Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bridge Blog 387: Better or worse

          I almost call up the Airport Bridge Club before I leave the house Friday. We’re in the middle of a Winter Storm Warning and it looks pretty nasty out there. But what the hey – I’ll do local streets. I do them until I get over around Canisius College on Main Street and they’re really sloppy, really slippery and really slow. At this point, I call up the club. I’m going to be late, I say.
          But can the Kensington Expressway be any worse than Kensington Avenue? Maybe not. Definitely not. It’s 30-40 mph through thin slush out to the Thruway cloverleaf, where suddenly there are cars in snowbanks and other cars facing the wrong direction. But it’s passable. I get to the game a couple minutes before the 11 a.m. start.
          And it’s not even starting at 11. They’re waiting for people. Tova Reinhorn and Kathy Pollack are coming over from Dian Petrov’s game. Dian Patrov’s Friday farewell. The last Friday day game before he switches Bridge Club Meridian to its new Monday-Tuesday schedule. Thanks to the weather, he doesn’t have enough players for a game. The Airport Club does. With Tova and Kathy, there are three full tables. Club manager Bill Finkelstein would have had three anyway, but now he doesn’t have to play. He can even send home the substitute, who had come in just to see if she was needed.
          I’m not sure if my partner, Barbara Sadkin, would make it, either, but she rolls in a couple minutes after I do. And in this small field, I’m encouraged. Although Barbara and I failed to get points when we played together on Thursday, we should have all our kinks worked out by now.
          But we don’t. Barbara apologizes and I apologize, too. We routinely fall short of what other pairs are doing – failing to pick up the extra trick, overbidding, underbidding. On Thursday, we had some hope at the end of the day before the results were announced and we learned we were at 45%. But now, we know it’s going to be bad. But how bad? 37%. Dead last. Only one other pair doesn’t get points – Tova and Kathy. I’m surprised.
          Before Barbara and I hit our bumps in the road, I was having a good week. I’d scratched twice on Monday and had successful back-to-back dates with Celine Murray on Tuesday – 62.8%, an overall top on a mostly defensive day for 2.1 points – and Wednesday – 55.38%, third overall as we fought to overcome our lapses.
          Saturday’s partner – Marie Suprinick – called to cancel provisionally earlier in the week. She’d be in if she felt up to it, she said. I advised her not to push herself too hard – she’s just come out of the hospital – and suggested that our date Monday for the ACBL-wide Senior Pairs was the one she should knock herself out for.
          Sure enough, there’s no Marie on Saturday. And not too many other people, either. We have to wait for extra people to come in to fill out the four tables and this time the club manager has to play. Ginny Panaro arrives soon enough for us to miss only two boards and we have an agreeable, but so-so game. No huge mistakes, not memorable opportunities either. The slams, for example, belong to our opponents. In the end, three pairs are in upper 50% range and we’re the best of the also-rans with 53.10%. It gives us second place in the C stratification and one point even.
          For the month, I now have 12.76 points at the Airport Club, plus that 1.81 from the St. Catharines Sectional. Nothing stellar, but an improvement over January, when my overall total was 11.94. But is it really an improvement? This is double-point month at the club. Cut my total in half and I’m lagging.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bridge Blog 386: Chicken match

            I knew I needed more sleep before going into the Presidents Day event at the Airport Bridge Club, but I wound up working until after 3 a.m. Sunday night anyway, then worried restlessly about whether I’d hear the alarm ring at 8:55 a.m. I paid for it by overthinking and underthinking at the same time – obsessing over some little wrinkle in the play of the cards and forgetting about the bigger picture. Early on, I failed to pick up on bids that should have gone to game and, in one memorable disaster, went down three on a shaky 2 No Trump contract that could have been salvaged.
            Nonetheless, partner Judy Kaprove and I managed to squeak into the points in the morning session, earning half a point or so with a 51% game. After a chicken barbecue lunch notable for the shortage of forks, we went back for much-improved round, coming in first North-South, second overall, with a 60.32% game, earning 1.63 masterpoints. Add to that the half a point I gained on Sunday when Sushil Amlami and I had a 54.52% game and the total for the month stands at around 8.5 points. Nothing to brag about, but there’s still another week of double points ahead.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bridge Blog 385: Anamoly

          “You should blog about THIS!” Airport Bridge Club director Bill Finketstein declares Friday after the results of the 4.5 table Howell game go up.
          What’s happened in this double-point ACBL Junior Fund game is that two A-strat pairs – Jerry Geiger and John Ziemer, Bev Cohen and Liz Clark – have tied for first, earning 1.53 masterpoints with 60.42% games. However, their point winnings were eclipsed by the pair that finished first in the B and C strats – Dottie May and Ginny Panaro – who had a 57.64% effort. They got 1.59 points.
          As Finkelstein explained, the points for first and second in A were added up and divided by two. First would have been 1.8. Second 1.26. And me? Partner Usha Khurana and I managed to break my point drought for the week. 51.39%. Third in B. 0.89 points. My total for the month now – 5.68.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bridge Blog 384: Missing the bus

            Here it is, Thursday, and I’ve failed to scratch four days in a row at the Airport Bridge Club. Thursday partner Marietta Kalman and I, at 46%, were one of only two North-Souths in the nine-table game to emerge without points. And these are double points! On Wednesday, Celine Murray and I were the only pair who had better than a 50% game and failed to register.
            Truth is, my partners and I have been missing a few steps. First hand of the day on Thursday, the best player in the room, Jim Mathis, tells me how I could have set his 4 Spade contract and the logic was blindingly simple. I’ve got A-K-x of Diamonds, Mathis started out bidding 1 No Trump. I lead the Ace. Three Diamonds in the dummy. Then I make my mistake. Instead of cashing the King, Mathis says I need to shift to something, anything else, so that Marietta can lead a Diamond back to me. She’s got J-10. Mathis has the Queen. We get three Diamond tricks instead of two, to go with Marietta’s Ace of Clubs. I used that strategy in a different hand later in the game and snagged the extra trick.
            Then there are some things I can’t do anything about. Marietta, encouraged by a 3 Club bid from me, found a 3 No Trump contract. She takes an early Heart trick, crosses to my Clubs – A-K-Q-x-x-x – and runs them as she tosses off Hearts and Spades. Then she leads a Heart to her hand. She has the King. West has the Ace-Queen behind her. Down one. Others make it. Turns out she also has Ace-King of Spades, which she could have cashed immediately.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bridge Blog 383: Double or nuttin'

          Just as I’m sinking into obscurity in the Ace of Clubs race this year, along comes February – the ACBL’s Junior Fund month. Clubs  donate $1 per player to the fund and get to offer double masterpoints. I didn’t partake of this bounty in the first few days of the month at the Airport Bridge Club, but this week, on the bounceback from the St. Catharines Sectional, I won points four days in a row.
          Sometimes it was superior play. Monday with Franklin Kidd was a 56.02% game, second overall, 1.31 points. Wednesday with Celine Murray was better yet – 60.84%, first overall, 1.75 points. Sometimes it was solid, but unspectacular, like it was Thursday with Flo Boyd in a 54.17% game, sixth overall, fourth in B, for 1.04 points. And sometimes there was a miracle of stratifications, which happened Tuesday with Marietta Kalman, when a 47.22% game was good enough for fourth in B overall and .69 point.
          And now I’m off for weekend, hanging out with my significant other as she recovers from minor abdominal surgery, but feeling much better about Ace of Clubs. There’s 4.89 points in the bank and 14 more chances to improve on that. And let’s not forget that 1.81 from St. Catharines.

Bridge Blog 382: History books

          It’s time for that month-to-month breakdown, just to see how the march of masterpoints has gotten to where it is today. 2009 was my high-water mark and the first three months of the year have generally been my best months, but let’s just dig up the numbers and let them speak for themselves. 

January 0.56
February 0.29
March 5.28
April 1.25
May 1.27
June 2.90
July 3.06
August 0.96
September 6.89
October 4.49
November 5.83
December 13.12

January 4.64
February 10.42
March 5.32
April 3.11
May 2.97
June 6.26
July 9.96
August 11.53
September 10.13
October 8.42
November 11.75
December 9.21

January 6.72
February 7.15
March 16.34
April 10.90
May 5.83
June 8.10
July 5.77
August 7.53
September 6.80
October 15.13
November 19.14
December 21.33

January 9.12
February 14.47
March 15.82
April 11.37
May 11.37
June 26.68
July 9.77
August 10.34
September 8.26
October 17.29
November 14.35
December 17.78

January 28.24
February 27.10
March 26.61
April 19.55
May 19.61
June 29.60
July 29.78
August 42.38
September 16.53
October 16.98
November 29.94
December 23.38

January 37.88
February 23.17
March 43.76
April 15.62
May 22.98
June 21.64
July 16.09
August 22.62
September 20.71
October 34.01
November 10.91
December 17.63

January 11.94

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bridge Blog 381: Erosion

            How come, I ask Airport Bridge Club director Bill Finkelstein, how come I’ve slipped to tenth place in the ACBL’s Ace of Clubs race for 2010? Some clubs don’t send their results in until after the deadline, he says, and they catch up on the following month. Well, damn.
            And now the ACBL has posted the January results. I’m not top dog this time around, that’s for sure. On the Unit 116 level, I’m fifth in the 1000-2500 Ace of Clubs race with 9.81 points, behind Carlton Stone (13.02), Vince Pesce (12.32), Liz Clark (10.85) and John Ziemer (9.90). Gee, Helen Panza (on the 500-1000) list has 9.83 points. In the Mini-McKenney – club play plus tournaments – I’m tenth, last on the list, with 11.94. First is Judy Padgug with 23.96.
            District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) finds me ninth on the Ace of Clubs list (tops is Nancy Steele of Bridgeport, WV, with 13.63). As for Mini-McKenney, it’s nada. You need 13 points to make the cut. Judy Padgug is sixth. Do I dare look at the national? OK, way out of the picture. I’d need twice as many points to make the Ace of Clubs list and 43-plus for the bottom rungs of the Mini McKenney.

Bridge Blog 380: St. Catharines Sectional Day 3

            Swiss teams. I ride up with my partner June Feuerstein and we hook up with Selina Volpatti and a fourth to be announced. It was supposed to be a woman named Donna Johnson, but she never showed, so we got this shaved bald guy named Howard, who was a retired Toronto Board of Education computer guru. Selina was not entirely happy with him – he was very slow, she said – but he seemed to know his stuff.
            June and I had a middling, but not unsatisfactory day, complicated only when she didn’t see hidden cards in her card holder (she’s undergoing hand surgery this week) and thereby underbid on a couple slams. We won our first game big, then lost four in a row, taking us out of the picture and giving us easy opponents for the final two rounds. We finished with 108 victory points, seventh in the C strat, but we needed fifth and 125 vps for bonus points. Instead, we got .18 per winning round. Total of .54. Total for the tournament – 1.81.

Bridge Blog 379: St. Catharines Sectional Day 2

            This time I blazed up to St. Catharines over the Peace Bridge, got there in 35 minutes and had plenty of time to find Walking on a Cloud in the Fairview Mall and buy some new Simcan socks. Knowing where to park, there was no delay in that department, either. I walked in to the tournament almost half an hour early. Partner Selina Volpatti was already there, entry slip in hand, waiting at the information desk.
            It’s been months since I’ve seen Selina, but she’s in fine form and we seem to play well together, at least until late in the session when one of the directors walks over with our entry slip and asks if that’s my ACBL membership number. Sure is, I say. Well, the director says, this is the 299er game and you’re disqualified. You’ve got too many masterpoints. Selina apologizes. She didn’t realize we were playing in the 299er game. I assure her that it’s no problem. We should just treat it like a bad game where we finish out of the points. I should have known something was odd just from the opposition – more couples than usual and nicer people, too. They post the results and we’re down at the bottom with a DQ next to our names. And we had a 62% game. Guess I really am too good to run with the C players.
            Meanwhile, the snow that the forecasters warned about had started and it was coming down steadily. There was about an inch of it, but it had a profound effect on the Queen Elizabeth Way
, which wasn’t yet plowed or salted. I saw at least one SUV off the road and didn’t want to join him. I bailed out at the Rainbow Bridge and rather than take the expressway home, I picked my way through Niagara Falls and the Tonawandas on Route 384 and Military Road. With a stop for gas, the trip back took better than an hour and a half.

Bridge Blog 378: St. Catharines Sectional Day 1

            Nobody told us they’re doing major reconstruction at the hotel and convention center where they hold the annual St. Catharines Sectional Tournament. It looks like they’re adding about 8 floors to the top of the place and the convention center entrance is all blocked off with barriers and building materials. I dropped Helen Panza off at the front door and went looking for parking, finally finding it in the rear of the place. At least there’s a door back there.
            First session Friday afternoon filled the big L-shaped conference room. Our pairs game section was 13.5 tables and it seemed like there were at least two more of the same size, plus a 299er game and a 99er game. Helen and I sat East-West, played mostly Canadian North-Souths and were on defense most of the day. It was probably just as well because we made fewer mistakes that way. We wound up third East-West, first in B, with 54.97%, earning 1.27 silver points.
Finest moment came in the final hand against two toweringly good Buffalo players – Saleh Fetouh and Bud Seidenberg. I opened a Diamond, Saleh bid a Spade, Helen bid 2 Clubs. I looked at my King-doubleton Club holding, my stoppers in Spades, my Ace-King-third of Hearts and went straight to 3 No Trump. Saleh led a low Spade and it was all over. Helen’s hand and mine meshed beautifully. I took the King of Spades and everything else, making four overtricks for a top board.

Bridge Blog 377: Also ran

            Guess I’d better start getting used to it. I’ve just had a week of midlevel finishes, the kind that would have yielded masterpoints for me in my days as a C strat player, but not any more. 49% on Monday with Marie Suprinick, 41% on Tuesday with Helen Panza, 49.47% with Franklin Kidd on Thursday (Wednesday was snowed out by the monster storm).
            I should get used to being an also-ran on the national level and maybe the district and unit level, too. A look at the ACBL website shows that my pending points for January total only 11.94, a far cry from the past couple years and unlikely to be competitive, especially in the 1,000-2,500 point bracket where I now reside. Back in the days of triple points, I’d be in the 20s, at least. I’m told we can thank our own Jay Levy for getting them abolished.