Friday, June 23, 2017

Bridge Blog 959: STaC and back

Two games a day for the six days of the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC) last week pretty much assured that regular players at the Airport Bridge Club would figure prominently in the final standings.
Nevertheless, our leading contender, Nancy Wolstoncroft, is way back in 12th place with her 16.14 points. Tied at the top with more than twice as many points are Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio. They won 33.81.
What Buffalo has is an ample supply of second-tier finishers. After Nancy comes her frequent partner, Alan Greer, with 14.77 (16th), and Denise Slattery, 14.52 (17th). A little further back in the double digits are Jerry Geiger, 11.28 (25th); Judi Marshall, 11.13 (26th); Ken Meier, 11.04 (29th); and Jay Levy, 10.82 (30th). I’m down in 58th place with 8.07.  In all, 1,061 players earned points.
I’m not sure why, but the post-STaC week began with a big head of steam. Partnerless on Monday and Tuesday, I’m paired both days with Carolyn Siracuse, a very good player but somewhat scattered at times.
On Monday, I arrive late and we don’t even consult on conventions. It doesn’t matter. We cruise to a 61.32% game, first in our direction, second overall, 2.19 master points. Tuesday we get to go over the basics before play begins and we diminish accordingly. This time we’re 55.08%, third in our direction, 0.50 of a point.
Wednesday is The Longest Day, the summer solstice and the occasion for the ACBL to celebrate by encouraging marathon games to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. The Airport Bridge Club schedules three games, beginning at 10 a.m. Because I have to be at work in the 4 o’clock hour, I get to play only the first two of them with June Feuerstein.
To fit three of them in between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., they’re short games, but director Bill Finkelstein insures they’re long enough to award extra points. For June and me, that turns out to be a bonanza. In the morning, we’re second in the B strat in our direction, earning 0.67 of a point. In the game that begins shortly after noon, we romp to 62.50%, first in our direction, second overall, for 1.31 points.
The hot streak ends Thursday with a 48.21% game with Dottie May, but bubbles up again on Friday with Denise Slattery, finishing with 54.17%, second North-South, fourth overall, for 1.05 point. No game Saturday so I can help Monica and her bicycle get back home from the University at Buffalo after the Ride for Roswell, but it’s been a full week anyway – 5.72 points.
Add that to the 4.01 from early in the month and the 8.07 from STaC Week and June starts to look like it might bust 20 points. And it's about time! That still leaves me short of my goal – shooting for 15 points per month, I should have 90 by midyear and I’ll only have about 80 – but nevertheless it’s a big step ahead. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bridge Blog 958: Triple Play

I wrap up STaC week with two games at the Airport Bridge Club with Denise Slattery. Our payoff, such as it is, comes in the six-table game in the morning. 53.58%. 1.05 silver points. First in the B strat, but way too low for a bonus on the district level.
Afternoon is a five-table Howell and, stricken with that after-lunch letdown, we struggle. At one point, I start dozing. At another point, I lurch into a down-four-doubled minus 800 contract. We’re lucky to register 49.55%.
Then, since my other half is over in Cortland playing volleyball in the Empire State Senior Games, I nip home briefly, feed the cat, then zip across the Peace Bridge. At the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., it’s their monthly Saturday evening social – an open pairs game with dinner. This time around, it’s Friendly Fred’s Barbecue, dedicated to a beloved club director who’s passed on.
The trip to St. Catharines is a lot easier in the 5 o’clock hour on a Saturday than it is during the noon hour on Friday, when I usually run this route. There’s only one car in front of me at the checkpoint and traffic is so light I knock five minutes off my normal running time.
They’ve only just begun to eat when I get there at 5:45. There’s steak, chicken and sausage off the grill, plus a long table full of picnic side dishes, plus beer and wine for $2.50 a pop, which makes for a very jolly evening. Converting the club from dining room to game room is a flurry of confusion, but a quick one. And it’s a big game – 22 tables.
Selina Volpatti and I have a seriously good time, I’m declarer on 11 of the 26 hands and it’s my best effort of the day. 59.17%. Tied for fourth overall, third in the B strat. 2.22 master points. Selina messages me later to apologize for messing up the response on my 2 Club opener on one of our poorer hands, but no matter. I’m feeling so much afterglow that I hardly mind getting pulled over by the Border Patrol at the Rainbow Bridge for a random search of the car. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bridge Blog 957: STaCked Against Me

The Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC) should be like taking silver points from a baby. Play at your home club, have a good game, rake in the bonus points at the district level. The Airport Bridge Club even provides us with extra rakes – two STaC games every day.
So on an ideal STaC week, I’d have 12 to 14 silver point opportunities. In previous years, I would attempt all of them. But not this year. My employer, The Buffalo News, wants me an hour earlier – 4 p.m. instead of 5 – and that rules out the second game. At best, I’d show up well after 5.
Luckily, 9 out of the 12 games can be salvaged. No work Friday and Saturday. And I plead for a dispensation for Thursday, so Selina Volpatti won’t have to come over from Canada for just one session.
Plus – to diminish our STaC expectations further – nobody wins all the time. Even if you scratch on a club level in a STaC game, it usually takes 60% or better to break into those fat bonus points.
And one final reality check – STaC history. I managed 9.74 back in December, but I played 13 games. My best STaC ever was last June – 11.57. So let’s set a reasonable goal – two-thirds of last December. 6.5 or so. 

Bridge Blog 957-A: Living It Up, Living It Down

Stumble at the start Monday with Art Matthies. 46.04%. Art’s a good player, a serious player. We should have done better. Immediately regret not being able to stay for the afternoon session.
Better with Dorothy May on Tuesday. 53.12%. Third East-West in a 12-table game. 1.03 silver points. Not enough for district bonus points, though.
Back Wednesday morning with Art, who admonishes me for my freewheeling bidding. “No more 800s,” he says. Whereupon I engineer an 1,100. Plus 1,100. I double opponents (I'm keeping my promise that they go unnamed) after they stumble into a 3 Diamond contract on a difficult hand to bid. They go down 5.

Board 17. I’m North. I’m dealer. Nobody vulnerable.

North
Spades: 10-9-4; Hearts: none; Diamonds: K-J-5-2; Clubs: A-J-10-9-5-2.

East
Spades: K-Q-5; Hearts: Q-9-7-5; Diamonds: Q-10-8-7; Clubs: Q-6.

South (Art)
Spades: A-J-2; Hearts: J-8-6-4-3-2; Diamonds: A-9-3; Clubs: 8.

West
Spades: 8-7-6-3; Hearts: A-K-10; Diamonds: 6-5; Clubs: K-7-4-3.

East is declarer. Art leads his singleton Club and a cross-ruff ensues. Hand record says we should take eight tricks in Diamonds. We take nine. Otherwise, it’s our hand and we should make 2 Spades or 3 Clubs.
Hey, now that I look at my copy of the game summary, there’s an error in scoring this hand. We're credited with plus 100, only 3 match points instead of 4. OK, let's look at the posted scores (which I photographed Friday on my phone to transcribe into the newspaper bridge news column). It’s been corrected. We now have our extra match point, 50.52% instead of 49.52%. No silver points, but at least we salvage some pride.
No compunctions about wild bidding with Selina Volpatti on Thursday. The morning hands agree with our freewheeling style and we sail to a stellar 63.08%, second overall at the club and fourth overall in the district: 4.51 points.
The magnificent morning then turns sour in the afternoon. Our 46.14% is last North-South.
Friday morning begins with more high hopes for a partnership with Bob Linn, a far more experienced player than I am, but once again we fail to live up to our potential. 44.91%. Ninth out of 11 pairs.
Bob can’t stay for the afternoon and I wind up playing with director Bill Finkelstein, who is even less forgiving of my misplays that Bob is. Despite my duly noted bidding and defensive errors, we come in third overall, second in B, with a 53.85% game. 0.85 silver points.
A check just now with the e-mailed STaC summary (it’s pretty prompt) brings more good news. Third in the club also is third in the district for small games. That 0.85 is bumped up to 1.48.
Total for the week so far: 7.02. Hey, I’ve made my goal, and then some. The two Saturday sessions with Denise Slattery will be gravy. Or better yet, whipped cream on top.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bridge Blog 956: Too soon, too soon, the First of June

Losing a week in May by being out of town didn't help. Nor did I rediscover the winning streak I enjoyed back in January, when I was monthly master point race leader at the Airport Bridge Club. No, in May I accumulated only 11.81 points, all in club play, well below my monthly goal of 15. On the bright side, I passed the 2,200 mark career-wise.
Underachievement like this doesn't compel me to do my monthly check of the ACBL master point races. But the calendar does. June is almost half over. Let's see where things stand.
Unit 116 (Buffalo only). Ace of Clubs (club play only). Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points). I have 49.36 points through May 31, which puts me in third place, ninth in Unit 116 overall, well behind the leaders. Here's the top 10.
David Millward, now back from Florida, 77.81 (first in Unit 116, too). Mike Silverman, 72.62 (second in the unit). Me, 49.36 (ninth). Ken Meier, 48.54 (11th). Gene Finton, also back from Florida, 38.01 (26th). Fred Yellen, 37.70 (27th). Allen Beroza, 37.52 (28th). Dorothy May, 34.05 (34th). Chuck Schorr, 21.95 (61st). Vince Pesce, 21.93 (62nd).
Unit-wide, the Top 10 Ace of Clubbers are: David Millward, 77.81; Mike Silverman, 72.62; Liz Clark, 72.56; Meg Klamp (still in Florida?), 68.55; John Ziemer, 55.22; Sharon Benz (!), 52.67; John and Martha Welte, both with 50.02; me, 49.36; Barbara Libby, 49.28.
Now the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney, which counts all points earned everywhere. I have 59.36 points overall, which puts me in fifth place among Ruby Life Masters, 31st in the unit.
Top Ruby Life Masters are Ken Meier, 127.85 (fourth in the unit); David Millward, 90.89 (16th); Mike Silverman, 73.56 (23rd); Fred Yellen, 62.33 (28th); me, 59.36 (31st); Allen Beroza, 57.63 (32nd); Gene Finton, 43.13 (48th); Dorothy May, 35.35 (64th); Art Morth, 27.03 (73rd); and Bill Rushmore, 24.83 (81st).
John and Martha Welte top the overall Unit 116 Mini-McKenney list. They've both got 146.33. Then comes Davis Heussler, 143.83; Ken Meier, 127.85; Mike Ryan, 123.02; Christy Kellogg, 188.70; Jay Levy, 118.68; Bert Hargeshimer, 188.08; John Ziemer, 107.98; and David Hemmer, 106.99. Also over the century mark are Linda Burroughsford, 101.42; and Saleh Fetouh, 100.06.
Now for District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. Here I'm sixth, 34th overall in the district. The leaders are the top two Unit 116 guys: David Millward, 77.81 (sixth overall); Mike Silverman, 72.62 (ninth); Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa. 71.31 (11th); Allen Selling of Erie, Pa., 57.35 (19th); Chantal Whitney of Bratenahl, Ohio, 55.09 (24th); me, 49.36 (34th); Ken Meier, 48.54 (36th); Ronald Sain of Indiana, Pa., 48.04 (38th); William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 45.40 (50th); and Patrick Slaven of Mogadore, Ohio, 44.24 (54th).  
Overall District 5 Ace of Clubbers are led by couples, or at least four people who share last names. Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 95.09; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 90.37 and 88.14; Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh, 85.03; W (William) Tordella of Bemus Point, 78.68; David Millward, 77.81; Arlene Port of Pittsburgh, 74.55; good old Reanette Frobouch of Pittsburgh, 73.92; and a pair of Buffalonians, Mike Silverman, 72.62; and Liz Clark, 72.56.
District 5 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Masters continue to be led by Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, with 323.15. She's third overall in the district. Next is Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 268.94 (fourth), then William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 161.28 (17th); a pair of Buffalonians, Ken Meier, 127.85 (31st) and David Millward, 90.89 (59th); Jean Picone of Pittsburgh, 88.41 (66th); Charles Ladiha of Vermilion, Ohio, 86.52 (69th) ; Monica Early of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 84.77 (72nd); Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa., 82.70 (74th); and closing out the top 10, Unit 116's Mike Silverman, 73.56 (92nd).
Overall District 5 Mini-McKenney leaders are: Kathleen and Don Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, with 344.13 and 342.05, respectively. They've nudged Sue Lan Ma down to third with 323.15. After that, it's Craig Biddle, 268.94; Bernie Greenspan of Beachwood, Ohio, 240.97; the aforementioned Robert and Stephanie Alexander, 226.02 and 223.79; Richard Katz, also aforementioned, 217.96; and Brian Ellis and Phillip Becker, both of Beachwood, Ohio, with 212.60 and 195.09. Reanette Frobouck, often a leader here, is 11th with 185.83.
Nationwide Ruby Life Master Ace of Clubs leaders look like this: Russ Pearly of The Villages, Fla., 151.55 (45th overall); Barry Nish of Little Neck, L.I., 137.58 (77th overall); Paul Hassett of The Villages, 135.48 (83rd); Thomas Roberg of Raleigh, N.C., 133.83 (88th); and Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., 132.75 (90th). Among us Unit 116 people, David Millward is 123rd; Mike Silverman is 170th; and I miss the Top 500. It cuts off at 54.05.
Nationwide Ace of Clubs leaders among all players are Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 271.50; Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta, 264.42; Kay Schulle of Purchase, N.Y., 244.08; Irva Neyhart of Corvallis, Ore., 221.59; and Mason Barge of Atlanta, 203.69. None of us Unit 116 players here.
In the Nationwide Mini-McKenney, District 5's Sue Lan Ma and Craig Biddle come in fourth and fifth among Ruby Life Masters, behind Gillian Miniter of New York City, 500.56 (Only 47th nationwide); Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., 410.90 (88th nationwide); and Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 328.24 (170th).
Among all players, there are five who finished the month of May with more than 1,000 points so far this year. Leader is Chris Compton of Dallas with 1,269.13. Then it's the legendary Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 1,224.82; Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 1,072.10; Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., 1,044.12; and Eric Rodwell of Clearwater, Fla., 1,024.30. District 5's Kathleen and Don Sulgrove are 147th and 149th. District 5 Ruby Life Master leader Sue Lan Ma is 175th. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bridge Blog 955: Is I Is or Is I Ain't?

I asked myself that question all weekend. Just 0.06 of a point shy of 2,200 master points, I failed to pass that milestone Friday and again Saturday.
On the first four boards Friday, in St. Catharines, Ont., Selina Volpatti and I blew it and we knew it. Had we simply avoided our early mistakes and achieved average boards, we would have had a better-than-50% game and a milestone-passing quarter of a point, according to my review of the hands online that night.
On Saturday, it was over before it started. With a hair appointment running late, I arrived at the end of the first round to hear partner Burt Freiman confess that he was over-bidding when club manager Bill Finkelstein sat in for me. Burt was unable to correct it and I was unable to overcome whatever else came along. We barely made 40%. Dead last.
Nevertheless, when I checked the Airport Bridge Club master point race for May after Saturday's game, it showed me with 8.07 for the month, not the 7.97 that I tallied up. Math error? Belated recalculation? Who knew? 
To erase all doubt, what I needed was another trip to the winners' circle. Happily, that happened Monday with Marilyn Sultz, confirmed with 20 out of a possible 21 match points in the final round, lifting us to second East-West with 55.10%. 1.17 points. So there!  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bridge Blog 954: On the verge

My partners have started winning again (ref. Blog 945). Even Marietta Kalman, who took regrettable dives on at least two hands Thursday at the Airport Bridge Club where she should have cruised to game. Alas, if she had only (1) exploited a long Club suit in dummy in a 3 No Trump contract – everybody else made it and one of them took 12 tricks, despite missing two Aces – and (2) ignored the possible ramifications of a 4-4-4-1 trump distribution in a 4 Spade attempt and ruffed her two minor suit losers to give herself an overtrick like the other South players did, instead of going down.
Yes, Marietta and I managed to scratch out a 51.96% effort, best game we’ve had together since a 63% in February, and that one was a major anomaly considering our history. Thursday was second overall in the B strat, rewarding us with 1.42 master points, thanks to the near-universal extra-point regimen in effect at the Airport Club.
That point bonanza has paid off to the tune of 7.97 points so far this month, despite the seven sessions I missed while I was away in New York City, where I had no bridge opportunities. Add that to what MyACBL says is my career total – 2,191.97 – and that's just 0.06 away from a milestone. If my partners can overcome the odds and continue their winning ways (Selina Volpatti today against that tough crowd in St. Catharines, Ont.; newbie Bert Freiman on Saturday at the Airport Club), I’m there.