Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bridge Blog 415: Limping to the finish

          My last week of play in April was like the weather for most of April, stuck in the 40s. At Monday’s double session game at the Airport Bridge Club, Usha Khurana and I had a 44.58% in the morning, then failed to improve in the afternoon – 42.35%. Tuesday with Marie Suprinick was close – 49.84% -- but no cigar and no masterpoints.
Wednesday’s game with Celine Murray produced a 48.59% result and gave me my only points of the week – a measly .39. Thursday with Pawan Matta barely made it into the 40s – 40.51% -- but at least we weren’t last. And Friday with Usha again was a 44.32% game, eighth out of 11 East-Wests. No play Saturday due to domestic obligations. I finish the month with 12.18 points.  

Bridge Blog 414: Hands down -- Part I

          I saved two hands from the week’s play in this final week of April to mull over. This one is from Monday’s afternoon session at the Airport Bridge Club in which partner Usha Khurana was mystified why she only made 3 Spades on a hand where everybody else bid and made 4 Spades, sometimes with overtricks. It’s Board 3. Usha is East. I’m West. We’re vulnerable. South is dealer. Here are the hands:

          East (Usha)
          Spades: K-Q-10-8-5; Hearts: A-10; Diamonds: 10-8-2; Clubs: K-Q-3.

          Spades: 9-3; Hearts: 9-5-4-3; Diamonds: A-Q-7-3; Clubs: A-8-7.

          West (Dale)
          Spades: A-6-4; Hearts: K-2; Diamonds: 9-5; Clubs: J-10-9-6-5-2.

          Spades: J-7-2; Hearts: Q-J-8-7-6; Diamonds: K-J-6-4; Clubs; 4.

          I don’t recall the bidding, but looking at the hands it seems like there would be three passes to Usha. She bid 1 Spade. I bid 2 Spades. End of auction. I do recall the lead, however. Queen of Hearts.
          Now the hand ought to make five Spades, two Hearts and a bunch of Clubs once you knock out the Ace. What happened to Usha was that she drew three rounds of trumps and didn’t have anything to ruff her extra Diamond with, so she lost the Ace of Clubs and three Diamonds. What she needs to do is lose two Diamonds early, real early, and ruff the third Diamond. Then it makes four. The people who made an extra trick? Their opponents must not have cashed their Diamonds.

Bridge Blog 413: Hands down -- Part II

          This one was pure larceny in Wednesday’s game with Celine Murray. Board 3 again. East-West vulnerable. South deals. I’m East, Celine is West. Our opponents shall remain nameless to protect their innocence. Here’s my hand:

          Spades: K-9-8-5-4; Hearts: A-K-5-3; Diamonds: 9-8-3; Clubs: Q.

          The bidding escapes my memory, but it’s pretty clear that South passes and Celine bids a Club. I’m pretty sure North bids a Diamond and I bid a Spade. Then Celine rebids her Clubs, which do me no good, and North rebids the Diamonds. I think I go to 2 Hearts. North persists  to 3 Diamonds and Celine corrects to 3 Spades.  Pass, pass, pass. The lead, if I’m not mistaken, is Ace of Diamonds, followed by something other than a Heart. I think it was a Club. Here’s the dummy.

          Spades: A-Q; Hearts: Q-J; Diamonds: J-7; Clubs: A-10-8-6-4-3-2.

          With South leading a Club, I play the singleton Queen, then it’s King, Ace. I go to the Dummy’s two high trumps, trump a Club to get back to my hand and draw the last trump with the King of Spades. Then I go to dummy’s Hearts, trump another Club and cash my remaining high Hearts. Then I lose two more Diamonds. Hmm, that would be 4 Spades and I only made three. They must have trumped a Heart, but didn’t go in for the kill. Here are the other hands:

          Spades: J-6-3; Hearts: None; Diamonds: K-Q-10-6-5-4-2; Club: K-J-9.

          Spades: 10-7-2; Hearts: 10-9-8-7-6-4-2; Diamonds: A; Clubs: 7-5.

          Out of eight tables, my plus 140 turns out to be the second-best score on this hand, though I thought for sure I was going down. All the other East-Wests who take the contract take it in Clubs. One of them makes 3 Clubs. Two are in 4 Clubs, down one. Still another is in 5 Clubs doubled, down two for a bottom. But sometimes North-South wins the bid. One of them bids and makes 4 Diamonds. Another goes down one at 3 Diamonds. And still another must have done a sacrifice bid of 5 Diamonds and paid the price – down two doubled. That’s the top board for East-West.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bridge Blog 412: Minor milestone

          Celine Murray and I had a rather satisfying 57.78% game on Wednesday after the weekly lesson and finished third North-South, fourth overall and third in the B strat overall, which is what determined our points – 1.04. That brings me up into double digits for April. 10.25.
          April’s never been a big month for me – vacations and golf get in the way. Let’s look at the record: 15.62 points in 2010; 19.55 in 2009 and 11.37 in 2008, back before double and triple points became a regular thing; and 10.90 in 2007. It’s double points all this month – seven more chances to match 2010.
          Meanwhile, I’m closing in on another milestone – 1,100 lifetime points. End of March I had 1,079.67. Now it’s only about 10 points away. Guess I should start cooling the champagne.

Bridge Blog 411: The last word on Blog 399 (maybe)

          Airport Bridge Club director Bill Finkelstein has asked for corrections on what I said he said regarding the hand in Blog 399 and I’ve tried and failed. Guess I just don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me about it. But I think he put it to rest for once and for all when his weekly Wednesday lessons resumed after a tax season hiatus.
          Reprinting the blog, he used it to explain how you should bid to tell your partner you have a 31-point hand. Do I remember what he said? Well, through my usual midnight fog of fatigue, here’s what I think he was talking about.
          The bids on this thing should be determined by a system which you should nail down with your partner. It’s an extension of the whole No Trump system and it works like this – 1 NT is 15 to 17 points (range of 3), a 1-bid followed by 2 NT is 18 to 19 points (range of 2), 2 NT is 20 to 22 points (range of 3), 2 Clubs is 23 to 24 points (range of 2).
          This part everybody is pretty familiar with. Bill suggests that this alternating pattern of 2 and 3 be extended on up the line like this:
          3 NT is 25 to 27 points (range of 3), 2 Clubs followed by 4 NT is 28 to 29 points (range of 2), 2 Clubs followed by 5 NT is 30 to 32 (range of 3). Partner should consider this a Blackwood bid asking for Kings.
          Therefore, the correct bidding sequence should be 2 Clubs, 2 Diamonds (waiting), 5 NT, 6 Diamonds (for the King of Hearts), 6 NT. Gamblers could go to 7 NT, but it depends on the weak hand having a long suit. Fortunately, it does.

Bridge Blog 410: The one that got away

          Marie Suprinick and I drew the first round sit-out at the Airport Bridge Club Tuesday and, having shuffled Boards 1, 2 and 3, we decided to look at them to see what we were missing. Boards 1 and 3 were rather mundane hands that put us on defense, but Board 2 was a killer. We looked it over and concluded that, by not playing it, we missed making a slam. Here’s North and South:

          Spades: None; Hearts: Q-9-8-5-2; Diamonds: A-Q-9; Clubs: A-5-4-3-2.

          Spades: 5; Hearts: K-J-10-7-6-4-3; Diamonds: 4; Clubs: K-Q-9-6.

          When we started asking our successive opponents about it, however, we got a different story. We hadn’t looked at the East-West hands and what happened at many tables was that East-West preempted, with East opening 4 Spades. Here are their hands:

          Spades: K-Q-J-10-9-7-3-2; Hearts: None; Diamonds: 6-5; Clubs: J-10-8.

          Spades: A-8-6-4; Hearts: A; Diamonds: K-J-10-8-7-3-2; Clubs: 7.

          I grabbed the traveler, the running score sheet, after the game and discovered that only two North-Souths got to play this hand in Hearts and they were both at 7 Hearts doubled vulnerable. One was down one. One was down two.
          Mostly, East-West took the bid in Spades. Four Spades making an overtrick. Five Spades doubled, down one (twice). And 6 Spades doubled, down one (three times).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bridge Blog 409: Strange days

          You know me. I’ll bid with the slightest provocation. So it’s more than bizarre for me to go for an entire game without being declarer at least once. Such was the case on Sunday in a Howell game at the Airport Bridge Club, when partner Isabelle Banas and I were on defense almost all day long en route to a 42% score and on those few occasions when we took a bid, she played it.
          And then on Monday, playing North-South with June Feuerstein, darned if I didn’t go 24 more hands without taking the bid. It’s not that I didn’t try. In fact, on one of our final boards, I opened 2 No Trump, only to have June bid 3 Spades for a minor-suit relay. I went to 4 Clubs, she corrected to 4 Diamonds. Having a few good Diamonds and a big hand, I went to 5 and she boldly pressed on to 6 and then made it for a top score (everybody else stopped at 3 No Trump).
          I told June I thought we did pretty well and, in fact, we did – fourth overall with 54.08% for 0.86 of a masterpoint, bringing my April total to 9.21.
          Just to show you how dumb luck sometimes works out, consider how June wound up playing a slam earlier in the day on Board 5 after we stumbled to the 6 level in a totally wretched round of bidding. I’m dealer, we’re North-South vulnerable. Here’s my hand:

          Spades: 9-2; Hearts: A-K-4; Diamonds: A-10-6; Clubs: Q-10-7-3-2.

          I open the bidding with a Club, June bids a Diamond and before we know it, we’re doing Blackwood and winding up at 6 No Trump. West, Barb Multerer, didn’t double, but leads off the Ace-King of Spades and we’re down one right off the start. But that’s all. June lays down her hand and claims the rest. Here’s what she had:

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

          For the record, here’s East (Art Schumacher) and West:

          Spades: J-6-5; Hearts: 9-8-7-6-3; Diamonds: 5; Clubs: 8-6-5-4.

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

          When we got it, the hand had only been played once – by Mike Kisiel and Paul Ganley. North bid the 6 No Trump and made an overtrick. Nobody else was that lucky, though. There was one other 6 NT bid by North, down two, and another one by South, down one. And then there were the folks in Diamonds – 3 Diamonds making an overtrick, 6 Diamonds down one. After all that, we didn’t have a bottom board, like we suspected, but a semi-respectable low middle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bridge Blog 408: Slow and steady

          Sometimes the race goes to the slow and steady and this was one those slow and steady weeks. It started off on Monday with a reunion with Marietta Kalman, with whom I played in the last week in March and had my worst round of the month. This time she informed me that I should not count my long suits for extra points, just high cards. I protested, but she was adamant and I restrained myself accordingly. We did better, but 46.6% wasn’t enough to win points.
          Tuesday brought me to sitting South at Table 1 with Marie Suprinick, so I had no idea who the people at the other eight tables were. Before my sub-40% round with Marietta last week, I believe my previous worst game was with Marie. Not only that, she professed to be on a losing streak. We started off with her showing why this is so when she failed to make a balancing bid over the opponents’ 1 Heart opener. Nevertheless, it turned out to be one of our better boards. We needed a few more of those than we got, though, and finished just out of the money with 48.56%.
          My regular Wednesday partner Celine Murray was healthy again this week and – although I had one of my best recent games without her the previous week – we profited from renewing our alliance. Our 57.27% game felt good (very good in places, see Blog 407) and left us second in our direction, third overall. We took home 1.18 points.
          Thursday found me with one of the better players – Vince Pesce’s wife, Christine, who asked me for a game out of the blue a couple weeks ago. We were under the handicap, however, of having played together maybe only once in the distant past. She doesn’t use a lot of conventions and we stuck to a basic game that kept us from having too many misunderstandings. We finished third in our direction, fifth overall, with a 55.04% game for 1.15 points. And, best of all, we beat Vince and his partner.
          The challenge was greater on Friday, when I played for the first time with Sharon Chang. Sharon is new enough at this game so that our masterpoints averaged down to put us in the C stratification. Good thing, too, because that gave us points for our 50.30% game. Or rather, .74 point. Nevertheless, it’s 3.07 points for the week, 7.68 for the month.

Bridge Blog 407: Slam dunk

          Usually the hands I remember are problem hands, but this one I played on Wednesday with Celine Murray was no problem at all. All you have to do is bid it. Board 13, all vulnerable. I’m West, Celine is East. Our opponents are the best players in the room – Judi Marshall sitting North; Bev Cohen, back for a few weeks from her new home in Ohio, sitting South. North is dealer and she passes. Celine ponders her hand for a moment and opens 3 No Trump.
          Can she really be bidding 3 No Trump, I wonder. Does she really have 25 to 27 high card points? Well, if she does, then there’s only one thing to do, holding this hand:

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

          Eight high card points, extra point for the five-card Spade suit. Add that to Celine’s 25 to 27 points and it’s slam. So I bid it – 6 No Trump. Bev Cohen leads the Ace of Spades and it’s our only loser. The rest is a lay-down. Here’s Celine’s hand:

          Spades: K-3; Hearts: A-7; Diamond: A-K-8-5; Clubs: A-K-Q-7-4.

          Hmm, not quite 25 points, is it? Nevertheless, it works – four winning Spades, three Diamonds, three Clubs, two Hearts. Here are the other hands:

          Spades: 8-5-4-2; Hearts: Q-10-9-8-5; Diamond: 7; Clubs: 10-6-5.

          Spades: A-7; Hearts: J-3; Diamonds: J-10-9-6-3; Clubs: J-9-3-2.

          Out of a possible 7 game points, we get 6 for this one. Two others bid and made the 6 NT slam before us. Four others stop at 3 NT and make six anyway. The other pair apparently thought about the slam, then thought twice – they stopped at 4 NT.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bridge Blog 406: Sucker-r-r-r!

          Final round on Saturday’s “Beat Bill” game at the Airport Bridge Club, when we all try to win bucks off club manager Bill Finkelstein by beating him head to head and beating him on total score. Fenton Harrison and I get off to a decent start – we even beat Bill in one of the two hands we play against him and pickup partner Ted Kahn – but two things keep happening. I keep getting preemptive hands with long suits. And we never get a long suit together. It’s a day of mismatches. None is worse than this one in the final round. I’m North, Fenton South. East-West are Isabelle Banas and Linda Wynes, respectively.        
          It’s Board 7, both sides vulnerable, South the dealer. Fenton opens a Spade. Linda passes. I’m holding this little gem:

          Spades: 5; Hearts: A-Q-J-8-5-3; Diamonds: A-J; Clubs: A-Q-9-5.

          I count the 18 high card points, add them to Fenton’s opener and figure, hey, it’s a slam. Probably 6 No Trump. So I go straight to Blackwood with a 4 No Trump bid. Fenton gives me 5 Clubs – no Aces. OK, he doesn’t have that Ace of Spades, but he must have King-Queen and some other honors – high Diamonds, king of Clubs. I take it straight to 6 No Trump. Isabelle leads a Heart and I get to see Fenton’s hand:

          Spades: K-J-9-8-6-3; Hearts: none; Diamonds: Q-10-7-6-5; Clubs: 7-3.

          Ow! We’re in trouble. Big trouble. Try as I might, there’s no way to get to Fenton’s hand. He never should have opened 1 Spade with that dog. It’s not even good enough for a weak 2 Spade bid. And I never, never, never should bid 4 No Trump. Well, nothing to do but take my lumps. There’s plenty of them. Down six. An absolute bottom board. Here are the East-West hands:

          Spades: 10-2; Hearts: K-9-7-6-2; Diamonds: 3-2; Clubs: K-J-10-6.

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

          I snatch the traveler – the running score slip – and discover that North takes the bid six out of seven times and every single one of them goes down. The lucky ones are at 3 No Trump, going down one, three and four. Another pair, Janet Frisch and Dottie May, bid 4 No Trump and go down five. One North – Jan Hasselback – takes the bid at 4 Hearts and goes down three. And South takes the bid just once. Judi Marshall plays it at 4 Spades, down two.
          Had I just bid 3 No Trump, I’d escape with down three, minus 300. Instead of a zero, we’d get 2.5 game points, putting us at exactly 50% for the day. Instead, we’re 48.4%, still enough to beat Bill and Ted (they’re less than half a percentage point behind us, so it’s $2 apiece for me and Fenton) and good enough, through the miracle of stratification, to be fourth in the C strat for .67 of a masterpoint. Total for the month now – 5.28.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bridge Blog 405: Marching into the record books

          I heard that the ACBL was having e-mail problems, which is why their masterpoint races weren’t updated on the evening of the sixth day of the month, like they usually are. But by the end of the day on Thursday, the 7th, all was taken care of. For the month of March, I added another 14.48 points, all in club play, bringing my overall total for the year to 44.15 and my Ace of Clubs total to 40.21. Lifetime is now 1,079.67. Here’s how things stand in relation to the rest of the world at the end of the first quarter of 2011.
          On the Unit 116 (Buffalo) level, I’m fifth in Ace of Clubs, behind Mike Kisiel (55.32), John Ziemer (47.25), Elizabeth Clark (44.49) and Carlton Stone (43.15), and just ahead of Vince Pesce (36.83). In Mini-McKenney, I’m also fifth. Here Kisiel has 56.01, followed by Judy Padgug (49.87), Ziemer (49.59) and Liz Clark (46.28). On my heels are Carlton Stone (43.15) and Mike Ryan (39.32).
          On the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) level, the top four on the Ace of Clubs list are the leading four Buffalo players. But there’s a scrum of five names when you get down to 40 points and I’m eighth. In the Mini-McKenney, top player is someone named Hao Ge from Bay Village, Ohio, with 190.59, trailed at a distance by Ronald Franck of Pittsburgh with 70.51. My 44.15 gets me in at No. 20. Kisiel is tenth.
          Nationwide, I’m nowhere. Ace of Clubs leader in the 1000-2500 point division is Zita Lechter of Sunny Isles, Fla., with 99.74, followed by Ronald Andrews of Vero Beach, Fla., with an even 87. Kisiel is 25 th. To make the top 100 list, you need at least 46.20. The Mini-McKenney leader in this bracket is Geeske Joel of Palo Alto, Calif., with 313.64, followed by Justine Cushing of New York City with 236.78. Nobody from Buffalo is on this list. To crack this group of 100, you need at least 92.64. 

Bridge Blog 404: It's a partnership game

          The Bridge Bulletin asked the players who topped the Ace of Clubs and Mini-McKenney races about partners. Some, like Charles Christmas, who topped my Ace of Clubs bracket, thanked Phil, another Tallahassee player with almost as many points, and it got me thinking – should I cultivate one of the better players as a regular partner?
          I suspect that if I were playing with someone like Meg Klamp, I couldn’t fail. But in that case my games this week with a succession of C players should have been fruitless and that was hardly the case.
          On Monday, I had a 56.85% game with perky Marilyn Sultz where we were on offense on 19 of the 28 hands and she was declarer on 12 of them. We wound up fourth overall North-South, third in the B strat. This being a month of double points, we earned 0.84.
          Tuesday found me with worrying Marietta Kalman, a more sophisticated player than Marilyn, but someone who bids quite differently than I do. I’m hardly faultless when it comes to bidding, but on this particular day, Marietta and I could not seem to communicate. And we paid for it. At 39.29%, we were dead last.
          I should have played with my regular midweek partner, Celine Murray, on Wednesday, but she’s been felled by that nasty cold that’s going around. She canceled on Monday, calling in the middle of the game, and I was able to pick up another date with Marilyn Sultz. This time we fared even better – first overall with a stellar 62.08%, which gave us 1.98 points. Some of it was luck, to be sure (see Blog 402), but I won’t scoff at good fortune.
          Thursday brought me together with the lovely Pawan Matta, who has fewer than 50 points and plays no fancy conventions. We do nothing more than have a good time, but it was a better than average time in the end – 55.19%, tied for fourth overall, tied for second in the B strat, another 1.34 points in this 11.5 table game.
          No surprise, then, that I was feeling confident when I sat down Friday with sweet Usha Khurana, with whom I play more often than any of my other partners this week. We started fine – we had 24.5 of a possible 40 match points after two rounds – but then the cards stopped coming and the opponents started finding their bids. Plus we were falling a trick short of what others were doing. The one I remember most was the bottom board we got when I doubled a 4 Heart contract and they made it. Not that it was a bad double. No other East-West took 10 tricks in Hearts. Had we defended better, it would have been a top. It wound up being a 45% day – not last, but when the point winners were announced, we weren’t among them.
          Still, it’s a good week. Add the .45 point I got with Dottie May last Saturday and the April total so far stands at 4.61.

Bridge Blog 403: I'd rather be lucky

          Marilyn Sultz and I were overall winners Wednesday at the Airport Bridge Club, but we didn’t do it alone. We had some help from our opponents and nowhere was it more appreciated than on this hand:
Board 14.
          It comes up in the middle of the match. I’m North and Marilyn is South. I can’t locate my score sheet at the moment, but I believe our opponents were Mike Kisiel (East) and Paul Ganley (West). Nobody’s vulnerable. East is dealer. Mike passes. Marilyn bids 1 Diamond. Paul passes. I’ve got this hand:

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

          Can’t bid a major suit. Can’t bid 2 Diamonds with just two-card support. But I have 10 high card points and a six-card suit, which I figure I should show. 2 Clubs. Marilyn rebids her Diamonds. OK, she’s got six of them. Paul passes and so do I. But Mike, after passing twice, steps in with a 2 Spade bid. I don’t recall if Marilyn passes or bids 3 Hearts, but Paul chimes in at 3 Spades and I start seeing my hand in a new light. Marilyn has the red suits covered, maybe, and I sort of control the black suits. 3 No Trump. I figure Mike is going to lead me a Spade, which would be ideal, but he leads a low Heart instead. Here’s Marilyn’s hand:

          Spades: Q-4; Hearts: A-J-10-8-3; Diamonds: K-J-10-6-5-4; Clubs: none.

          I play the Jack from the dummy and West’s Queen wins. He returns a Spade, which I duck and East ducks, allowing the Dummy’s Queen to take it. I lead a low Diamond from Dummy, winning with the Queen in my hand and returning a Diamond, winning with the Jack. A third Diamond drives out the Ace and now I can run the dummy’s long Diamonds. Or can I? West sends back a Spade, won by East’s Ace, but now I’ve got him. I can win any return, get to the dummy with Ace of Hearts, take three more Diamonds, lose a Heart and get my ninth trick when they lead a Club. At that point, Mike has a belated realization. They could beat me, he tells Paul, if only one of them had led a Club earlier. Here are the other hands:

          Spades: A-9-7-6-3; Hearts: K-9-5; Diamonds: 9-7; Clubs: Q-J-9.

          Spades: 10-5-2; Hearts: Q-6-4; Diamonds: A-3-2; Clubs: K-6-5-3.

          It was a top board for us – plus 400. Nobody else bid game. Second best was a 2 Heart bid that made two overtricks (plus 170), followed by 2 Hearts making one overtrick (plus 140), a pair of 3 Diamond bids, both making an overtrick (plus 130), a pass-out (zero) and someone going down one at 3 Hearts (minus 50).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bridge Blog 402: Update

Dian Petrov has provided commentary on Blog 396. Go there and check it out.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bridge Blog 401: More for less

          The cards seemed to be confounding everybody in both directions Saturday at the Airport Bridge Club. Partners who both held opening bids would go for game, as they should, and wind up down two or three or four. Some hands would defy anyone to make their bids, no matter whether they were sitting North-South or East-West.
          Dottie May and I were East-West and we got off to a perfectly awful start with 4 Spades down four vulnerable. I followed that with a 5 Diamond non-vulnerable sacrifice against what looked like certain major suit contract by the opponents (but wasn’t), down three doubled.
          At the end of this awful day, we were astounded to find that we had a 48.42% game, which made us third East-West in a six-table session. Top East-West was 70%, far ahead of anyone else and apparently the only people who managed to find some good in all these bad cards. But wait, there’s a mistake on Board 5. We didn’t a plus 550 (which was top board). We had a minus 50.
          With readjustments, that knocked our percentage down to 46.75%. But it also allowed club manager Bill Finkelstein to apply one of his miracles of stratification. He moved Dottie and me from the A strat, where we were third, to the B strat, where we were second and qualified to earn points. Not much, mind you, but .45 is better than nothing.
          While the readjustments were being made, I had a look at the March masterpoint totals on the club bulletin board and got my official figure – 14.48. That’s fifth in the club for the month. Top is Jerry Geiger with 22.67. He’s also top for the year with 65.14. On the year-so-far list, I’m also fifth, behind Mike Kisiel, Mike Silverman and John Ziemer.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bridge Blog 400: Marching out

          March rose up into a bodacious shower of points as it slid into its final days. Our Swiss team on Sunday – me and Celine Murray, Usha Khurana and Cleveland Fleming – proved particularly potent early on (39 out of 40 possible points in the first two rounds) and split the next four rounds to come in a respectable second for 2.15 points.
          Mike Silverman and I then had back-to-back dates on Monday and Tuesday that also were quite profitable. Against a fairly weak seven-table field on Monday, we romped to a 66.42% game. First overall and, with double points, a reward of 1.98.
          Tuesday I was more sleep deprived and, thereby, less sharp. The 11-table field also included some of the city’s leading players. We finished with 53.40%, fifth overall in the B stratification, fourth in A, third in B North-South, for .57 of a point.
          That would be the end of my point-gathering for March. Celine and I stumbled to a 42.86% finish on Wednesday, not last, but not good. This was the day that, after the first card on one hand was played, Celine picked up the card that opponent Paul Zittel had just placed face down and looked at it. Fortunately, Paul thought it was cute. Thursday found me and Flo Boyd struggling with terrible East-West cards – our opponents had a lay-down grand slam on the very first hand of the day (See Blog 399) – and finishing with a 43.75% game, eighth of 11 in our direction.
Final tally for the month is something like 14.50 (I’ll have to check the bulletin board at the club), which makes it not as good as February, and a far cry from ’09 and ’10 (respectively, 26.61 and 43.76, my all-time monthly high). Total for the first quarter should be somewhere around 40. Can you believe it? Three months and I don’t have as many points as I earned last March all by itself.

Bridge Blog 399: Too hot to handle

          “I’ll never have another hand like that in my life,” Mike Kisiel exclaimed Friday at the Airport Bridge Club and we all knew which one he was talking about. It was Board 31 on Thursday. The 31-point hand.
          For Flo Boyd and me, it was the very first hand of the day. Opponents were Judy Kaprove (North) and Jan Hasselback (South). North-South vulnerable. South is dealer and opens with a bid of 3 No Trump. Pass. Pass. Pass. I lead from my only four-card suit and within a couple plays of the cards, it’s a lay-down for 7 No Trump. Jan and Judy are baffled. How do you bid it, they wonder. Here are all four hands:

South (Jan)
Spades: A-K-3; Hearts: A-Q-6; Diamonds: A-K-Q-6; Clubs: A-K-Q.

West (me)
Spades: Q-10-2; Hearts: 9-7-5; Diamonds: J-10-7; Clubs: 9-8-5-2.

North (Judy)
Spades: 9-7-6; Hearts: K-10-4-3-2; Diamonds: 4-3; Clubs: J-4-3.

East (Flo)
Spades: J-8-5-4; Hearts: J-8; Diamonds: 9-8-5-2; Clubs: 10-7-6.

          We ask club manager Bill Finkelstein right away what should have been done. Three No Trump is a bad bid, he says, because there are more than 25 to 27 points. Better would be 2 Clubs (then, after partner’s 2 Diamonds waiting bid, go to 4 No Trump and then 5 No Trump, to ask for Kings). If that King shows up, then it's 7 NT. Or just open 5 No Trump.
          As it turns out, it’s a good hand for Flo and me – 6.5 points out of a possible 8. Only three other North-Souths failed to bid at least a small slam. Two of them (Mike Kisiel included) went all the way to 7 NT and scored the full 2,200 points. Worst outcome belonged to Lorna Brewer, who opened 1 Diamond and saw her partner, Nita Farrell, leave her there. She made only four overtricks.

Bridge Blog 398: Mystery hand

          OK, I wrote it down and saved it. I even kept the traveler, the little slip of paper on which every table’s scores are written. But I’m not entirely sure where this one came from – it’s an old game -- and although my clue is the sheet on which I recorded the hands. It’s Board 25, which would have East-West vulnerable and North as dealer. If it was my game with Pawan Matta on March 18 (I wrote it on the back of a sheet of results from March 18), we were Pair 6, but I recognize my handwriting on the traveler and we’re Pair 2. Then again, it could been from last Friday, March 25, with Usha Khurana, since I fished that sheet out of the wastebasket.
At any rate, I’m North, my partner’s an unknown South (the more I think of it, the more I think it really was Usha). We play it at 4 Hearts and my partner goes down one, but some Souths make it. I think that’s why I wrote it down. There’s a little move in here that could be instructive.

Spades: 9-8-4; Hearts: K-10-6; Diamonds: 10-6-4-3-2; Clubs: Q-7.

Spades: Q-10-5-3; Hearts: A-7; Diamonds: K-7; Clubs: 10-5-4-3-2.

Spades: A-J; Hearts: J-9-5-3-2; Diamonds: A-Q-9; Clubs: A-K-8.

Spades: K-7-6-2; Hearts: Q-8-4; Diamonds: J-8-5; Clubs: J-9-5.

          What’s West’s lead? Probably a low Spade. Four, Queen, Ace. Then this is where I think the move has to be made. South should lead the Jack of Hearts, so that it can be covered by the Queen, King and Ace. In my case, I’m not sure what happened. Either South didn’t cover the Queen, thereby losing to both the Queen and the Ace. Or covered with the King after West played low, losing two Heart tricks that way.
But if it goes J-Q-K-A, you’re halfway home. Lose to the King of Spades, then win the next trick (no matter what West leads), draw two rounds of trumps, do the finesse on the King of Diamonds, lose a Diamond to the Jack and take all the rest. If the Diamond King doesn’t  finesse, or if West has the Ace of Hearts and East has the Queen, all bets are off.