Friday, July 31, 2015

Bridge Blog 840: 40% miracles

I wish I could say playing prowess elevated my master point total into double digits for July, but it didn’t. Credit goes instead to a spate of 40% games during the final week of the month.
It began with 47.5% Monday with Celine Murray. Second in the B stratification, 0.69 of a point, half red. Tuesday with Paula Kotowski should have been better than 41.96%, but nevertheless gave us second place in the B strat, fractionally ahead of the two pairs who tied for first in the C strat. Another 0.69 of a point, half red. On Wednesday, Celine and I failed to improve on Monday. Just 44.4%, but second in B again, this time good for 1.28 points, half red.

The 40% curse finally was broken Thursday in a tune-up game with Barbara Libby in preparation for the Eight Is Enough Swiss team match on Aug. 9. Despite my glaring bidding mistakes, we turned in a respectable 53.2%. The reward, however, paled next to the payoffs from those 40% games. Sixth in the A strat, we collected just 0.39 of a point. Not that I'm complaining. It put me over the hurdle. My final total for the month – 10.36. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bridge Blog 839: Halfway Point

Since I only played twice in June before I underwent major surgery, I should have plunged precipitously in the master point races for players with 1,000 to 2,500 points. After all, I only picked up 1.33 points in club play.
But now that the ACBL point tabulations are posted online, I find myself still sitting in 12th place on the Ace of Clubs list for Unit 116 (Buffalo only) with 34.75 points, albeit by a razor thin margin over Gene Finton (34.64) and Elaine Kurasiewicz (34.52).
At the top of the heap, it’s a three-way race, with Fred Yellen (86.29) displacing John Ziemer (86.04), and Mike Silverman (84.24) not far behind.
After them come Martin Pieterse, 75.43; Ken Meier, 72.11; David Millward, 69.48; Walt Olszewski, 48.53; Bill Finkelstein, 48 even; Barbara Pieterse, 47.83; Allen Beroza, 47.34; Dorothy May, 38.33; and then me.
Among all Unit 116 players in all divisions, the leader is Meg Klamp with 110.95, followed by Jerry Geiger with 110.16 and Judi Marshall with 88.52. Fred Yellen is fourth on the overall list. I’m 41st.
Over on the Mini-McKenney list, which includes all points earned in everywhere, my midyear total stands at 54.43, putting me in 11th place.
Martin Pieterse leads this list with 115.17 points, followed by John Ziemer with 112.48. After them are Fred Yellen, 110.45; David Hemmer, 108.90; David Millward, 101.38; Mike Silverman, 98 even; Ken Meier, 95.57; Barbara Pieterse, 78.28; Walt Olszewski, 56.72; Allen Beroza, 55.32; then me.
Overall Unit 116 point leader is Saleh Fetouh with 186.57, followed by Meg Klamp with 168.32; Dan Gerstman, 152.08; Mike Ryan, 142.36; and Jerry Geiger, 138.69. Martin Pieterse is ninth overall. I’m 44th.
Moving on to the races in District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh), Buffalo players occupy the top four places in the 1,000 to 2,500 point Ace of Clubs category and six of the top seven. I’m 53rd on this list.

The Mini-McKenney once again is dominated by Ohio players. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills continues on top with 329.57, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 313.18, Peter Merker of Mentor with 201.98 and Charles Ladiha of Vermilion with 153.80. Unit 116 players hold down the seventh through tenth positions. On this list, I’m 63rd.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bridge Blog 838: Way back, May back

          Out of action since June 2 because of major surgery (bladder cancer), I’ve been in recovery mode ever since. My energy level has been frustratingly low, so low that I’ve had no ambition to go after the monthly wrap-up for May. And it still is low today on this rainy June 27.
Nevertheless, there’s nothing like a deadline to stir the blood and since it’s almost time for the ACBL to start tabulations for June, May is crying out to be summarized, crying out in a voice not unlike Elvis. What’s that song I hear? It’s now or never.
OK, let’s break it out. In Ace of Clubs competition, which is just club play, my end-of-May total is 33.42, up 7.38 since April. For the Mini-McKenney, it’s 53.10, up 23.32 since April. That includes all points earned everywhere and is beefed up handsomely by my good fortune at the Rochester Regional.
Among Unit 116 (Buffalo only) players in the 1,000-2,500 point division, I once again miss the Top 10 for the Ace of Clubs. I’m still in 12th place.
Returning to the top spot on this list is John Ziemer, with 74.06, followed by Fred Yellen, 69.44; Mike Silverman, 63.69; Martin Pieterese, 62.32; David Millward, 61.53; Ken Meier, 59.02; Walt Olszewski, 47.22; Bill Finkelstein, 42.77; Barbara Pieterese, 39.17; Allen Beroza, 38.98; Dorothy May, 35.86; and then me.
Given my absence from the tables this month, I’m expecting to be overtaken in June by the players breathing on my heels – Gene Finton, 30.96; Elaine Kurasiewicz, 29.92; and Eleanor Whelan, 28.05.
Over on the Mini-McKenney list, where my standing is usually lower than it is on the Ace of Clubs, the opposite is in effect this month. I’m in tenth place.
Here David Hemmer rules the roost with 99.70 points, followed by John Ziemer, 95.68; Martin Pieterese, 92.77; Fred Yellen, 89.36; Ken Meier, 81.30; David Millward, 80.12; Barbara Pieterse, 69.62; Mike Silverman, 65.67; Walt Olszewski, 54.94; then me with 53.10.
Who are Unit 116’s overall champs in all divisions? In Ace of Clubs, it’s Meg Klamp (7,500-10,000) with 90.76 and Jerry Geiger (5,000-7,500) with 81.39. As for Mini McKenney, it’s Saleh Fetouh (2,500-5,000) with 155.18, then Dan Gerstman (over 10,000), 150.76; Meg Klamp, 135.92; Chris Urbanek (7,500-10,000), 123.36; and Mike Ryan (2,500-5,000), 120.07.
The District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs race finds Unit 116 players continuing to dominate the 1,000-2,500 point list. We hold down the top six positions and seven of the first eight. I’m 40th.
Over on the District 5 Mini McKenney, the Ohio players continue to rule. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills is first with 292.38, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 270.54 and Peter Merker of Mentor with 190.03. Fourth is Francis Tseng of Erie, Pa., with 111.80. Fifth is Charles Ladiha of Vermillion, Ohio, with 109.70. David Hemmer is seventh and Buffalo players hold down the next three positions, as well.
Big guns nationally in Ace of Clubs, 1,000-2,500 division, are mostly Floridians, as usual. On top is Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes, Fla., with 184.08; then Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 172.63; Lynn Fort III of Charlotte, N.C., 134.33; David Schapira of Delray Beach, Fla., 132.18; and Edward Maier of Sarasota, Fla., 131.74.
The Unit 116 leader, John Ziemer, is 171st. Fred Yellen is 227th, Mike Silverman is 332nd, Martin Pieterse is tied for 367th. David Millward is 396th. And Ken Meier is 488th.
Meanwhile, the Mini McKenney leaders all are from California – Aaron Jones of Orange, 501.41; Edmund Wu of San Francisco, 500.93; Peter Gelfand of Corralitos, 461.52; John Jefferson of Davis, 382.85; and Cookie Potter (love that name) of Sunset Beach, 360.30. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is 13th. Unit 116’s David Hemmer doesn’t crack the Top 500.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bridge Blog 837: Rochester Regional Roundup

           Was the Rochester Regional a pale reflection of the Syracuse Regional, which it replaced this year? Not too pale. The ACBL tournament website tells us Rochester had 969 tables, with 581 players earning 5,083.99 points. The 2014 tournament in Syracuse had 1,002 tables, with 611 players earning 6,056.32 points.
          The point deficit was most dramatic at the top. Last year in Syracuse, the top player earned 105.55 points. This year’s leaders, tied for first, had just 68.82. One of the biggest guns, Martin Hunter of Mississauga, Ont., had 94.23 in Syracuse and just 68.73 in Rochester. In both cases, he was tied for third with his partner, John Duquette of Oshawa.
          Top player of my acquaintance at the Rochester tournament was 35th on the list, Janet Glazebrook from St. Catharines, Ont., with 29.71. Next was Liz Bryers, also from St. Catharines, with 26.22 in 37th place. Our knock-out teammates, Courtnay Footman and Gary Amundson, were tied for 40th with 25.70.

          Most successful Buffalo player was Mike Ryan, 58th on the list with 18.81. Doctors Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony had 17.73, tied for 71st. Judie Bailey and I are next, tied for 80th with our knock-out winnings of 16.44. A little further down, there’s a cluster of Buffalo players – Ken Meier and Gaurang Sheth with 13.49, tied for 107th; Gene Nowatniak with 13.45 at 109th; and our knock-out final opponents, David Heussler and David Colligan with 13.33, tied for 110th. Frequent high scorer Saleh Fetouh was next, in 125th place with 11.82. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bridge Blog 836: Rochester Regional Tournament, Part II

         Worries about my heart persist on Saturday. I feel a pang here and there. Everybody is saying take it easy. If we lose in the semifinal round of the knock-outs in the morning, it’s agreed that I’ll not stick around for some secondary game in the afternoon – not even that suddenly-added Swiss team game that they announce as the morning session begins. No, I’ll just drive straight back home to Buffalo.
          And then, via text messages during the morning game, my significant other and my health care proxy also are pushing me to give up on playing in big grand finale Swiss team game on Sunday. I’d lost my original Sunday partner, Selina Volpatti, who has a conflict, but on arrival Friday I’d met Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony in the parking lot, who said Gaurang Sheth was looking for a Sunday game. Gaurang is good and an agreeable kind of guy and a doctor, to boot. We talked on the phone later in the day and he said he’d do it.
          So my first order of business Saturday is to sign us up at the Partnership Desk. But Gaurang is there and says he doesn’t want to drive all the way to Rochester on Sunday if we don’t have somebody lined up. I check back at the lunch break and the Partnership people have misplaced my little sign-up slip. Can’t find it anywhere. This is a sign. Looks like we shouldn’t play Sunday, I tell Guarang. Good, he says, his wife didn’t want him to go.
          Plus, unless we’re really on top of our game, Sunday Swiss would be a pursuit of small returns. There already are gold points in our pockets, more of them after the Saturday morning match. Judie and I play a young couple – Jonathan Forde and Stanca Ciupe, who’s Romanian. He teaches math at Hobart-William Smith College in Geneva. She teaches math at Virginia Tech. They met in grad school in Ann Arbor, Mich.
          They’re good players and they loosen up as the 24-board session progresses, but Stanca plays very slowly. Both times, the other table sends all six of their boards to us while we’re still on our fourth hand. Judie quips that the hands are taking so long that she’s forgetting which cards have been played.
          Jon and Stanca start off by giving us a huge advantage, bidding a 6 No Trump vulnerable slam and going down two tricks. Our partners stop at game. We get an immediate 13 International Match Point boost. Good thing, too. We finish the first half of morning session with a razor-thin deficit, 27-26.
          The second round finds Judie and me giving them two huge gifts, losing a pair of doubled contracts for minus 500 and minus 800 scores,  minus 21 IMPs. On that group of six boards, we lose, 26-1. But they fade on final six on three big hands where our teammates succeed. Our margin here is 34-0. We win the semifinals. Instead of walking away with just 6.58 gold master points, we’re guaranteed at least 11.51, even if we lose in the afternoon, just for finishing second.
          Our opponents in the final round are familiar faces. Buffalo players. Shakeel and Manju, teamed with David Colligan and Davis Heussler. They’re going to be tough. We get the Daves, who we’ve never played. Courtnay and Gary will have to deal with Shakeel and Manju’s individualistic bidding system.
          Judie suggests we should just concede and go home early if we’re way behind after the first 12 boards, but the score at that halfway point makes it too close to call. On one set of six, we win, 22-12. On the other, we lose, 12-5. With a five-point margin, anything can happen.
          And it does, thanks to a couple big hands – a slam that our teammates bid and make where the Daves stop at 3 No Trump, and a 6 Spade slam by the Daves that fails by one trick. Our teammates stop at game, make an overtrick and are awarded two more because of revokes. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen two revokes on one hand,” Courtnay says later.
          The upshot is that we win comfortably on both sets of six boards – 16-4 and 23-11. We’re the champs! For winning our knock-out bracket, we collect a veritable bonanza of 16.44 gold points. (In the upper bracket, the reward for winners is even bigger, 30.28 – all the riches at these tournaments definitely are in the team games.) We also get immortalized. Our picture is taken for the Daily Bulletin. Here we are.

          Needless to say, this makes the Sunday Swiss team game even more redundant. We’re staying home. Imagine my surprise, then, when my phone rings shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday. It’s a woman who wants to team up with Guarang and me. Seems the Partnership Desk finally found our missing slip.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bridge Blog 835: Rochester Regional Tournament, Part I

           I was especially pumped for the Rochester regional tournament when I heard about it last summer. Just an hour down the Thruway. I’m there. In a major way. Every day. Then along came my bladder cancer. Surgery was set for May 4. Arrivederci, Rochester.
          But then along came my heart problems. Four stents installed at the end of April. A month on blood thinners while they heal in. Bladder surgery is postponed until June. Suddenly, Rochester is a reality again, except I have no plans, no partners.
          So thank heaven for Judie Bailey, my partner in the Syracuse regionals. She was available Friday and Saturday to play the knock-outs, the head-to-head team games. Friday morning I hit the Thruway for the RIT Inn & Conference Center, which I’ve often spotted from the highway but never experienced up close.
          It turns out to be a 1970s-modern place – dark brick, dim hallways that feel tight, big bright public rooms, a lot like buildings from that era on the college campuses here. One bad design feature, the main entrance off the west parking lot. Smokers congregate there just outside the automatic doors and the wind fills the long main corridor with the smell of cigarettes.
          At any rate, the tournament organizers had the essential elements well marked. There was a big banner over the Partnership table, which is where I met Judie. She also was looking for our teammates, acquired for us by the Partnership people – a guy from Ithaca named Courtnay Footman, who became our captain, and a guy from Syracuse named Gary Amundson. It turns out that they’re fairly regular partners, perhaps more so than me and Judie, since we almost never play together in Buffalo.

          There were 13 teams in our knock-out section, so to whittle it down to eight for the second round, the directors set up two head-to-head matches and three three-way round-robin games. Our team was in one of the round-robins, a great advantage since two of the three teams advance to the next stage.
          Our Round One opponents were Roy and Patricia from Binghamton and Jim and John from Ottawa. We beat the both narrowly in the first set of six hands, 11-6 and 22-15 International Match Points, respectively. Not enough to rest easy for the second set of hands, though. There Roy Noonan and Patricia Jardin made a pair of 3 No Trump contracts on which our teammates failed and that lifted them to a 19-10 win. As for Jim and John, we shut them down, 25-0. We survived to pay another $13 and play Round Two.
          This time we were head-to-head against a Rochester team – Dolores Toohey, who was volunteering at one of the tournament info tables, and Suzanne Powell. They were good company. Nevertheless, the long day began taking its toll on us – the other team more than us, as it turned out. Courtnay and Gary bid and made slam on a hand where Dolores and Suzanne only made game. Then Dolores and Suzanne bid a 7 Spade slam and lost a trump trick (Judie had four Spades to the Jack), while our guys stopped at 6 Spades. We won by a lot, 74-16. On to the semifinals on Saturday. Even if we lose, we earn something like six gold points. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bridge Blog 834: No May flowers

      I was supposed to have surgery for bladder cancer on May 4, so I wrote off the entire month. So now that the surgery’s been postponed to June, have I taken advantage of all those extra-point games at the Airport Bridge Club? Nooooooo. I’ve been mired in what seems like an endless succession of 30% and 40% games. In nine games this month so far, I’ve scratched only once and earned just 0.97 of a point. Either it's lingering chemo brain or I need better partners. Maybe both.