spades: Q-10-8-5-4; Hearts: J-9; Diamonds: A-K-9-7-5; Clubs: 6.
Spades: J-3-2; Hearts: K-10-7-5-4; Diamonds: Q-J-8-6; Clubs: 4.

The outcome was split on the four times it was played. Two North-Souths bid 5 Clubs for plus 420. Another one stopped at 3 Clubs, like us, for plus 170. Of a possible 3 game points, we earned 0.5. Bidding 5 Clubs would have gotten us 2.

Bridge Blog 810-B: Zag

You don’t often get a chance to repeat a bid twice in a row, but it happened Saturday with Beverly Dale. After aforementioned Board 25 (Blog 809-A), Beverly opens one Diamond, guaranteeing at least four of them, on Board 26 after a pass by East, the dealer. West doubles, if I remember correctly, and I bid 2 Diamonds.
Spades: 6-5; Hearts: J-10; Diamonds: K-Q-J-6-3; Clubs: Q-8-5-2.
Beverly pushes to 4 Diamonds in competitive  bidding and I, not wanting to miss game twice in a row, bid 5 Diamonds. I should have known better. West, Ron Henrikson, doubles. We go down two for minus 500 and a bottom board. Here are the other hands:
Spades: K-10-4-3; Hearts: A-4; Diamonds: A-10-9-8-5; Clubs: 7-3.
Spades: J-9-8; Hearts: 9-8-6-5-3-2; Diamonds: 7; Clubs: K-10-4.
Spades: A-Q-7-2; Hearts: K-Q-7; Diamonds: 4-2; Clubs: A-J-9-6.

At the other tables, 4 Diamonds doubled went down one and two East-Wests were allowed to take the bid for 2 Hearts, making three overtricks. 

Bridge Blog 809: Unfinished October business

Better late than never. In the master point races through Oct. 31, I have 97.82 club points and 132.07 overall for the year. On the Unit 116 (Buffalo only) Ace of Clubs list, I’m fifth. Here’s the lineup:
        John Ziemer still first, 164.82; Ken Meier still second, 126.34; Mike Silverman, 125.41; Fred Yellen, 105.30; me, 97.82; Chuck Schorr, 94.52; Vince Pesce, 80.46; Barbara Pieterse, 76.85; Gene Finton, 71.47; Clare Gareleck, 53.05.
        Now for the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which counts all points earned everywhere, including the Buffalo Regional. On this list, I’m sixth. Here’s the tally:
        John Ziemer first again, 246.64; Ken Meier, 162.37; Fred Yellen, 161.08; David Hemmer, 145.47; Mike Silverman, 139.85; me, 132.07; Chongmin Zhang, 125.38; Chuck Schorr, 101.42; Barb Pieterse, 95.46; Gene Finton, 94.23.
        Let’s go now to the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well as Buffalo and the list is 25 names long.
        Unit 116 continues its dominance of the top of the Ace of Clubs list. We occupy the top five spots. Sixth is Peggy Shivetts of Greensburg, Pa., with 95.36. Chuck Schorr is seventh. Vince Pesce is 19th. The list cuts off at 76.89 points.
        On the Mini-McKenney, the Ohioans rule. Here John Ziemer is fourth, after Michael Creager of Brecksville with 372.50, Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 364.21 and Peter Merker of Mentor with 357.47. But we’re still quasi-respectable. Ken Meier is eighth, Fred Yellen is ninth, David Hemmer is 12th and Mike Silverman is 13th, I’m 17th, Chongmin Zhang is 20th. The list cuts off at 110.88.
                Amongst the nationwide leaders in my division – 1,000 to 2,500 points – the top dog is Vinita Gupta of Woodside, Calif., with 842.58 in the Mini-McKenney, followed by Robert Micone of Tustin, Calif., with 755.80, and Jay Barron of Tulsa, Okla., with 753.45. Michael Creager is 41st. John Ziemer is 223rd. The list cuts off at 195.13.
        In the nationwide Ace of Clubs in my division, the leader is Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes, Fla., with 362.71; followed by Larry Lazarow of Highland Beach, Fla., with 345.67; Kenneth Wagner Jr. of Hollywood, Fla., with 315.37; and Judy Zhu of Naperville, Ill., with 272.77. John Ziemer is 68th. Ken Meier is 270th. Mike Silverman is 283rd. The list cuts off at 110.82.

None of us make the Barry Crane Top 500 nationwide. Neither Unit 116 nor District 5. The list cuts off at 395.06. Top is perennial champ Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., with 2,519.61, followed closely by Eric Rodwell of Clearwater, Fla., with 2,504.91 and Chris Compton of Dallas, Texas, with 2,473.46.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bridge Blog 808: Raising the bar

How happy I would be to earn 20 master points this month, I reckoned as I returned to the tables at the Airport Bridge Club on Monday. Five days to play, not far to go. In addition to my regional tournament winnings of 9.77, I had 9.11 in club play.
Now, after a couple days among the club’s point winners, I’m beginning to think October could be a 25-pointer. Fumbling after a good start Monday, June Feuerstein and I wound up with 48.21%. But that was second in the B strat in that triple-point Howell game and it earned us 1.58 points.
Tuesday’s 10-table triple-point game saw June and me both do better with different partners. Eva Schmidt and I made few mistakes and nailed three top boards en route to 59.26%, third overall and second in B for 2.31 points. June, playing with Barbara Sadkin, was first in B. October total now – 22.77.

Bridge Blog 807: Regional recap

The heavy hitters were in the big room at the Fairgrounds Events Center for the Buffalo Regional Tournament last week, but I didn’t spot any of them. Three of the overall District 5 point leaders were on hand – Ohioans Fleur Howard, Phillip Becker and Michael Craeger – but they were immersed in the high-level knock-out games, so they never crossed my path.
Tied for the top of the heap in master point winnings were two of the Toronto honchos – Martin Hunter and John Duquette – who took home 85. They won three knock-out competitions for 20.12, 30.61 and 32.83 of those points.
You have to look down the list to 19th place to encounter the first player from host Unit 116 – Jim Gullo, with 34.82 points. Good work, Jim. After him, the locals start to show up with more and more regularity. Here they are through100th place:
Jay Costello, 28.85 (24th).
Mike Ryan, 28.18 (25th).
Saleh Fetouh, 25.63 (35th).
Davis Heussler, 23.70 (38th).
Yichuan Luo, 23.23 (39th).
Donna Steffan, 22.99 (43rd).
Judy Padgug, 20.98 (46th).
Ken Meier, 18.85 (52nd).
Kathy Pollock, 18.52 (53rd).
Judy Graf and Fred Yellen, 18.08 (tied 58th).
Liz Clark, 17.39 (64th).
John Ziemer, 17.31 (65th).
David Hemmer, 17.01 (71st).
Bert Feasley, 16.71 (72nd).
Linda Burroughsford, 16.37 (74th).
Joanne Kelley, Eugene Harvey and Chongmin Zhang, 15.44 (tied 81st).
Jay Levy, 14.78 (86th).
Gaurang Sheth, 14.20 (90th).
Bob Padgug, 14.13 (91st).
Martha and John Welte, 13.12 (tied 100th).
My 9.77 points put me in 138th place, tied with none other than Jerry Geiger. My playing partners are further down the list: Joe Miranda, 6.35 (202nd); Usha Khurana and Mona Karna, 5.41 (tied for 237th); Judie Bailey, 4.55 (259th); Ruth Wurster, 4.15 (278th); Betty Metz, 3.62 (298th); and Marilyn Sultz, 3.46 (300th). In all, 476 players earned points.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bridge Blog 806: Buffalo Regional Day 6

Swiss teams! The big tournament finale. Forty-five tables. We’re Team 38, which means we get to start off the day against Team 37 – Judy Padgug, Kathy Pollock, Davis Heussler and Tom Koralewski, a more high-powered lineup than ours (Judie Bailey, Ruth Wurster, Marilyn Sultz and myself), but a B stratification team nevertheless.
Then a funny thing happened. Tom Koralewski doubled Judie on a 4 Spade vulnerable contract when she had an awesome long suit and she made an overtrick. On the heels of that was a slam hand which Judie, after checking on my Aces, took all the way to 7 No Trump. Soon as her hand come down, it was obvious that we were taking all 13 tricks. In fact, we could have taken 14. At the other table, Judy Padgug and Kathy Pollock stopped at 6 NT. Thanks to those two hands, we wound up beating them by 4 International Match Points.
We would have been happy to stop right there and rest on our laurels, but there were six more seven-board rounds to go. Plus, having won in the opening round, we got to play another good team, an honest-to-God A team of Stan Kozlowski, Alex Kowal, Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg. They pretty much mopped the floor with us, 19-1 IMPs, although if our teammates hadn’t made a misplay on one hand, it would have been 12-7.
Incredibly, they were the only team we faced that wound up with a better record than we did, although we did our best to help the others out. But for an bit of over-eagerness on Judie’s part in bidding a slam on a hand that only made game, we would have beaten our next opponents – Rich Cramer-Benjamin and Jeff Bender – by a margin of 7-4 IMPs. Instead, they bested us, 15-7.
Well, we’ll get easier opponents now, I assured my teammates. Next up was a St. Catharines, Ont., team – Kit Nash and Mike Ritza, not so easy – who also were 1-2. On a bunch of low-scoring hands, they stymied us, 10-1.
At this point there might have been a break for lunch, but just a few minutes were added to the middle of the seven rounds so that players could line up for hamburgers, Italian sausage sandwiches and salads at the Event Center CafĂ©. (I brought a sandwich from the Lexington Co-op.) The Swiss team games at Unit 116 sectional tournaments, where there’s a lunch break and orders are taken for sandwiches in advance, are far more humane.
Another St. Catharines team faced us in the fifth round – Sharon Stevens and Maureen Clark at our table – and they benefited from a three-hand series where Judie and I zigged and zagged around bidding and making game. They beat us, 24-11.
So much for finishing in the upper echelon of the B strat and collecting gold points. We’d need at least four wins to do that. At this point, however, we were meeting teams that were even more desperate than us. Our sixth-round opponents, Dave Donaldson and Sushil Amlami, told us they hadn’t won anything at all. Nor did they beat us. We took them, 18-6.
Since there was an uneven number of teams, there was one three-team round robin afoot, reserved for the bottom-most teams, and we got caught in it for the final round, playing three-board sets against two different teams. Director Alex Bealles tried without much success to explain to us how to submit the scores until I finally assured him that we would somehow figure it out. We got one good hand against each of them – at our table, Eva Schmidt and Gabe Tannenbaum and then Martin and Barbara Pieterse – and won both sets.
Our final Victory Point tally was 94, almost respectable, but well short of the 110 that the eighth place B team chalked up to win 2.43 points. (The overall winners had 165.) Nevertheless, each victory in a round was worth 0.36 of a red point, giving us a total of 1.08 for the day.