Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bridge Blog 822: February fadeout

Nothing to say about February. It seems like I hardly played, just eight times in 28 days.
Between the record cold weather and the snow, which canceled games left and right, and my chemo treatments, which flattened me completely from the 13th to the 24th, my opportunities were limited.
Seven of those games were in the first 12 days of the month, including a two sessions at the sectional in St. Catharines. Best of those efforts was a 60% with Dotty May on the 12th. My only other game the rest of the month was on the 27th with Celine Murray, a dismal 42% last-place finish. Master point total for February, something like 1.84, lowest since I started playing competitively in February 2005.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bridge Blog 821: January redux

Leave it to the ACBL to mess with the format for their master point races. I checked the place I usually check all weekend, figuring the January totals would be posted by the sixth of the month, and there was nothing for 2015.
Just now, however, on a whim, I clicked the “new format” link and up come the January totals. All amalgamated in the different point divisions and then broken down if you click the one you want, in my case, the 1,000 to 2,500-point list. Needless to say, like all improvements, it’s a big pain in the ass.
Anyway, in the Ace of Clubs race for Unit 116, which is just Buffalo, I’m seventh with 8.70 points in the “filtered rank,” with a little notation under “overall rank” listing me 25th in the unit.
Leading the pack is Martin Pieterse with 15.50, followed by Mike Silverman with 13.65, 2014 champ John Ziemer with 13.06, Fred Yellen with 9.47, Walt Olszewski with 9.13 and Bill Finkelstein with 8.75. Behind me are Barbara Pieterse with 7.79, Dorothy May with 7.58 and Ken Meier with 6.98.
Unlike the previous master point listings, this one goes on forever, to include everyone in the division, all the way down to Harry Meyers in 40th place with 0.28 of a point.
Biggest Ace of Clubs point winner overall for January is Barbara Libby with 19.70, followed by Jerry Geiger with 18.21 and Meg Klamp, who’s in Florida, with 16.84. Martin Pieterse is fourth.
Moving on to the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which includes all points earned in clubs and tournaments, my 9.73 puts me in tenth place, 51st overall. Ahead of me are:
David Hemmer, 46.53 (he’s first overall, too); Fred Yellen, 23.98; John Ziemer, 15.65; Mike Silverman, 15.63; Martin Pieterse, 15.60 (now that’s really tight!); Sharon Gerstman, 15.16; Art Morth, 14.35; Walt Olszewski, 12.60; and Bill Rushmore, 11.10. Harry Meyers is at the bottom of this list, too, which runs to 42 names.

Looking into the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Unit 116 holds down the top four places on the Ace of Clubs list. I’m 14th, 64th overall. Over on the Mini-McKenney, David Hemmer is third, behind Sun Lan Ma (a new name in this division) of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, who has 91.11, and good old Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, who has 55.50. I’m 61st, 220th overall.

Bridge Blog 820: St. Catharines wrap-up

Visiting players were the top nine master point winners in the 61st Annual Niagara District Sectional Tournament over the weekend. David Baker of Kitchener, Ont., took home the biggest haul – 36.36 points.
Local players don’t check in until the 10th, 11th and 12th places – Jeremy Smee with 20.41, and George Morrissey and Brian Macartney, both with 19.43. Leading Buffalo player was Saleh Fetouh, tied for 14th place with partner Ringo Chung with 17.34 points.

Next Buffalo players on the list are Bert Hargeshimer and partner Christy Kellogg, tied for 92nd with 4.28, just behind my Sunday Swiss team partner Selina Volpatti, who had 4.29. Me, I’m in an eight-way tie for 361st with my measly 0.34. In all, 378 players earned points. Total tournament table count: 356.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bridge Blog 819: Surviving the St. Catharines Sectional

If showing up is 90% of life, then playing in the St. Catharines Sectional was a triumph of getting there and back. On Friday, after I got to partner Barbara Sadkin’s house in East Amherst, she did the driving. As for our play in the afternoon open pairs game, we were the best of the worst – 10th out of 15 pairs with 43%. When I got back home around 6 p.m., I headed straight for a nap.
          Sunday Swiss teams with Selina Volpatti were more of an endurance test. The game seemed endless – it started at 10:30 a.m. and didn’t wrap up until 6 p.m. Our teammates – Len and Mary Ellen Dale from Barre, Ont. – were ready to call it a day after six rounds. By then, we’d made all the impact we were going to make.
          Len approved of our defeat in the first round. He agreed that this way we would get to play the weaker teams. We, however, turned out to the weakest of them all. We lost our first four rounds, falling to the bottom of the heap.
The team that climbed past us in the fourth round, the previous cellar-dwellers, pulled a post-game director call on us for abusive play – Len had harshly criticized one of the opponents who challenged him on a point – and the director took away all our victory points for the round. No big harm. They’d already beaten us 28-2.
We finally salvaged victories in the fifth and sixth rounds, but threw away the seventh with a failed attempt at a 6 No Trump slam (why not bid it when Selina and I both had 17-point No Trump openers?). Total return for the day – 0.17 of a silver point for each winning round.

The bigger victory was getting back home without mishap in the wake of an inch or two of snow that left all the highways slippery in the 15-degree cold. To avoid the hazards of the St. Catharines Skyway, I’d mapped out local routes to avoid it and get me to the Rainbow Bridge (my one concession to freeway travel, a short stretch of Highway 406, was unnerving – snow-covered and slow), then continued on local streets from Niagara Falls to home. A trip that took 45 minutes on the way up took twice that long coming back. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bridge Blog 818: Belated Buffalo Winter Sectional Wrap-Up

I saw so little of the Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament Jan. 23 to 25 – just two morning pairs games – and earned so little in the way of points that it drifted right out of my brain. But it’s worth noting for a couple reasons, high-scoring reasons.
First of all, the leading master point winner, Bud Seidenberg, took home more points than I recall anyone doing at a recent Buffalo sectional – 32.32. 
When he won in the 32.5-table Friday morning pairs game, he collected 9.85 points. When he came in second in the 25.5-table Friday afternoon pairs, he got another 6.19. He was second again in the 27.5-table Saturday morning pairs for 6.53 points. And on Sunday, in the 23-table Swiss team competition, he was part of the winning team, collecting another 9.08.
At the St. Catharines, Ont., sectional Friday, Feb. 6, Saleh Fetouh pointed out that their winning Swiss team had won 92% of the possible International Match Points – 193 out of 210 – but that the ACBL’s Bridge Bulletin magazine will not recognize it the way it recognizes pairs that have games of 75% or better. Unfair, he said. I agree.
Meanwhile, back to Bud Seidenberg’s 32.32 points and a historical review of top point winners in Buffalo sectionals. 
At the fall sectional back in September, there were more tables – 164 to 156 – but fewer overall points awarded – 552.12 vs. 646.48. The point winner, Kathy Pollock, had just 15.67. Seidenberg was second with 12.79. In the spring sectional, point champ Chris Urbanek had only 16.17 (Seidenberg second again with 14.87). Point winner of last year’s winter sectional, which had only 132 tables, was Davis Heussler with a mere 13.70 (Seidenberg was 28th with 4.66).
Fall 2013 – 173 tables, Jay Levy, 17.96.
Spring 2013 – 139 tables, Saleh Fetouh, 21.66.
Winter 2013 – 151 tables, Saleh Fetouh, 19.04.
Fall 2012 – 129 tables, Jay Levy, 17.90.
Spring 2012 – 137 tables, Chris Urbanek, 20.34.
Winter 2012 – 133 tables, Saleh Fetouh, 20.58.
Fall 2011 – 137 tables, Saleh Fetouh, 23.68.
Spring 2011 – 153 tables, Ranald Davidson (North York, Ont.), 18.05.
Winter 2011 – 117 tables, Jay Levy, 17.93.
Fall 2010 – 139 tables, Jim Mathis, 27.33.
Spring 2010 – 145 tables, Dan Gerstman, 18.89.
Winter 2010 – 122 tables, Bud Seidenberg and Jay Levy (tie), 17.79.
Fall 2009 – 159 tables. Chris Urbanek, 16.78.
Spring 2009 – 124 tables. Martin Hunter (Mississauga, Ont), 13.59.
Winter 2009 – 127 tables. Jim Mathis, 21.39.
Even the guy with the second-most points this year, Jay Costello, outdistanced most of the winners for the past six years. Partnered with Bud Seidenberg on Friday, he wound up with 25.82. Third was Saleh Fetouh with 20.41, which is still better than half the winners since 2009.

Me? My measly 1.03 made me 120th out of the 162 players who got points.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bridge Blog 817: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 2 and out

Chemo brain tried to derail me again in the early rounds Saturday morning in the Main-Transit Fire Hall, but it didn’t do too much damage. On the other hand, partner Paula Kotowski and I didn’t get any gifts of the magnitude of the one that the usually capable John Welte delivered to me and Judy Kaprove on Friday, when he revoked (trumped my Ace of Spades, then led a Spade) and allowed me to make a 5 Diamond contract that should have failed.
Indeed, Paula and I tried to avoid giving gifts, especially when one of the best East-West pairs in the room, Saleh Fetouh and Bud Seidenberg, came to our table. If anybody was going to squeeze extra tricks out of us and give us bottom boards, these guys would.
Then the bridge gods, in their whimsy, bestowed all 13 tricks on us – twice! But we didn’t bid the slams. We could have, but we didn’t. In the first hand, had we bid 6 No Trump, the right lead would have sunk us unless Paula was declarer. The second one also benefited from a favorable lead, but not as much.
Here they are. First, Board 19. I was North, declarer on both. Saleh was East:

Spades: K-Q-8-3; Hearts: 9; Diamonds: A-K-Q-10-8; Clubs: A-J-10.
Spades: A-5-2; Hearts: K-8-5-2; Diamonds: J-2; Clubs: K-Q-9-7.
Spades: J-6; Hearts: J-10-6-4-3; Diamonds: 9-4-3; Clubs: 6-5-2.
Spades: 10-9-7-4; Hearts: A-Q-7; Diamonds:7-6-5; Clubs: 8-4-3.

Saleh did not lead a Heart. Any other lead lets me romp straight to 13 tricks. Five Diamonds, four Clubs and, as it turned out, four Spades. The hand record indicates that South can make 6 NT, but North can make only 4 NT. The other sure slams are in the minor suits. In Spades, we take only 11 tricks.
Now for Board 20. Both vulnerable this time and we wind up at 4 Spades after I open a strong 2 Clubs, proclaim Spades as my favored suit and Paula jumps straight to game. The hand record says it’s good for small slams in Spades and Diamonds. Here it is:

Spades: K-Q-9-8-4; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: A-K-Q-7-5; Clubs: A-Q.
Spades: A-6-2; Hearts: Q-8-7-3; Diamonds: 4-3; Clubs: K-9-5-2.
Spades: 7-5-3; Hearts: A-10-4; Diamonds: J-10-8; Clubs: 10-7-5-3.
Spades: J-10; Hearts: K-J-9-5-2; Diamonds: 9-6-2; Clubs: J-8-4.

Once again, Saleh does not lead a Heart. I cash my Clubs, then draw trump in three rounds, ending in dummy, discard my Heart singleton on the King of Clubs and run the Diamonds, catching a favorable split.

Paula and I wind up with a 54.9% game, fifth in the B strat, tenth in the overall A strat. It’s our standing in the A strat that gives us our 0.67 of a master point. Total for the tournament – 1.03. I’m not playing the Swiss teams on Sunday. Given my limited stamina right now, I’m happy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bridge Blog 816: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 1

Chemo brain. What else would prompt me to get into a 2 Spade contract on this, the very first hand of the day Friday in the Main-Transit Fire Hall? Why else would I ignore Walt Olszewski’s double? After all, we’re vulnerable. Could be because I thought my four-card black suit was Spades.

Board 15. I’m dealer. Here are the hands.

Spades: 7; Hearts: A-K-8-3; Diamonds: K-10-8-2; Clubs: 10-8-6-3.
Spades: A-Q-J-2; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: 9-6-3; Clubs: Q-J-9-7-5.
Spades: 10-9-6-5-4-3; Hearts: Q-5-4; Diamonds: A-J; Clubs: 4-2.
Spades: K-8; Hearts: J-10-9-7-2; Diamonds: Q-7-5-4; Clubs: A-K.

I opened bidding with a pass. Partner Judy Kaprove opened with a Club. East – Martin Pieterse – bid a Heart. Me, thinking my Clubs were Spades, bid a Spade. Walt, sitting West, bid 2 Hearts. Judy bid 2 Spades. Walt doubled. Down three vulnerable. 
Actually, we can make 2 or 3 Clubs, depending on who plays it. The likely result on the hand record shows East-West playing it at 3 Hearts doubled, down one.
We stabilized after that and wound up with a 52% game, seventh in B in our section North-South for 0.36 of a silver point. I’m happy enough. Overall, there were 32.5 tables, a fine turnout. Uncertain of stomach when the session started, I settled it with nut bread and tea. My head was clearer when it was over.

As I was filling my plastic plate, Unit 116 president Sue Neubecker jested about the time I went out and bought extra cream cheese when the original supply ran out at a sectional a few years ago. She assured me there was plenty this time. Not necessarily so.  When I surveyed the few remaining bagels during our sit-out, halfway through the game, cream cheese was nowhere to be found.