Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bridge Blog 364: Last laps

          2010 is dwindling down, as are my chances for increasing my point count for the year. But like the year-end Santa Claus rallies on Wall Street, there’s a little uptick over the holidays.
          With June Feuerstein on Sunday in a three-table Howell game at the Airport Bridge Club, we finished with 54%, good for second in the B strat and 1.46 points. On Monday, Nadine Stein and I squeaked in second in B North-South with a wretched 45.65% and got .67 of a point.
          On Monday night, I visited the Whist Club in the Zion Church in the Town of Tonawanda – a familiar place made bizarre by all the sewer construction detours around it. The Whist Club is famous for attracting the best players in town and some of them indeed were present – Jim Mathis and Saleh Fetouh, who wound up coming in first. And then there were Bert Hargeshimer, Christy Kellogg, Art Morth and the Libbys, Barbara and Paul.
          I was paired with Unit 116 President Judie Bailey, which was not only rare, but a treat. What’s more, our games seemed to mesh pretty well, although the Fetouh-Mathis pair skunked us. We wound up third in a four-table Howell, first in the B strat, only a percent behind Hargeshimer and Rick Benstock. Our 55.56% game netted us .40 of a point.
          Back in the land of triple points at the Airport Bridge Club on Tuesday, I got to play with Janet Frisch. Scheduled partner Celine Murray called in with chest pains – too much activity over the holidays, apparently – and set me up with Janet in what turned out to be a big 10-table game. Among the players – Meg Klamp, still up from Florida, paired with Bev Cohen, who’s here for the first time since she moved to Ohio.
          It was a very agreeable partnership, but we had some resounding gaffes. In one, I made a weak 2 Diamond bid, forgetting that Janet and I were playing Mini-Roman. End result: a 2 NT contract down two.  In another, we allowed Meg Klamp a makeable contract when we could have made one in our own suit (See Blog 363). Nevertheless, there was more good than bad and we wound up first in the B strat East-West, fifth overall, with another 55.56% game. This one was worth 1.42 masterpoints.
          So what’s my December point standing? I have 7.59 black points at Airport, along with 5.85 silver. There’s .40 from the Whist Club and .40 from Delaware Wednesday last week. Plus 1.2 from the Unit meeting and game back in the beginning of the month. That’s a lot of math. Let’s turn on the computer calculator. OK. 15.44 overall. Plus those extra district points in the STaC, which Airport doesn’t include in its tabulations. As for Ace of Clubs, though, it’s quite a bit less. Looks like 8.39. With a measly total like that, fifth place in the nation could be hard to hold. Can I make it to 10 in the next two days?

Bridge Blog 363: To bid or to double?

          Janet Frisch and I missed a golden opportunity against Meg Klamp and Bev Cohen in the second round of Tuesday’s game at the Airport Bridge Club. It was Board 23, everybody vulnerable. South’s the dealer. I’m East. Janet’s West. Bev is South and Meg sits North. After two passes, Meg bids a Heart. I double. Bev bids 2 Hearts. Janet passes. Meg bids 3 Hearts and that’s the contract. They make two overtricks for a plus 200. It’s next to bottom for us. But it could have been a top, had we bid our suits. Here are the hands:
East (Dale)
Spades: K-J-8-7-3; Hearts: None; Diamonds: K-Q-7-6; Clubs: K-Q-10-8.
West (Janet)
Spades: Q-4-2; Hearts: 9-7-5-4; Diamonds: A-J-10-9-4; Clubs: 7.
North (Meg)
Spades: 9-5; Hearts: A-K-J-8-5-2; Diamonds: 5; Clubs: A-4-3-2.
South (Bev)
Spades:  A-10-6; Hearts: Q-10-3; Diamonds: 8-3-2; Clubs: J-9-6-5.
          Clearly, instead of doubling, I should have overcalled a Spade. But given my double, should Janet have bid her five-card Diamond suit at the three level? The traveler – the running score tabulation – told the story at the end of the day. In all, it was split. North-South took the bid five times. East-West won the auction on four occasions.
          Only one East-West had a poorer score. Their opponents bid 4 Hearts and made it. Other Heart bidders were less successful. One bid 5 Hearts and went down two. One bid 4 Hearts and went down one. One bid 3 Hearts (or is that an N for No Trump? Probably is.) and went down two.
          As for the East-Wests, top boards went to those who bid 4 Spades, making an overtrick. Another bid 3 Spades and still made five. Only one of them wound up in Diamonds – 4 Diamonds – and made it on the nose for a middle board.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bridge Blog 362: Teachable moment II

          I can do better with Marietta Kalman. I know I can. I’ve done it. But I didn’t do it Thursday at the Airport Bridge Club. Our day was the flipside of the high spirits that Robert Alan Davis and I enjoyed the night before at the Delaware Wednesday club.
Certainly my bidding leaves much to be desired, but our problems are compounded because we don’t seem to understand one another. Again and again, we ran into little snags where what she picked up from lessons at the Bridge Center of Buffalo ran contrary to what I seem to have absorbed from Bill Finkelstein’s classes at Airport. Here’s an example:
It’s Board 23, end of the day. We’re sitting North-South. Our opponents are Sharon Chang, sitting West opposite her daughter, Jacqueline, up from New York City for the holidays. Jacqueline plays at the big Manhattan bridge club. Anyway, South – Marietta – is dealer. East-West is vulnerable. Marietta bids 1 No Trump. Sharon passes. I’m sitting with a big hand:
Spades: K-Q-9-6-2; Hearts: A; Diamonds: 9-8; Clubs: A-K-9-8-3.
Sixteen high card points, add two or three more for the two five-card suits. We’ve got slam, either in Spades or No Trump. But how do I get us there? I decide to go with 2 Hearts for a transfer to Spades, then bid 4 No Trump, showing strength, asking for Aces or both. But Marietta passes. Sharon leads a Diamond and Marietta proceeds to take all the tricks, thanks to Sharon throwing away a winning long Spade, to an aggravated look on Jacqueline’s face. It’s a next-to-bottom board for us. Almost everyone else bid the slam at 6 NT, making 6 or 7.  Here are the other hands:
Spades: A-3; Hearts: Q-9-5-3; Diamonds: A-K-J-6; Clubs: Q-7-5.
Spades: J-8-5-4; Hearts: K-4; Diamonds: Q-10-7-3-2; Clubs: J-8-5-4.
Spades: 10-7; Hearts: J-10-8-7-6-2; Diamonds: 5-4; Clubs: 6-4-2.
Marietta said I should have bid 4 Clubs, asking for Aces. She thought that 4 NT asked if she was at the top of her 1 NT bid. That was the way she was taught, she said. When we put this hand out for analysis after the game, Bill Finkelstein said my transfer bid was useless – I should have gone straight to 6 NT – but that my 4 NT should have considered an inquiry about Aces. That, he said, is the way he teaches it.

Bridge Blog 361: Teachable moment I

Here’s a hand Marietta Kalman and I encountered relatively early in the game at the Airport Bridge Club on Thursday. It was Board 9. East-West vulnerable. I’m North and I’m the dealer. I need only a quick look at this hand to know what to bid first:
Spades: K-Q-7-5; Hearts: 8-7-6-4-2; Diamonds: 9; Clubs: Q-7-2.
I pass. East – Nancy Kessler – passes. Marietta bids 1 Diamond. West – Carlton Stone – doubles. I bid my five-card suit – 1 Heart. Nancy passes. Marietta jumps to 3 Diamonds and we all pass. Carlton leads the King of Hearts. In the end, we take only 8 tricks – down one. It turns out to be a low middle board.
Although other Diamond bidders suffer bigger shellackings, a couple of them make 3 or 4 Diamonds. The best result, however, comes from the 3 No Trump contracts. In one instance, North bid the No Trump. I couldn’t quite see doing it, but maybe it was in response to the 3 Diamond bid. In the other (Judy Padgug, playing with newly-back-from-Florida Meg Klamp), South, Judy, bid a Diamond, got a double from West and a Heart bid from Meg, then went straight to 3 NT. She had 8 tricks off the top, she said, and expected her partner would give her one more. Here are the other hands:
Spades: J; Hearts: A-J; Diamonds: A-K-Q-J-10-7-5; Clubs: 9-5-4.
Spades: A-9-8-3-2; Hearts, 5; Diamonds: 9-4-3; Clubs: A-J-8-3.
Spades: 10-6-4; Hearts: K-Q-10-9-3; Diamonds: 6-2; Clubs: K-9.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bridge Blog 360: Breaking the pattern

          Lately I’ve started thinking that I’m failing more proficiently. Maybe it’s because there have been so many near-misses for points. Back from a long weekend in New York City, I had another one on Tuesday with Helen Panza – just shy of 48%, which seems to be the current benchmark.

Then, on Wednesday, the benchmark broke. Teamed with novice Lynn Witmer (looking very Spanish royal in black, silver and rhinestones), we didn’t make any major mistakes, but seemed to bring out the best in our opponents. When the game was over at the Airport Bridge Club, we finished just over 40%, dead last in both directions.

Undeterred, I used my Wednesday night off to renew my acquaintance with the Delaware Wednesday group, where I was for sure the youngest person in the room. Paired with Robert Alan Davis, with whom I had a horrible game not so long ago, everything seemed to be going our way in this five-table Mitchell game – cards, bidding, finesses, opponents not discovering the killer defense.

We posted a stellar 66.13%, tops East-West and only a quarter of a percent behind the top North-South pair. It’s the first time I’ve scratched at Delaware Wednesday. The reward, as it turns out, isn’t so much in points – winning yielded only 0.40 – but rather a little piece of paper entitling me, as a winner, to a free play.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bridge Blog 359: Dual citizenship

          Starting here and now, I’m posting this blog on Myspace and Blogspot simultaneously. How come? Myspace worries me. The new design makes the blog feature harder to use. A couple times last week, I tried posting new installments and they wouldn’t post. And then there’s the news that Myspace may be living on borrowed time, running behind Facebook and Twitter as it does. There was a report on NPR not long ago saying that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns it, may just pull the plug if the redesign doesn’t work. So it’s a safety play – both sides now, belt and suspenders. We’ll see how it all plays out.

Bridge Blog 358:Triple or nothing

          Now that the STaC is over, the Airport Bridge Club is offering triple points at almost all its games. Coming in Monday, Dec. 13, without a partner, I got teamed with a really good player – local STaC leader Jerry Geiger – and came to realize where the shortcomings are in my game. That day it centered around card signaling. I missed several of his and didn’t make the ones I should have. It felt like a pretty good game, anyway. And it was – 54.17% -- but we were playing in the A strat and that was not quite enough to win points.
          On Tuesday, I picked my way through the snowstorm and sat down opposite Marietta Kalman, with whom I sometimes have a really good game. This was not one of those times. It was a medium game – 48.08% -- which sometimes is enough to win a fraction of a point. This also was not one of those times.
          Wednesday – my last chance of the week before heading off to New York City for a family weekend – and I’m with regular Wednesday partner Celine Murray. Although it seemed as if we didn’t make that many mistakes, we didn’t have that many top boards either in this 6.5 table game. We weren’t last, but at 46.67%, we weren’t that far away. So point count for the month stays right where it was at the end of the STaC, just under 10 points.

Bridge Blog 357: STaCed up, moved out

          They’re writing songs of silver points, but not so much for me. A look at the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) roundup of masterpoints earned during the Dec. 6-12 Sectional Tournament at the Clubs shows a top score of 26.82 credited to a guy from Mentor, Ohio. Right behind him is our own Jerry Geiger with 25.62 and John Ziemer with 24.67. Mike Silverman proves to be the silver man once again, finishing in eighth place with 19.49. In my dreams, I was chalking up that kind of a point count. But nooooo. I’m 86th with 7.83. Then again, it’s still 90th percentile. In all, 1,159 players got points.