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.

Bridge Blog 833: April fade

April wasn’t much of a month for me. Too many bad games. Too many interruptions for medical appointments. I added only 8.03 points to my Ace of Clubs total, for club play only, bringing it to 26.04 for the year through April 30. As for Mini-McKenney, which counts all points earned everywhere, the total is 29.28, up 9.90 from a month ago.
As a result, I’ve fallen off the Top 10 Ace of Clubs list in my division (1,000 to 2,500 points) for the first time in Unit 116 (Buffalo only) since I arrived there in 2011. I’m in 12th position. Top is Fred Yellen with 56.14, followed by John Ziemer, 53.25; David Millward (who’s been in Florida), 51.17; Martin Pieterse, 50.48; Ken Meier, 45.79; Mike Silverman, 40.81; Walt Olszewski, 40.66; Barbara Pieterse, 32.79; Bill Finkelstein, 29.34; Gene Finton, 26.55; and Elaine Kurasiewicz, 26.36. Nipping at my heels is Allen Beroza with 25.96.
I’m even further down on the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney list – 13th. Top dog here is David Hemmer with 99.47, followed by Martin Pieterse, 76.44; Fred Yellen, 76.06; David Millward, 69.76; John Ziemer, 63.67; Barbara Pieterse, 58.75; Ken Meier, 54.58; Walt Olszewski, 48.38; Mike Silverman, 42.79; Elaine Kurasiewicz, 33.54; Allen Beroza, 31.98; and Bill Finkelstein, 29.34.
In the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs race, Buffalo players hold the top five positions in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division and seven of the first eight. I’m 39 th.
District 5 Mini-McKenney, as usual, is led by Ohio players in the 1,000 to 2,500 precinct. Top is Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills with 215.37, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 196.74 and Peter Merker of Mentor with 136.67. David Hemmer is fifth. Martin Pieterse is eighth. Fred Yellen is ninth. I’m 83rd.

In the top 500 Mini-McKenney nationwide, David Hemmer is 328th. Top is Aaron Jones of Orange, Calif., with 469.35, way ahead of second-place Edmund Wu of San Francisco, with 345.95. The list stops at 86.55. As for the national Ace of Clubs, Fred Yellen is tied for 233rd. Tops are two Florida players – Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes with 139.01 and Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale with 128.79. The list cuts off at 47.37. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bridge Blog 832: Buffalo Spring Sectional Redux

          The Buffalo Spring Sectional felt smaller than the Winter edition in January and it was. Table count was 145 vs. 156. A total of 147 players earned 545.43 points vs. 162 players earning 552.12. Master point leader once again is Bud Seidenberg, but this time he has 20.83 points instead of the 32.32 he captured three months ago.
          Bud once again was on the winning Swiss team on Sunday, which gave him 9.08 points. He also was first in the two-session pairs game on Friday, good for 9.97 points. Other point leaders include Bud’s Friday partner Jay Levy, 18; and two of his Swiss teammates, Chris Urbanek, 16.71; and Saleh Fetouh, 16.52. After them come Davis Heussler, 13.32; Jim Gullo, 12.91; and Donna Steffan, 12.56.

          You have to look way down the list to discover your humble correspondent in 96th place with 1.87 points, just behind Ron Henrikson (1.95) and barely ahead of John Ziemer and Jim Tao (tied with 1.86). John spent most of the week at the big regional tournament in Gatlinburg, Tenn. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bridge Blog 831: Buffalo Spring Sectional, Day 3

Swiss teams, 23 of them, I believe. My team – Selina Volpatti, Usha Khurana and Joe Miranda – gets off to a fast start, winning two of the first three rounds and providing Selina with the quarter of a silver point she needs for what? She’s not quite sure. Hope it’s Life Master.
But then we hit the wall, losing four straight rounds and playing our final set of hands in the round robin group. We lose against one of our round robin opponents, but win by a bigger margin against the other. I’m not sure if that counts as winning a fraction of a round or a full round. The final master point tally will tell. Each winning round is worth 0.26 of a point. We’ll have either 0.65 or 0.78.

Once again director Brian Meyer hustles the players through their paces. The Swiss team sessions usually don’t finish until after 5 p.m. (which is why I took tonight off from work), but this one is done shortly after 4:30 p.m. Could have gone to the office after all. Came home and did some much-needed yard work instead.