Friday, March 25, 2011

Bridge Blog 397: Happy anniversary!

          By a quirk of luck, I have Friday night free and Dian Petrov is marking the first anniversary of his Bridge Club Meridian, successor to B&P Duplicate, with a game and a little celebration. Judy Kaprove agrees to be my partner and shows up in her best board of directors clothes, gray sweater and silver necklace, looking quite fine.
          The reason I have Friday night free is because Monica is having a girls’ night at our house with her old workplace buddies from Computer Task Group and, having straightened and primped the place as much as I could, I hit the streets more than an hour before the start of the game. Giving me that much time is never a good idea, because I always find a way to fill it up.
In this case, I go shopping at the Target off Niagara Falls Boulevard, not far from the game, and after getting into a chat with a salesgirl in the electronics department about the Samsung Fascinate smart phone, an object of my desire (and an object which she happened to own), time gets tight. I rush down into the construction zone on Koenig Circle and slide into the parking lot behind a black Cadillac with a big white New York Yankees logo in the tinted back window. Bert Hargeshimer. I should have known.
At any rate, the social hall is full of good cheer, plenty of food (notably Carolyn Siracuse’s heavenly manicotti) and Judy has staked out a North-South for us on Table 7. But when it comes time to play, we have to move. There are only enough people for four tables. It’s a Howell. We start out against a pair we know – Betty Metz and Franklin Kidd, both board members – and figure we’re off to a poor start because they get all the cards. Especially after they bid and make a 6 Diamond slam.
Sometimes a Howell movement puts you in a place where you hit all the good hands just right, but that isn’t our fate. In fact, club manager and director Dian Petrov has arranged for pre-dealt hands and they give us fits. Or rather, misfits. And then sometimes we just go off the deep end all by ourselves (see Blog 396).
It’s good to play against these kinds of players, i.e, tougher ones, Judy sums up when it’s all over. Guess so. It’s sort of a Buffalo Whist Club crowd, although I thought for sure there would be more than seven other pairs of them. In the end, we pull a 47.62% result, not last, but certainly not worthy of masterpoints. In a small game like this, you have to be consistently good. We're either very bad – eight absolute bottoms – or very good – two tops and five ties for tops in 28 hands (one of those ties for top is that 6 Diamond slam, it makes an overtrick and our opponents didn’t). Before the bulk of the crowd adjourns to the nearby Applebee’s on Niagara Falls Boulevard for drinks, there’s the matter of leftover food. Take some manicotti, Carolyn insists. Gladly.

Bridge Blog 396: Going all the way

OK, it’s Board 14 in the First Anniversary game Friday night at Bridge Club Meridian. Judy Kaprove and I are up against Peter Patterson and Linda Burroughsford, the Canadian couple, and they’ve just skunked us on a 2 Heart contract, in which I let Peter take an extra trick. Nobody’s vulnerable, Judy’s dealer and she opens 2 Clubs. Big hand. Even bigger when I look at mine:
Spades: K-Q-J-10-7; Hearts: K-7-2; Diamonds: 3; Clubs: Q-7-5-2.

Eleven high card points. Five-card Spade suit with two of the top three honors. This doesn’t happen very often. The cards demand that I respond 2 Spades and I do. Judy gives me a 3 Diamond bid and I figure we’ve got it all covered. 4 No Trump. Try for slam. She responds 5 Diamonds, which in the Roman Key Card system means either one or four key cards. She’s too good to have just one. I go straight to 6 No Trump. She thinks for a minute, then pulls all the remaining cards out of her bidding box – 7 No Trump. I get to play it. Peter leads the Queen of Hearts and Judy lays down this hand:

Spades: A-2; Hearts: A-8-3; Diamonds: A-K-Q-J-6-2; Clubs: A-6.

Wow! Six Diamond tricks, five Spades, two Hearts and a Club – 14 tricks. Or is it? I start running out the Diamonds and discover a bad break. Peter has five of them. They won’t run. So I decide to switch to the Spades and absently call for a low one from the dummy, totally screwing up my chances of running the Spades. Even though the hand record claims it will make 7 No Trump, it doesn’t because of the 5-1 Diamond break.  We have only four Diamond tricks – and because of my misplay, we lose four tricks overall for minus 200. Then again, any minus score would have been a bottom. Here are the other hands:

East (Peter)

Spades: 9-6; Hearts: Q-J-10-5; Diamonds: 10-9-7-5-4; Clubs: 8-4.

West (Linda)

Spades: 8-5-4-2; Hearts: 9-6-4; Diamonds: 8; Clubs: K-J-10-9-3.

Club director Dian Petrov has this to say about that:

The deals were generated by a program called "Deal Master Pro" and are random and the analyses of makeable contracts are from "Deep Finesse."
You and Judy were in the best possible contract of 7NT and it makes by "double squeeze" -- you pressure both opponents.
After the lead you win with an Ace and the one with 10xxxx of diamonds needs to keep them and part with a small heart (leaving QJ), now the other opponents needs to keep K of clubs and also needs to part with a small heart ( leaving 96) -- now you have a winner for the 13th trick - very nice board, thanks for pointing that out. Unfortunately nobody made 13 tricks.
Hand records and deals are on:

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bridge Blog 395: At least there's a change in the weather

          I know exactly when spring arrived this week. It was Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day. I emerged from the Airport Bridge Club around 3 p.m. and the sun was warm and the air was sweet. What a difference a bridge game makes! Friday I came home and started raking the yard. Hooray!
          No transitions in my bridge game, however, though it bears a certain resemblance to the weather – hot and cold. I began hot with Mike Silverman on Sunday – a 54.46% game, tied for second in A, tied for first in B, 0.42 point. Monday with Usha Khurana stayed warm, despite a few clouds – 51.25%, despite a terrible misfit hand (see Blog 394), second in B, 0.25 point. Tuesday reunited me with Mike Silverman for a better effort – 57.87%, tied for second in A, 0.54 point.
          Wednesday with Celine Murray, my luck turned cold. Despite a 51.01% game, we finished out of the winners’ circle. Thursday with Marie Suprinick was a deep freeze from start to finish. We both were bad and we knew it. We were dead last by a wide margin and were lucky we didn’t wind up below 30%. At 32.03%, we were close enough.
          Friday reacquainted me with Pawan Matta, with whom I haven’t played all winter. We had a shaky start (I signaled wrong on the first hand and we missed defeating a 4 Spade contract), but started warming up as the game progressed. Preliminary results showed us in 10 th place out of 15 pairs with 46%, but then our good hands kicked in. Our names were announced with the winners, thanks to a 50.64% effort which put us third in B and earned 0.44 points. But wait, there’s a mistake on Board 16. We weren’t minus 120. We set Nancy and Len in a 3 Heart contract big time – down four. Plus 400. The correction bumped us up to 53.85%. Now we’re tied for fifth in A, tied for second in B and we’re fractionally better off in the point department too – 0.53. Unofficial total for the month now is 5.10, which seems kind of paltry. Good thing double points are coming up next week.

Bridge Blog 394: Misfits

          No, not the Clark Gable-Marilyn Monroe movie, but something just as catastrophic. Usha Khurana and I had this one on Monday. I knew I shouldn’t have bid it. I knew it when I did it, but I did it anyway. And we got a bottom board.
          It’s Board 9. I’m North and I’m dealer. East-West (Grace Lee and Ginny Panaro, respectively) are vulnerable. Here’s my hand:
          Spades: none; Hearts: A-2; Diamonds: 10-9-8-5-3-2; Clubs: A-J-6-4-3.

          Smart thing to do would be to pass, but noooo. One Diamond. Usha bids Spades and Hearts. I show my Clubs. After I bid 3 No Trump, she corrects to 4 Spades. We’re down three. At least we weren’t doubled. Here’s her hand:
          Spades: A-Q-10-9-5-3; Hearts: 10-9-7-6; Diamonds: 5; Clubs: 5.


          Spades: K-6-4; Hearts: 8-5-3; Diamonds: A-K-J-4; Clubs: K-Q-2.


          Spades: J-8-7-2; Hearts: K-J-4; Diamonds: Q-7; Clubs: 10-9-8-7.

          Except for one East who won the bid at 2 No Trump and made it, it’s all North-South. One bids 2 Spades and makes an overtrick. Another bids 2 Spades and makes it on the nose. One bids 4 Hearts, down one. And one plays 3 Hearts doubled, also down one. And then there’s us.

Bridge Blog 393: Delayed gratification (again)

          When 2010 began, I needed 15 gold points to make Life Master. Nothing else, just 15 gold points. The necessary black, silver and red points were all in the bag. When 2010 ended, I needed exactly 5 gold points to reach the Promised Land, thanks to successes at the Toronto Regional and the Syracuse Regional (but, alas, not the Buffalo Regional, where I struck out completely, gold-wise).
          This year I saw four chances to make the magic circle – Toronto, Syracuse, Buffalo and Niagara Falls, Ont. – and I was all set for my first try in Toronto. I had my team – Helen Panza and Bob and Judy Kaprove – and I had the hotel room and I was ready to ask for the days off from work.
          But then Monica decides that she should go see her parents for Passover. Fine. That would be the weekend before Easter, right? Back on Monday or Tuesday. But no, she wants to stay the weekend. Can’t blame her. Her folks are showing their years. Time should be spent with them. Plus she figures she can work from there in Whitestone.
          A week in New York, hanging around the house in Whitestone, is more than I can justify to myself. I’d be idle. Better if I stay home, keep working, take care of the cats and keep playing bridge. But Toronto? Suddenly, it’s a bad move. I’d need a cat sitter. And what if something unexpected came up? The prudent move is to stay home. I’ve canceled my arrangements. Gold will have to wait.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bridge Blog 392: Small fish, big pond

          No longer do I need to hold my breath waiting for the ACBL to post the new monthly totals for the unit (Buffalo), district (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) and national masterpoint races, both for Ace of Clubs (club play only) and the Mini-McKenney (club play plus tournaments). I’m in a tougher division now (1,000 to 2,500 points) and the ACBL has pulled the plug on the triple points that the Airport Bridge Club offered in 2009 and part of 2010.
          Still, it’s always enlightening to take a peek. Let’s start with Ace of Clubs. On the unit level, only the top ten are listed and, happily, I’m there in sixth place with 25.73. The list looks like this:

          Elizabeth Clark, 33.51
          Mike Kisiel 33.03
          John Ziemer 29.86
          Carlton Stone 27.12
          Vince Pesce 26.11
          Dale Anderson 25.73
          Judy Padgug 17.15
          Luke Danielson 15.07
          Carolyn Siracuse 14.71
          Janet Frisch 13.28

          And here’s the unit Mini-McKenney:

Elizabeth Clark 35.30
Judy Padgug 34.58
Mike Kisiel 33.72
John Ziemer 32.20
Dian Petrov 31.74
Dale Anderson 29.67
Carlton Stone 27.12
Vince Pesce 26.80
Mike Ryan 25.91
Joanne Kelley 18.92

For the district, Ace of Clubs looks like this:

Francine Feldman, Boca Raton, Fla. 40.08
Elizabeth Clark 33.51
Mike Kisiel 33.03
John Ziemer 29.86
Gary Montain, Westlake, Ohio 27.93
Carlton Stone 27.12
Vince Pesce 26.11
Dale Anderson 25.73
David Norris, Rocky River, Ohio 25.07
Nancy Steele, Bridgeport, W.Va. 24.60

In the Mini-McKenney, I’m not in the top ten. I’m 19th.
Leaders are Hao Ge of Bay Village, Ohio, with 71.18 and the aforementioned Francine Feldman with 41.59. The Unit 116 leader, Elizabeth Clark, is seventh.

Nationwide, forget about it. To crack the Top 100 in Ace of Clubs, you need 31.57 points. Leader is Ronald Andrews of Vero Beach, Fla., with 60.14, followed by Lita Lechter (any relation to Hannibal?) of Sunny Isles, Fla., with 56.05. Elizabeth Clark is 73rd.
To be among the chosen in the Mini-McKenney, the lowest rung is 67.77. Top of the heap is a person named Geeske Joel (not Joel Geeske?) of Palo Alto, Calif., with 208.77, followed closely by Louise Clark of Glencoe, Ill., with 207.03. Last year’s 500-1,000 Mini-McKenney leader, Allison Howard of Cookeville, Tenn., is third with 152.66.

Bridge Blog 391: We get letters

          Last weekend I found the following message in my AOL e-mail:

Hi Dale,

I continue to find your Saturday bridge notices humorous in their one sidedness. It amazes me that you are comfortable as a professional abusing your position in that way.

Nevertheless, it shocked me to see that you were unable to print two first names attached to the phone numbers to call for the Pro-Am last week, but yet you can print the supposed value (I bought my 6th edition of the EOB for $5) in the newspaper!

It takes all kinds, sheesh. Is this why newspapers are dying?

Best regards,
Kathy Pollock
          My reply:

Dear Kathy:
   Nothing would delight me more than to be able to print announcements in their entirety -- with allowances for cleaning up grammar and spelling, of course -- in the Saturday duplicate bridge column in The Buffalo News. I continually get complaints about it from all quarters, clubs and unit chairpeople alike. So please allow me to use this occasion to restate my dilemma to you, as I have to them.
   The Buffalo News has imposed a box and column format on the print version of the duplicate bridge column that, despite a series of protests on my part, has proven to be inalterable. In short, the thing is too tight to accommodate everything that's submitted for it and there's nothing that The News will do about that.
   Furthermore, due to another quirk in the computerized layout format, the announcements are restricted to the first column of type and there must be at least two or three lines of six-point results underneath them. If not, the computer formatting simply rejects the whole thing. As a result, there are only about 18 lines worth of space for the announcements.
   So in order to make the announcements fit and to acknowledge everything that's submitted to me and to keep things newsy, I am obliged to trim things down to the essential information. And I find that I have to trim everything. In the case of those phone numbers you mentioned, the names added more lines that I could fit in without trimming something essential elsewhere.
   I have no such restrictions in the online version of the duplicate bridge column.
Announcements have room to stretch out there. Names are included along with phone numbers when the chairpeople or club managers provide them. Events in the distant future are listed. It's wonderful. I invite you to check it out -- the Web address is at the bottom of the print version of the column. It appears shortly after midnight every Saturday morning.
Warmest regards,
   P.S.: Please be aware that nobody else at The Buffalo News has the faintest idea what duplicate bridge is all about and, despite the written instructions that I leave for them, nobody bothers to spend much time or effort straightening out the column if I don't do it. And they certainly don't bother to post it on the Internet. On a couple rare and unfortunate occasions when I have been on vacation and unable to communicate with the layout editors, the results were painful. Lucky individual announcements ran unedited and the unlucky ones were simply left out. The scores, chopped from the bottom in typical newspaper editing fashion, suffered the same fate.
  P.P.S: at the moment offers three new copies the Encyclopedia of Bridge at prices ranging from $77.59 to $159.65, plus shipping. The list price on the book itself is $54.95. If removing the price from column would have saved me an extra line, it would have been trimmed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bridge Blog 390: Rainy day plan

          I left today – Saturday – open on purpose. This is the weekend of the Hamilton Sectional Tournament, which I’ve played at least once in the past, and I fired off an e-mail to Selina Volpatti inviting her to renew our partnership there for the afternoon pairs session. But Selina  never e-mailed back and once I ventured out into that nasty wind-driven rain this morning, I was glad that I didn’t have an hour’s drive ahead of me on the Queen Elizabeth Way. It was enough of a struggle pushing through the rain to the Airport Bridge Club.
          Carolyn Siracuse hails me just as I get to the door of the place and wonders if I have a partner. Well, no, I say. How about if we play together, she says. Good idea, although club manager Bill Finkelstein frowns on such last-minute hook-ups. He does again this morning, but there’s little point in breaking us up for this four-table Howell game.
        (Not true, says Bill. Any arrangements we make before we walk in his door are OK with him. It's the hook-ups that people make while they're waiting inside for a partner assignment that he objects to.)
        Carolyn and I have a game that feels very good right from the first hand, where Paul Zittel bids 1 No Trump, then takes a super-acceptance of his wife’s transfer bid. She frowns. Down one, I predict out loud before the dummy comes down, and sure enough, he is. It’s a top board for us.
          With other partners, I’m often reluctant to keep bidding up to slams, but Carolyn seems to have no fear when it comes to that. The first time she boosts me up to the 6 level, the opponents discover the suit where we’re missing Ace and King and take the first two tricks. But we go to small slam twice more and make them both. One involves a suit – Spades – where we have all 13 of them. Everybody bids that one and makes six. The one nobody bids is a 6 Club contract, where I have a seven-card suit and Carolyn shows support by bidding 5 Clubs in a competitive auction.
          Our best hand of the day, however, is a slam we don’t bid. Against Mike Ryan and Jerry Geiger – the pair with the most masterpoints in the room – I open a Heart, holding six of them. Geiger doubles. Carolyn bids 4 Hearts. Ryan goes 4 Spades. I take another look at my hand. Six Hearts, four Spades to the Ace, singleton King of Clubs, Queen doubleton in Diamonds. Maybe we can set 4 Spades, maybe not. I bid 5 Hearts. Ryan doubles. The dummy comes down and it’s beautiful. Four Hearts, a single Spade, Ace of Clubs and a bunch of others, singleton King of Diamonds. Overtrick!
          When the scores are posted, we’re first overall by a wide margin – a 65.08% game. But no double points this month. We earn just 0.8 of a point. Add that to the 0.70 that I got with Flo Boyd on Thursday, when we finished second in A, first in B, with a 56.02% game, and there’s 1.5 points for the month so far. There’s sure to be something more to add to that on Sunday. It’s Swiss teams.

Bridge Blog 389: Back in the pack

          My 15.92 points for February at the Airport Bridge Club was better than most players, but only good for sixth place in the final tally. Ahead of me were people who are far better players than I am – Jerry Geiger with 31.87, Bev Cohen with 24.31, Mike Kisiel with 23.68, John Ziemer with 19.96 and Liz Clark with 18.41.
          The year-to-date totals find me one place further back – seventh with 26.73 points – behind Geiger (42.37), Cohen (36.04), Kisiel (33.03), Mike Silverman (31.56), Clark (28.39) and Ziemer (27.83).

Bridge Blog 388: February's fine finale

          The shortest month goes out with a flourish. Ginny Panaro and I tie for second in B on Sunday the 27th with a 53.7% game, bringing home 1.18 points. Then on Monday, in the ACBL Senior Pairs, I turn out to be double-booked. All along I expected to play with Marie Suprinick, who has just come off the ailing list, but then Judy Kaprove shows up and says that I’m supposed to be playing with her. Marie yields – there’s someone unattached that she’s just as happy to play with – and Judy and I have a fine time, finishing with a 55.83% game, first in our direction, third in A, second in B overall. Our reward was another 1.31 points. My final total for February at the club is 15.92 points, to which we can add another 1.81 from the St. Catharines Sectional.