Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bridge Blog 984: Buffalo Regional Day 2

Turns out Tuesday night partner Rose Cassman, the book-selling lady in the lobby, wants to play the two-session pairs game, not another night game. So we do. And, given room for improvement from our 41% effort Tuesday night, we improve.
In the morning, we bring a 52.73% game, earning 1.18 red points. We're seventh among North-Souths in the B strat overall, third in our section.
Our best moment: Making a 4 Spades doubled contract against Dian Petrov and Kamil Bishara for an outright top board.
Our worst: Watching Fred Yellen and Bud Seidenberg make a 6 Heart slam. Five East-Wests bid it, all should have made it, but only three did (the other two also were top-of-the-line players – Vera Carpenter and Rashid Kahn, who were the overall winners, and Bill Rushmore and Art Morth).
And then there was the one that could have been a top or a bottom, but turned out somewhere in between: 4 Hearts redoubled vulnerable against Sandi England and Ken Meier, a good bet except their Hearts split 5-0. That minus 400, however, still gave us 7 out of 19 match points. Every North-South is in Hearts (we South players have eight of them), 12 get doubled and only one of them beats it.
The afternoon finds me taking most of our bids, but doing not as well – 51.15%. Biggest missed opportunity – not bidding slam on the hand that makes 7 Clubs or 7 No Trump, this one:

South (me)
Spades: 4; Hearts: A-K-J-4; Diamonds: 8-4; Clubs: A-K-Q-10-6-2.

West (Walt Olszewski)
Spades: J-9-3; Hearts: Q-10-8-7-5-2; Diamonds: K-7-6-3; Clubs: none.

North (Rose, the dealer)
Spades: A-K-Q-6; Hearts: none; Diamonds: A-Q-J-9; Clubs: 9-8-7-4-3.

East (Martin Pieterse)
Spades: 10-8-7-5-2; Hearts: 9-6-3; Diamonds: 10-5-2; Clubs: J-5.

Rose opens a Diamond, I bid 2 Clubs, she bids 2 Spades, I jump to 3 NT. Bidding closed. Guilty as charged. I feel my slam-sense tingling, Spider-man style, but decide to ignore it. We pay the price.
Five pairs bid 7 Clubs and make it. Two bid 6 NT and make an overtrick. Eight bid 6 Clubs and get an overtrick. Three of us unfortunates stop at 3 NT. And three even more unlucky pairs stop at 5 Clubs. Going to 6 Club slam would get us an extra 5 match points. Going to 6 NT would yield an extra 10. Amazingly, it would not get us any more master points.
We’d still be first in the B strat in our section, of course. (Plus, as Rose reminds me when it's over, we get a prize for being first.) We'd still be seventh in B overall. And we'd still collect 3.53 points, 1.18 red and 2.35 gold.
In the evening, in the severe air-conditioned chill in the main ballroom, they need another pair to fill out the fifth table in a five-table Howell game. None other than Mike Ryan agrees to play with me and they waive the $12 fee for each of us.

Mike is good, a true A player, but the Howell seems to work against us. Our cards suck. The only stationary North-South pair – John and Diane Bielinski – are the winners. Somehow we make a respectable 52.91% showing (my highest percentage of the day), but we're fifth overall. Only the top four get points. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Bridge Blog 983: Buffalo Regional Day 1

I could've been in Las Vegas on Tuesday to see Sabres battle the Golden Knights expansion team on the only ice in town that isn't cooling cocktails. That was the plan until a couple months ago. (Note after midnight, they battle back to send the game into overtime, then lose 5-4.)
Then I could've been on cat caretaking duty. Fortunately, our kitty Boris is recovering well from the amputation of his back leg and the cat oncologist says he seems to be cancer free, at least for the next few months. Thank goodness!
So I show up at the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Buffalo without a partner, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I'm paired with one of the partnership chairmen, Jim Gullo, a seasoned player who has about 1,000 more master points than I do, enough to put us in the top stratification in the open pairs game.
In the morning session, I have trouble picking up Jim's bidding and discarding cues. Plus I throw in a few boneheaded moves for good measure, like one against major master Joel Wooldridge. His 3 No Trump contract on Board 16 should have gone down, but I didn't hold back my Ace of Spades on this deal:

West (dealer/me)
Spades: A-8-2; Hearts: 10-9-8-2; Diamonds: J-8; Clubs: K-10-8-2.

North (Joel)
Spades: J; Hearts: A-K-7-4; Diamonds: A-K-7-5-2; Clubs: Q-J-4.

East (Jim)
Spades: 10-9-7-4; Hearts: Q-J; Diamonds: Q-10-9-3; Clubs: 9-7-5.

South (Junko Hemus)
Spades: K-Q-6-5-3; Hearts: 8-6-5; Diamonds: 6-4; Clubs: A-6-3.

Since Joel had been bidding Diamonds, Jim leads a Club, which my King takes. I return a Club, taken by Joel, leaving the Ace as an entry to the dummy. At some point after this, Joel leads his singleton Jack of Spades, which is where I fail to hold back on playing the Ace. 
I know I've blown it as soon as I consider what to lead next. Diamond? Whatever. The entry to the dummy is still good and the Spades bring home the 3 NT contract. Joel suggests that Junko should have put the contract in Hearts – it makes 3 Hearts for sure.
The post-game summary gives them 16.5 out of a possible 22 match points. All but three of the 23 tables play it in No Trump. A few North-Souths even take 10 tricks, but half of them make fewer than nine.  
At any rate, that's one of the reasons why Jim and I wind up with a 44.41% game. I'm more attuned to him in the afternoon and we're rewarded with 55.58% finish, fifth overall, but not enough carryover from the morning to win gold points. We get only 0.90 of a red point.
Big daytime winners are Chris Urbanek and Joan Rose, as might be expected. They collect 13.56 gold points. Surprise is the second-place pair, who also win the B and C stratifactions – relative novices Marilyn Wortzman and Amita Arora. They have a 68.27% game in the afternoon and earn 10.17 points. Bravo!

I stick around for the evening session and get paired with the woman from the Cleveland area who runs the table selling bridge books, Rose Cassman. In a 6½ table game, we're the bumping pair, hopping around as everyone takes a two-board sit-out. Our 41.37% ties us for 11th among 13 pairs. Rose is willing to pair up again Wednesday night. Well, I tell her, we've got plenty of room for improvement. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bridge Blog 982: September Swan Song

Club points for the year through Sept. 30: 114.99, up 13.55 from August. 
     Just barely good enough to cling to third place in the Ace of Clubs race (club play only) among Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in ACBL Unit 116 (Buffalo only).
Here are the leaders: Mike Silverman, 151.21, Ken Meier, 129.27, me, 114.99, and Allen Beroza, 113.75.
David Millward, fifth among Unit 116 Ruby Life Masters last month, has been transferred by the ACBL to Vero Beach, Fla., allowing Fred Yellen to move up to fifth place with 88.08. Then it’s Dorothy May, 74.47, and Gene Finton, 64.74. 
     Art Morth, with 36.43, moves up to ninth. He displaces Chuck Schorr, now tenth, who adds nothing to last month’s total 31.54. Nipping at his heels is Carolyn Siracuse, with 31.14.
Among the entire spectrum of Unit 116 players in the Ace of Clubs race, last month’s runner-up has taken the lead. 
     The Top 10 looks like this: Jerry Geiger, 153.42; Mike Silverman, 151.21; Liz Clark, 133.59; Denise Slattery, 132.69; John Ziemer, moving up from seventh to fifth with 131.68; Ken Meier, 128.27; Judi Marshall, 124.19; me, 114.99, still in eighth place; Allen Beroza, 113.75; and Ron Henrikson, advancing from 12th place to 10th with 113.30. 
     Close behind are Martha and John Welte, both 111 even; Mike Ryan, dropping from 10th to 13th with 109.02; and Martin Peterese, down from 11th to 14th with 107.86. Also surpassing the century mark in Ace of Clubs points, Bud Seidenberg with 100.22 in 15th place.
Total points for the year, as of Sept. 30: 135.04, up 15.55 since August. 
     Among Ruby Life Masters in Unit 116, here's how the leaders look: Ken Meier, 237.66 (still fifth among all Unit 116 players); Mike Silverman, 160.74 (down to 14th from 12th overall); Allen Beroza, 138.60 (still 19th overall), me, 135.04 (up to 20th from 22nd overall); Fred Yellen, 132.22 (up to 22nd from 29th overall); Gene Finton, 89.44; Dorothy May, 80.01; Art Morth, 55.62; Chongmin Zhang, 38.51; and Bill Rushmore, 38.34.
Last month five of the overall Unit 116 Mini-McKenney leaders were above the 200-point mark. Now there are seven. Increasing the two-point lead they attained a month ago to a 26-point lead are Martha and John Welte, both with 290.88.
Then it’s Davis Heussler, 264.38; Mike Ryan, 243.50; Ken Meier, 237.66; John Ziemer, 217.96; Jay Levy, 215.18; Linda Burroughsford, 187.56; Jerry Geiger, 182.63; Dian Petrov, 176.14; Bert Hargeshimer, 166.99; and Christy Kellogg, 166.94.
District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. I’m hanging in at third place in my division, and 20th overall, down two notches from 18th. We Buffalo players are the only ones with 100-plus points and we hold down the top four spots.
Mike Silverman is the leader with 151.21. He slipped from fourth to fifth among all District 5 Mini-McKenney players. Second is Ken Meier, 128.27 (14th overall, down from 12th); then me, 114.99 (20th, down from 18th); Allen Beroza, 113.75 (22nd, down from 19th); Chantal Whitney, formerly of Bratenahl, Ohio, now from Boca Raton, Fla., 96.20 (41st); Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa., 92.50 (48th); Fred Yellen, 88.08 (56th); and Doris Kirsch of East Springfield, Pa., 81.71 (62nd).
         District 5 Ace of Clubs overall. Here Arlene Port of Pittsburgh (174.86) retains the lead she took last month from Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, (167.64).
They're followed by Asim Ulke of Monroeville, Pa., 158.24; Jerry Geiger, up from sixth place with 153.42; Mike Silverman, 151.21; Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 150.60; Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh, 145.65, stepping back ahead of Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 142.86; Liz Clark,133.59, Barbara Belardi of Pittsburgh, 132.90; Denise Slattery, 132.69; and John Ziemer, 131.88.
District 5 Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters.  Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, continues on top by a wide margin. She’s got 662.05. First in the division and still first in the district overall.
The rest of the Top 10 plus one: Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, still second with 413.62 (tenth overall); William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., still third with 261.42 (20th); Ken Meier, 237.66 (29th); Charles Ladiha of Vermillion, Ohio, 178.13 (56th); Mike Silverman, 160.74 (70th); Russell Sheldon of Pittsburgh, 157.34 (71st); Allen Beroza, 138.60 (82nd); Wayne Heritage of North Olmsted, Ohio, 138.44 (83rd); Jean Picone of Pittsburgh, 136.17 (89th); and me! 135.04 (up one notch to 11th among Ruby Life Masters, and up five places to 93rd overall).
         District 5 Mini-McKenney overall. Sue Lan Ma, 662.05; Phillip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, jumping from fourth to second with 462 even; Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh slips to third on an off-month, only advancing about 5 points to 460.89.
Then it’s Kathleen and Don Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 456.32 and 445.37, respectively; with Phillip Goulding of Wexford, Pa., leaping up between them with 451.44.
Then it's Bernie Greenspan of Beachwood, Ohio, down one notch to seventh with 440.32; followed by Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 432.62 and 416.25; and Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 413.62. The Unit 116 leaders, Martha and John Welte, are tied for 13th with 290.88.
Nationwide. Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. The top three hold their positions – Thomas Roberg, Raleigh, N.C., 270.66; and Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss, 251.72; and Ben Franz, Edgewood, N.M., 250.42.
     Then it’s Dennis Harms, Corvallis, Ore., 242.89; Gary Waldron, Laguna Beach, Calif., 241.54; Sidney Perutz of Dallas, 232.98; and Barry Nish of Little Neck, N.Y., 230.62.
     Mike Silverman is 83rd, down from 73rd. Ken Meier is 178th, down from 168th. I'm 277th, up from 292nd. Allen Beroza checks in at 295th, down one from 294th. The list cuts off at 98.34.
Nationwide. Ace of Clubs overall. Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta (513.60) stays on top. Gail Wells of Dallas (479.67) remains in second ahead of Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (457.90).
     Kay Schulle of Purchase, N.Y. (430.49), stays in fourth place, followed by Irva Neyhart of Corvallis, Ore. (404.89); Sheila Gabay of Newton, Mass. (396.27); and Marion Gebhardt of Richardson, Texas (393.79). 
     No Unit 116 players here and only two from District 5 – Arlene Port is 364th, down from 326th, and Robert Alexander is 461st, down from 438th. The list cuts off at 164.05.  
Nationwide. Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters. Big month for Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., who gathered 100+ points to reach 802.95 and slip ahead of Gillian Miniter of New York City, 790.87.
District 5's Sue Lan Ma, 662.05, continues in third, followed by Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 531.58; and Mark Blanchard of Bay Shore, L.I., 479.87. Unit 116's Ken Meier is 122nd, down from 118th. Mike Silverman is 481st, up from 500th. The list cuts off at 158.51.
Nationwide. Mini-McKenney overall.  Ongoing leader Chris Compton of Dallas continues to be the only player who has surpassed the double-century mark, now with 2,175.49. Then it's Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 1,958.48; Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., 1,807.26; Shan Huang of Toronto, 1,692.86; Greg Hinze of San Antonio, Texas, 1,677.94; and Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 1,621.80. 
     Former Buffalonian Joel Wooldridge is up a notch, from 26th to 25th, with 1,200.66. Sue Lan Ma is 108th, up from 118th. Phillip Becker is 298th. Reanette Frobouck is 301st, down from 269th. Ten District 5 players make the list before it ends at 379.72. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Bridge Blog 981: You cannot win

          The Steve Forbert song, echoing an old saying, goes: “You cannot win if you do not play.” That’s certainly the case while I’ve been on companion duty with my pussycat for the past two weeks while he recovers from a leg amputation.
          And it was also the case on the one day, last Saturday, Sept. 30, when I did play. Far from repeating our string of Saturday successes, Denise Slattery and I had a bad game. Although we knew it all along, we still harbored some hope right up to the last round of that three-table Howell session at the Airport Bridge Club.
          Not that we really expected to make much headway in those final five boards against Gladys and Ken Hardcastle. Regular visitors from Georgia (their son plays in the Buffalo Philharmonic), they are no slouches. Going into the round with a running score of 40%, we’d need a miracle to hit 50.
          On the other hand, we weren’t expecting to get slam-dunked so hard. Four bottom boards, taking us down to 35%. Were we that bad?
Well, on one board, yes. The Hardcastles bid and made 5 Diamonds on a hand where they should have taken only 10 tricks. Perhaps we gave one away with Denise’s opening lead of the 7 of Hearts. Here are the hands. East is dealer and declarer. East-West is vulnerable.

East (Gladys)
Spades: A-K-Q-7-6; Hearts: A-J-2; Diamonds: 8-6-5-4-2; Clubs: none.

South (Denise)
Spades: 8-3; Hearts: 10-9-7-5; Diamonds: K-J-9; Clubs: J-6-4-2.

West (Ken)
Spades: J-5; Hearts: Q-8-4; Diamonds: Q-7-3; Clubs: A-9-8-5-3.

North (me)
Spades: 10-9-4-2; Hearts: K-6-3; Diamonds: A-10; Clubs: K-Q-10-7.

Hand record says it’s East-West all the way, making 2 NT, 3 Spades, 1 Heart, 4 Diamonds or 1 Club. Don't think Denise and I did any bidding, but the Hardcastles found their way to 5 Diamonds anyway.
As for the other three bottom boards, we were losers no matter what we did. On one of them, they bid game when apparently nobody else did. On the other two, we sacrificed to keep them away from contracts they would have won, but other East-Wests apparently weren’t that competitive.

The upshot was that my point count for September stayed at 15.55 – right where it was at the beginning of the week, when I stopped playing. Thank god I made my monthly goal early. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bridge Blog 980: TWTWTW Sept. 18 to Sept. 24

My cat breaks a leg, prompting a 1 a.m. trip to the emergency vet clinic out by the airport Monday night. 
Tuesday I take him to the big veterinary hospital in Orchard Park and miss bridge. 
Surgery on Friday determines that bone cancer caused the break. The cat, Boris, is 17, but still viable. We decide to give him a 10th life with just three legs. Sunday he comes home and will need supervision while he recovers. My daily bridge game is being put on hold for at least two weeks, maybe longer.
The week was almost a complete disaster at the tables, as well.
Monday with Marilyn Sultz, a near-miss at 48.67%. A little over 50% and we would've scratched.
Tuesday canceled with Dottie May. She had nearly 54% with Carolyn Siracuse, who came in as a sub, but they still didn't get points.
Wednesday. Bottomed out with Usha Khurana right from the start as we both made grievous mistakes. 35.68%, but not dead last.
Thursday. Got a fraction of a point with Marietta Kalman with a miserable 45% game until someone found a scoring mistake. That dropped us to 43.75%, out of the money.
Friday. Luck is no better with Selina Volpatti in St. Catharines and I get shamed for being in Canada while the cat is going into surgery. 44.38% is 10th out of 16 pairs.
Saturday still is filled with cat worries, but Denise Slattery and I put them to rest temporarily with a scorchingly good game. 64.08%. First in this four-table Howell session. These 2.04 points may be the last ones I get this month.

Meanwhile, Denise and I have been Saturday monsters for the past two months. Aug. 12 – 64.17%. Aug. 26 – 61.51%. Sept. 2 – 61.73%. And Sept. 9 – first overall with 58.33%. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bridge Blog 979: Buffalo Fall Sectional Roundup

My measly 1.98 points make me 99th out of 166 people who got points, between Gary Gottermeier of Fairport and occasional partner Art Matthies. Last year I only earned 1.52 points and was in a four-way tie for 122nd.
But perhaps I had a hand in helping Jay Levy attain his place on top of the master point heap. He had 22.28, 6.81 of them from Swiss teams on Sunday, 15.47 from his victory with Fred Yellen on Friday's two-session pairs. Other point leaders included Chris Urbanek, 20.97; Gene Finton, 17.68; Kamil Bishara, 17.47; Donna Steffan, 17.34; Fred Yellen, 16.38; and Saleh Fetouh, 15.61.
For a complete rundown of tournament winners, click this link.
Tournament tables totaled 168, down from last September, when there were 182. Swiss team turnout also was down – 23 teams this year, 29 last year.
All this after that big crowd Friday morning. Certainly the 39.5 tables must have constituted a landmark, especially since they ran out of bidding boxes and at least one table's worth of players had to play the first round in a standing position until the Main-Transit firemen brought in some more chairs.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Bridge Blog 978: Buffalo Fall Sectional Day 3

I should feel worse. A bottle of champagne at friends Julie and Larry's farewell-to-the-country-house party and bonfire Saturday night out in Strykersville, then a couple Sazeracs in a downtown bar with old friend Nancy T., now living the beach life in South Carolina, after she emailed me to say she was back in town. 
Then again, I have a reason to be at least a little bit upbeat. My missing wallet is back, found in a pair of pants that I was gathering up to include in a load of laundry. 
People tell me I'm perkier in the afternoon, but our Swiss team does most of its shining before lunch. 
We lose the opening round to Mary Ball and Joyce Frayer, thanks to one big mistake by me and another by partner Myra Razik, but then rack up three wins in a row, two of them by 30-0 Victory Point margins. In there is a plus 1,100 score against John and Martha Scott (whom I introduce to Myra as the king and queen of Lockport) when they go down at 5 Diamonds doubled.

Our Swiss team after three straight wins. From left, Myra Razik, Ron Henrikson and Judie Bailey.

After the break for Firehouse subs, we run up against two of the toughest outfits in the 23-team field. We keep the bleeding to a minimum against Chris Urbanek and Bud Seidenberg, losing by only two International Match Points. But then we meet Jay Levy and a particularly joyless guy named Robert Cannizzaro, who slam-dunk us by a score of 44-1 IMPs.
We finish against another tough crew – Fred Yellen and Jim Gullo – and prevail only because they stumble into a bad slam bid.
The Saleh Fetouh team, with Chris Urbanek and Bud Seidenberg, comes in first and gets 9.08 silver points. The Jay Costello team, with Jay Levy, is runner-up and gets 6.81. The B strat leaders are Canadians, including Dee Glover, who I see regularly at the St. Catharines club. Tied for third overall, they get 5.01. Fortunately, we didn't face them.
Our team, with 119 Victory Points, manages to capture the last bonus position we could catch – fifth in the B strat – for a reward of 1.67 silver points, boosting my tournament total to 1.98. 
The Scotts, part of the all-Niagara County Jim Jones team, recover from their bout with us to finish first in C and take home more points than we do – 2.34.
Today's game marks a return to old-fashioned shuffle-and-play Swiss teams. The Unit 116 board decided to abandon their experiment in pre-dealt hands. Downside: No hand records. Upside: The caddies are back. One of them is director Brian Meyer's younger daughter, now grown up into a long-legged early teen who is as sharp and courteous as she is attractive.