Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bridge Blog 433: Toronto

          Someone suggested to me that it would be easier to earn big gold points at the North American Bridge Championships in Toronto this week. Not so. I tried. I didn’t get ‘em.
          Partner Ruthie Kozower and I zipped up the QEW Wednesday morning, met up with teammates Bob and Judy Kaprove, and settled into the afternoon knock-out game on the second sub-basement level of the Sheraton Crowne Plaza. They should have called it slam-dunk. We were the dunkees and we were slammed.
          Our opponents, a couple from Palm Springs, Calif., bid and made slams in the first two hands we played against them. The Kaproves bid and made the first slam, but didn’t bid the second. It all went downhill from there. By the time we broke after the first 12 board, we were down by 59 International Match Points.
          Insurmountable? Maybe not. One the first board on the second half of the match, Bob bid a Club, the Palm Springers doubled, I bid a Spade with four of them and a wretched 4 to 6 point hand, the Palm Springers doubled again, and that turned out to be the contract – 1 Spade doubled vulnerable. Bob, of course, had a good hand and, thanks to a cross-ruff (one of my favorite devices in Toronto, as it turned out), I wound up making 3 Spades for a plus 560 score. We are on the rebound, I thought. But we weren’t. They beat us by another 9 or 10 IMPs in the second half. And that plus 560? A loser. The other Palm Springs bid and made 3 No Trump against the Kaproves for plus 600.
          No games Wednesday night held out the promise of gold, so we decided not to play if we could get tickets for the show at the Royal Alexandra Theatre – Carrie Fisher’s one-woman act, “Wishful Drinking.” It turned out to be our best two hours in Toronto.
          Thursday was no better. We played pairs this time. Judy and Ruthie in the non-life master game; Bob and I in the unlimited group. Judy and Ruthie got some red points for a pair of games a bit better than 50%. Bob and I had a 43.04% game in the morning – not last, but pretty low – and improved to 47.53% in the afternoon. We would have needed at least 50% to get red points, 60% to get gold.
          So much for Toronto. Next week – Syracuse.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bridge Blog 432: The yellow brick road

            Could be the Queen Elizabeth Way leading to the NABC Tournament this week in Toronto. Or the Thruway next week to the Syracuse Regional. Two back-to-back chances at getting those five gold points I need for Life Master.
          Two items of note as I scanned through the results so far on the ACBL website – Jeff Meckstroth and David Berkowitz, two of the best players in the nation, were there Thursday and walked away with 100 points in a team game. And a Swiss team of Buffalo players – Allen Beroza, John Ziemer, Judy Padgug, Michael Ryan and Judy Graf – scored 18.90 by winning a bracketed Swiss teams event on Sunday. Otherwise, not too many Buffalo names, but people from all over the world – England, Bulgaria, China.

Bridge Blog 431: Should I or shouldn't I?

          When it comes to distributional hands, I’m always tempted to take things to the limit in the bidding. I ran into this one on Monday at the Airport Bridge Club while first-time partner Sandy Rifkin and I were en route to a last place East-West finish (albeit at 43%). Sandy, furthermore, is a pretty basic player and I’m not at all used to what she does. On one occasion Monday, she opened 2 No Trump with a 4-4-4-1 distribution. “I was showing points,” she said. Down four.
          At any rate, this is Board 9. North is dealer. We, as East-West, are vulnerable. I’m sitting East with this little wonder:

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

          North opened a Spade. I doubled. South went to 4 Spades. Sandy passed. Or maybe she doubled, I don’t recall. North passed and I bid 5 Clubs. South bids 5 Spades and that’s where it ended. I led the Queen of Hearts and South put down this dummy.

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

          Sandy took the Ace of Hearts and returned a Club, with North’s Ace taking my King. One round of trump revealed that our side had no Spades whatsoever. And North-South (Mike Silverman and Alicia Kolipinski) took all the rest. Out of 8 possible match points, we got 1, even though our opponents didn’t bid their slam. How come? Here’s Sandy’s West hand:

          Spades: None; Hearts: A-10-6-4-3; Diamonds: A-Q-J-10-8-3-2; Clubs: 6.

          And here’s Mike, sitting North:

          Spades: K-Q-10-7-4-3; Hearts: K-8-2; Diamonds: None; Clubs: A-Q-7-4.

          Best East-West score was 6 Hearts doubled vulnerable, making the contract for plus 1,660. Two pairs did that. Next best was 6 Diamonds doubled vulnerable, making the contract for plus 1,540. Somebody else did 6 Diamonds undoubled for plus 920. All of those were played by West. Only East-West worse than us was the one who left the opponents at 5 Spades doubled, making the contract exactly for minus 650. But I can’t do it without an answer from Sandy, who was shut out by South’s 4 Spade bid. Should I have doubled 5 Spades?

Bridge Blog 430: Swiss miss

          One drawback of not playing weekends (in deference to my other half) is that I’ve been missing the Airport Bridge Club’s Swiss team games on Sundays. I was reminded again last weekend. Free to follow my own pursuits while Monica was in New York visiting her parents, I played the Swiss game and was reminded once again how much fun it is and how lucrative it can be point-wise.
          My team – Marilyn Sultz, Adrian Figliotti and Selina Volpatti – started off terribly, getting shut out in the first round. But we rallied and went on to win five of our seven rounds (withstanding a second shutout) and came in second in the B strat, winning 1.88 points, and bringing my total for the month to 13.88.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bridge Blog 429: The new-found king

          Rangy, grey-haired guy named Zack Solomon shows up at the Airport Bridge Club without a partner Tuesday, gets paired with Mary Terrana, who’s a Strat C player, and winds up with a nice game of around 60%, which is good for first place in A, B and C, yielding 3.33 master points on this triple red point week at the club.
          Solomon is back on Wednesday, sits in on the lesson, then gets paired with Cleveland Fleming, who’s a Strat A player. They stick it to me and Celine Murray in one of our hands -- Zack opening with a pre-emptive 3 Clubs, which I double (I have a big hand), then Cleveland bids 4 Clubs and Celine chimes in with 4 Diamonds. Having just three Diamonds in my hand (and a singleton Club), I pass. We make 4 Diamonds, but it's a bottom board. Everybody else is in 3 No Trump, making a couple overtricks. Zack and Cleve turn in a 69% game, good for first overall, yielding 3.67 points. Seven points in two days! Hail, King Solomon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bridge Blog 428: The birthday round

          Monday the 18th was my 69th birthday and once again my birthday sister – Eleanor Whelan, born the same date but a little older – and I made a date to play together on our special day. Actually, this year she was the one who suggested it. We make this date every year, but we’ve only played together once. And on that one occasion, although we had a good time and although Eleanor is a good player, we fell short of our expectations.
          We didn’t play together this year, either. On Friday, Eleanor asked if I would play at the other club – Bridge Club Meridian – because she had things going on in the evening and she didn’t want to drive so far (she lives up in Niagara County). I demurred. Not that I wouldn’t want to play at Meridian once in a while, but because on this day I was taking my car to the body shop after the game and was relying on someone from the Airport Bridge Club to get me home from Sheridan Drive.
          So I showed up without a partner. Three other players were available, club manager Bill Finkelstein told me when I arrived, but given the choice between playing with him or playing with one another, they chose one another. Can I blame them? Bill is just way too critical. He may be right – he is, mostly – but all that approbation is inhibiting. With him, it’s hard to loosen up and have a good time.
          Sure enough, there were leads I ought to have led, bids I shouldn’t have bid, defensive tricks we should have nailed and one crashingly unsuccessful double of a 3 Heart contract that should have gone down. Nevertheless, thanks to Bill’s skills and a little bit of luck on my end, we wound up with a 63% game, first overall, bringing in 3.33 master points, this being a triple red point game. It was my best point haul since that second-place finish in the knock-outs last year at the Syracuse Regional and it put me in double digits for the month – a fraction above 12 points. A nice birthday present!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bridge Blog 427: Halfway point

          Pardon me if I’m not breathlessly awaiting the posting of the new master point lists on the ACBL website. I’m not a contender this year, not even close.
          Nevertheless, I’ll grab a consolation prize when I see one. I just signed on to my personal point total page and saw, with no small satisfaction, that my lifetime total is now 1,111. 1,111.37, to be exact.
          This year’s tallies are less satisfying. Overall, I have 75.85 since the first of the year. That’s my Mini-McKenney total, including club and tournament play. The Ace of Clubs total, for club play exclusively, is 68.19. Sounds respectable, but not compared to years just past. At the halfway point in 2010, I had 165.05 points total. In 2009, it was 150.70. And in 2008, I’d reached 88.83.
          July is proving equally dismal. I went seven days (four playing days) without earning a point. Finally, on the eighth day, in my first outing with the excellent Nancy Littenberg as partner, we managed to elbow our way into a three-way tie for second in the B strat despite a less-than-stellar 47.92% game, which meant .57 red point and .57 black point.
Next question. Out of the 14.02 points I earned in June, 4.37 were red, 1.88 silver and 7.77 black. How many counted for Ace of Clubs? OK, end of May, I had 56.05. So I added 12.14, which means the red and the black were club points and the silver (from the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) was excluded.
          Where do I stand in the big picture? For Ace of Clubs, on the Unit 116 level (just Buffalo), I’m sixth, behind Mike Kisiel (112.68), John Ziemer (89.54), Liz Clark (88.09), Vince Pesce (76.21) and Carlton Stone (75.95), and ahead of Carolyn Siracuse (62.24), Judy Padgug (59.02), Jim Gullo (57.69) and Paul Libby (50.40).
          Go to the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) level and I’m 12th. Kisiel is still first. Over in the 500 to 1000 race, which is where I competed last year, Mike Silverman is first with 105.06.
          Mini-McKenney? I’m 10th among the 10 names on the unit level. Dian Petrov is first with 190.67, followed by Mike Kisiel (122.79), Judy Padgug (119.72), John Ziemer (115.47), Liz Clark (98.70), Jim Gullo (85.13), Vince Pesce (79.64) and Kathy Pollock (77.30).
Am I even among the Top 25 listed on the district level?  Not hardly. To be included in that select circle, I’d need at least 95.54 – 20 points more. Top dog is Hao Ge of Bay Village, Ohio, with 299.04. Dian Petrov is second. Mike Kisiel is 12th. Mike Silverman is third among the 500-1000 players with 121.63. The leader, Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, has 244.94.
For curiosity’s sake, how about the national lists? To join the hot 100 on the 1000-2500 Ace of Clubs list, you need at least 89.89. Mike Kisiel is 21st. As for the Mini-McKenney, the magic minimum number is 178.98, with Dian Petrov sitting 81st. Top Ace of Clubs player is Zita Lechter of Sunny Isles, Fla., with 202.33. Top Mini-McKenney score is 504.74, belonging to Louise Clark of Glencoe, Ill.