Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bridge Blog 802: Buffalo Regional Day 2

My Tuesday-Wednesday teammates are agents of the unexpected. Instead of signing up for the stratified pairs, like they should have on Wednesday morning, they signed up for the Wednesday-Thursday knockout series.
As we saw on Tuesday, the knockouts can leave lesser players with nothing to show for their $12 entry fee but a bunch of shoulda-woulda-couldas at the end of the first round.
Plus, in the unlikely event that we survive that first morning round, and in the even unlikelier event that we succeed in the afternoon round, we’d be obliged to play in the third round Thursday morning, which we hadn’t arranged to do.  I, for one, am supposed to play with my Syracuse Regional partner, Judie Bailey, on Thursday.
But, lo and behold, instead of a head-to-head match, our morning game was a round robin – three teams competing, every team playing the others for 12 boards apiece, 24 total. So instead of just one team going on to the next round, the two winningest teams advance.
This format has been beneficial to my teams in the past and it was again Wednesday morning. Team 6, which included the highly competent Bob Padgug and Linda Burroughsford, skunked us in International Match Points, 54-0. It was a different story with Team 5, which included our buddies Barbara Sadkin and June Feuerstein. We beat them by 21 IMPs. Coming in second, we paid another $12 and advanced to the afternoon session and another round robin.
There were no Buffalo people among our afternoon opponents. First team included a brother and sister, Mike from Raleigh, N.C., and Mary Jo from Whitney Point, N.Y., who grew up in Niagara Falls. Second team was a pair of Canadian guys, one named Bob from Hamilton, the other named Dave from Oakville. At the break after 12 boards, we were trailing both of them – Mike and Mary Jo by 15 IMPs, Bob and Dave by 4 IMPs.
After the break, our fortunes turned. We overtook Mike and Mary Jo’s team, 23-6, beating them overall by just 2 IMPs. Bob and Dave, on the other hand, took us to the woodshed, 24-3. With the director standing over us, we were the last pair to finish tallying our totals. Yes, we’re playing Thursday morning, he told us. Another $12 apiece, please.
Advancing to the third round means that, win or lose Thursday morning, we will collect the master points allotted for third and fourth place – 2.64 gold, 1.32 red, 3.96 total. Hooray! But we have to play the round, the director informed us. If not, we don’t get the points.
Random notes: Attendance was not so dismal Wednesday, although I won’t see the count until the daily bulletin comes out Thursday. I didn’t notice as many St. Catharines players as I did on Tuesday. According to the Wednesday bulletin, the Tuesday evening stratified pair series had only five tables. There were three tables of stratified morning pairs, 14 tables of Tuesday stratified open pairs, 15 tables for the afternoon stratified pair series and 20 tables of knock-outs. It didn’t have any results for the 299er single session games scheduled at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. That big barn must have been lonely Tuesday evening.
Also improved Wednesday was hospitality, although teammate Mona Karna was complaining that she had to pay $1 for a cup of coffee from the Event Center Café. The smell of spaghetti sauce invaded the room at the end of the afternoon session, and there was egg salad, cheese, cut-up fruit and crackers, plus three boxes of Franzia wine. Nothing during the long lunch break, however. I revisited the place where I ate at the end of the game Tuesday – the buffet at the Buffalo Raceway casino next door.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bridge Blog 801: Buffalo Regional Tournament Day 1

       I usually see the Events Center at the Erie County Fairgrounds filled with vendor booths and greenery for the early spring garden show, Plantasia.
Without the landscaping and the hoopla, it’s depressingly stark and barn-like, making the shockingly small opening day turnout for the Buffalo Regional Tournament seem even smaller. There was a general longing to be back at the Holiday Inn on Grand Island, where the tournament held forth for the past half-dozen years. Or even at the Main-Transit Fire Hall in Williamsville, the favored venue for the Unit 116 sectionals.
Location, location and location were working against it in several ways. Many players from the northern suburbs gave it a miss, figuring it was just too long a drive. A few St. Catharines players came over from Canada, but it’s much more of a haul for them, too. It’s easier for the Rochester players, but only a few made the trip down the Thruway.
It was a diminished experience in almost every way. Pat Rasmus, whose stellar hospitality made the tournaments on Grand Island brighter, was running boards around during the morning knock-out team game, wearing a T-shirt that said “Caddy.” As for the hospitality – plastic bowls of chips and popcorn, a few two-liter bottles of pop and a pitcher of beer from the taps in the Event Center Café, which otherwise was closed.
At regionals, the big ambition is to succeed in the knock-outs, a head-to-head team competition in which the winners advance to the next round and the big pot of gold points at the end. Our team – Usha Khurana, her delightful Indian friend Mona Karna from Sarasota, Fla., and Usha’s frequent partner, Joe Miranda – refused to consider the possibility of needing to find alternative plans if we lost.
It was in my head that I would be playing with Usha, but no. Usha and Mona were a pair. I would play with Joe and, although we never played together before, his approach is pretty much like Usha’s.
Even so, it took the better part of the first round of six hands to work out the kinks. Twice I failed to give Joe a return that would have defeated our opponents, a well-practiced pair of retired teachers from London, Ont., named Margaret and Wilma. This proved costly, accounting for most of the 19 International Match Points we were behind at the midpoint after 12 hands. We did better on the second set of 12, stepping up an already aggressive offense, but there were no opportunities for a big score. We lost that round by a single IMP. Oh well, there are more knockouts Wednesday.
Along with the other knocked-out teams, we turned to the open pairs in the afternoon and, by now, Joe and I were pretty much on the same page. Our coup was a top board against a familiar pair of opponents, Barbara Sadkin and June Feuerstein (See Blog 801-A). For the final round of the session, we faced off for two hands against Usha and Mona and flummoxed them with an unexpected opening bid from Joe (See Blog 801-B.)
We finished with 54.49%, first in B East-West in our section, second in B overall, for 2.39 red points. Usha and Mona also scratched, despite our shenanigans. Third in C overall North-South with a 47.60% for 1.45 red points.

Bridge Blog 801-A: Moon shot

The only absolute top board Joe Miranda and I registered in Monday afternoon’s open pairs game was Board 7 against Barbara Sadkin and June Feuerstein. South (June) is dealer. Both of us are vulnerable. Joe opens a Diamond, I respond 4 No Trump, he bids 5 Clubs (1430 Roman Key Card) and I go straight to 6 Diamonds. Barbara led the Jack of Hearts. “Are we underbid?” I asked Joe as I laid down the dummy. “I think so,” he said. Here are the hands:
Joe (West)
Spades: A-Q-9; Hearts: None; Diamonds: J-9-8-5-4-3; Clubs: K-J-9-8.
Dale (East)
Spades: K-5-2; Hearts: Q-2; Diamonds: A-K-Q-10-7; Clubs: A-6-4.
Barbara (North)
Spades: 10-8-7-6-4; Hearts: K-J-10-7-5; Diamonds: None; Clubs: Q-10-5.
June (South)
Spades: J-3; Hearts: A-9-8-6-4-3; Diamonds: 6-2; Clubs: 7-3-2.
Thanks to the FastResults folks, we can see the results, which show four other pairs bidding 6 Diamonds and making only 6. Usha and Mona also got a top board on that hand, bidding and making 3 Hearts doubled, the only North-South to get a number on their side of the scorecard. (Another went to 6 Hearts doubled, which the printed hand record says is the likely result.) Four other East-Wests stopped at 5 Diamonds, two of them wound up at 3 NT, amazingly making two overtricks, even though North-South should win half a dozen Hearts.

Bridge Blog 801-B: Don't ask!

Mona Karna isn’t sure she wants to play with Joe Miranda after what he and I did to her and Usha Khurana on the last hand of the day in the afternoon pairs game Tuesday. Board 28. North-South vulnerable. West deals.
Joe, as dealer, opens a Club. I respond with a Heart. He goes 3 Clubs. I think for a moment, then take the 3 No Trump plunge. Here are the hands:
Joe (West)
Spades: Q-9-8-5-3; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: 8; Clubs: K-Q-7-6-5-3.
Dale (East)
Spades: K-4; Hearts: A-Q-9-7-5-4; Diamonds: J-9-6-4-3; Clubs: None.
Mona (North)
Spades: J-6; Hearts: 10-8-3; Diamonds: Q-10-5-2; Clubs: A-J-9-8.
Usha (South)
Spades: A-10-7-2; Hearts: K-J-2; Diamonds: A-K-7; Clubs: 10-4-2.
The printed hand record says the likely contract is East-West 4 Hearts doubled, down three. That’s because North-South can make 3 No Trump vulnerable. What happened at our table was my 3 NT going down just two for a minus 100 instead of a minus 500 or 600.
The online record shows results all over the place. None of the North-Souths got 600 because none of them took the bid, although two of them got 500 for setting 3 Spades and 4 Diamonds, both doubled. A lot of East-Wests wound up at 3 Hearts, going down one or two, sometimes doubled. The ones who got plus scores stopped at 2 Hearts or 2 Spades. The top pair made an overtrick (!) in Hearts.

Bridge Blog 800: Ready or not

Continuity was hard to come by in the week leading up to the Buffalo Regional Tournament Oct. 21 to 26, and so were master points.
After the long weekend off for a trip to NY City, it was less than a stellar return to form – a 46.62% game with Marietta Kalman on Tuesday, an even 50% with Celine Murray on Wednesday. The point breakthrough finally arrived on Thursday, when the poorest game of the week – a 46.25% with the lovely Dianne Bloom – brought us in third in the C strat (!) for 0.28 of a point.
On Friday, a last-minute cancellation by Canadian partner Selina Volpatti (too busy campaigning for reelection to the Niagara Regional Council) threw me together with Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein. Between my mistakes and his critiques, it was an experience only marginally less distressing than the cystoscopy I endured the previous afternoon. Nonetheless it proved rewarding – a 50% game, tied for first in B, 0.90 of a point. Another 50% with Bill Boardman on Saturday was less painful, but out of point range.
Giving all these struggles a final wacky spin was Monday’s game with June Feuerstein, who did things like open 1 No Trump with a singleton. Nevertheless, it reaffirmed my belief in miracles. Our 51.79% game put us third overall and earned 0.40 of a point, raising the total for the month to 6.68. OK, bring on the Regional!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bridge Blog 799: Small September harvest

My prolonged slump after the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament has stunted my showing in the monthly master point standings, which the ACBL just posted for September. My haul for the month was just 6.44 club points and 2.90 tournament points. 9.34. Not even double digits.
In the Ace of Clubs (club play only) race for Unit 116 (Buffalo), I’m lodged in sixth place in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division with 82.72 for the year, with more than six points separating me from the players on either side.
John Ziemer continues on top with 148.47. Ken Meier is a distant second with 115.07. Then come Mike Silverman, 99.42; Fred Yellen, 92.99; Chuck Schorr, 89.54; myself, 82.72; Vince Pesce, 70.22; Barbara Pieterse, 68.21; Gene Finton, 65.13; and Dorothy May, 49.50. In the whole unit, only Jerry Geiger has more club points than John Ziemer – 165.57 – and he’s in the 5,000 to 7,500 point division.
In the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which counts all the points earned, John Ziemer also is on top of the 1,000 to 2,500 point division. His full total is 212.17. Ken Meier is second with 132.25, followed by Fred Yellen, 130.69; David Hemmer, 124.08; Mike Silverman, 109.03; myself, 107.20; Chongmin Zhang, 98.51; Chuck Schorr, 91.81; Barbara Pieterse, 83.92; and Gene Finton, 83.64.
Biggest overall point winner in the Unit is Saleh Fetouh with 217.86. Then comes Jerry Geiger with 214.80. Nobody else but John Ziemer is over 200.
Onward to the District 5 standings, which include Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Here Unit 116 routinely dominates whatever division I'm in and we’ve done it once again. We hold down the top six places, with me barely edging out Peggy Shivetts of Greensburg, Pa., who has 81.60. After me, only Vince Pesce makes this Top 25 list. He’s 19th. It cuts off at 68.33 points, just ahead of Barbara Pieterse.
Over on the District-wide Mini-McKenney, we’re not so lucky. Our John Ziemer is fourth, trailing three Ohio players by more than 100 points. Michael Craeger of Brecksville continues as leader with 359.39, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, 321.34; and Peter Merker of Mentor, 312.94.
We’re further represented by Ken Meier, 10th; Fred Yellen, 11th; David Hemmer, 13th; Mike Silverman, 17th; and me in 19th place. The list cuts off at 98.90 points.
Nationwide? Don’t know. Can’t bring it up on the ACBL website tonight.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bridge Blog 798: Nada

I’ve been in a slump of monumental proportions ever since the sectional tournament two weekends ago. Indeed, I have not collected any fragment of a master point since Saturday, Sept. 20. I keep expecting to snap out of it, but all I’ve done is add to my succession of sorry finishes.
This past week included a 42.26% with Usha Khurana last Monday and a 38.09% today (barely escaping last place), a 44.26% with Marietta Kalman last Tuesday (after which she suggested I cut down on overbidding), a 38.19% with Celine Murray on Wednesday (cut down, but it didn’t help), a 46.73% with Dianne Bloom on Thursday, and a 43.81% on Saturday with Alice Bragg (paired up at the last minute).
Closest I came to success was Friday in St. Catharines, Ont., with Selina Volpatti in an 18-table game where we were 2½ match points away from placing fourth in the B strat. All we had to do to improve upon our 48.87% was avoid those three train-wreck hands – two minus 1,100s and a minus 1,700 (on the very first board of the day, a very ill-advised 5 Spade sacrifice, down seven doubled) – and that would have done it.