Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bridge Blog 458: Swiss movement

          Although there’s virtue in having a home life and not playing bridge seven days a week, I’ve missed way too many chances to earn master points this year by not taking part in the Swiss team games on weekends at the Airport Bridge Club. So when Judy Kaprove asked me to play Swiss on Sunday, triple point Swiss with flecks of gold attached, I said sure. I’ll take Saturday off and hopefully that will be enough time on the home front.
          So after a day of errands, gardening, a movie and some sushi that apparently gave me a terrible case of the runs and chills in the middle of the night (I suspect the fermented bean curd), I managed to make my way out the expressway to join Judy and the rest of the team – perennial substitute Ruth Hnath and Sunday-only player Ann Smith.
          We got off to a roaring start in the seven-team game, trouncing our first two opponents. But then we ran into tough going, winning only one of the remaining three rounds. Our fast start was good, though. Good enough to push us to first in the B strat, third overall, and a master point bonanza – 3.64 points, .18 gold. With one day to go this month, my personal tally now stands at 17.04, with .33 of a gold point.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bridge Blog 457: Corny-copia

          A week of accumulation. On Monday, I’d collected 8.61 points at the Airport Bridge Club, including .13 of a gold point, thanks to those 5% gold Swiss teams games. After the last hand was played on Friday, that little pile of candy corn* (metaphor explaining the income gap, Saturday Edition morning news, Google “NPR candy corn”) had grown to 13.40 points with .15 of a gold point. Not earth-shaking or empire-building, to be sure, but slow and steady.
          Best effort of the week was Wednesday’s game with Celine Murray, who admonished me on one of my screw-ups by noting that she wanted to have a really good game that day. Despite that hand, we did – a 55.99% result that was second in the A strat and first in B in our direction, good for half of my week’s haul – 2.62 points.
          There were plenty of unplanned outcomes as well, especially when it came to being unattached for the afternoon Swiss team games. Tuesday brought the unexpected delight of sitting opposite John Ziemer, an excellent player who seems to be a wizard of the negative double. Despite that, we only won one of our three Swiss team rounds. And on Thursday, I was paired with Sharon Chang for the Swiss, getting drubbed in the first two rounds and salvaging the third, thanks in part to a hand that Sharon fretted over but which in the end made her very happy (see Blog 456).

Bridge Blog 456: Slammin'

          I can’t find the article that someone mentioned in the Bridge Bulletin about the club where eight of the 24 hands were slams – all in the same direction – but some of the most memorable moments I had this week were the slams.
          On Friday, in the very first round, Eleanor Whelan picked up a 30-point hand, opened 2 Clubs and wound up at 6 No Trump. She took all 13 tricks, but we got 2.5 out of a possible 8 game points anyway. Although we spent most of the day on defense, we had our slam moment too – a gambling 6 Spade contract (missing 2 Kings) that depended on a finesse of the King of Spades to come home. It did, though we weren’t the only ones to do it. 
          On Thursday, in the final game in the Swiss teams, I put partner Sharon Chang into a 6 Diamond contract on the last hand we played, which made her very nervous and made her very happy when she brought it home. At the other table, our opponents played it a 3 No Trump. Instead of winning the round by only 1 International Match Point, we won by 12, which moved us from next-to-last up to a tie with the team in front of us – a minor victory, but you take your scraps of pride where you find them.
          And then there was the hand I wrote down, this one from Tuesday in the middle of my high-score game of the week – a 57.19%, first overall in B – with Ruth Hnath, who filled in as my partner after Marie Suprinick called in sick. It was Board 18, we’re North-South and we’re vulnerable. East is dealer. Here’s my hand:
          Spades: 8-4. Hearts: K-Q-8.
          Diamonds: A-K-Q-10-9-6. Clubs: K-J.
          East-West pass throughout. Ruth opens with a Heart, I bid 2 Diamonds, she goes 3 Clubs and I sniff an opportunity. She, too, has very good cards. How many of them, I wonder, are Aces. 4 No Trump, I bid. Blackwood. Five Spades, she replies. She’s got the other three. May as well go 5 No Trump and ask for Kings. None. No problem. The way I count it, we have six Diamond tricks, five Heart tricks and the other two Aces. I pull all the rest of the bidding cards out of the box. 7 No Trump.
          Of course, I could be wrong about the Diamonds if they break badly, if one of the opponents has four to the Jack. When East leads the King of Spades and the dummy comes down, it’s clear that there are ways around that:
          Spades: A-J-6. Hearts: A-J-10-4-3.
          Diamonds: 4. Clubs: A-Q-9-7.
          OK, five Hearts for sure, but four Clubs. I only need three Diamond tricks and the Ace of Spades. I play out the Clubs and the Hearts and claim. Here are the other hands:
          Spades: K-Q-10-9-2. Hearts: 7-6.
          Diamonds: 8-3-2. Clubs: 10-6-4.
          Spades: 7-5-3. Hearts: 9-2.
          Diamonds: J-7-5. Clubs: 8-5-3-2.
          Out of a possible nine game points, I got 8.5. Only one other pair bid it. A couple more wound up at 7 Hearts, making their slam, but not as good as the No Trump slam. Just one pair bid 6 NT, making an overtrick. Three came in at 6 Hearts, all getting the overtrick. Then there were the people who stopped at 4 NT, making three overtricks. Least fortunate of all were the ones who unaccountably wound up at 5 Clubs. In a game where the top result was 2220, they got a mere 640.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bridge Blog 455: Bringing in the sheaves

Not a big week, but things have had a way of accumulating. A second place here, a fourth place there in the morning games at the Airport Bridge Club. And then there were the extra-point Swiss teams games in the afternoons – just 18 boards per session – that also paid off in 5% gold points, those flecks of gold (see Blog 453). In three Swiss team matches, I’ve picked up .13 gold point, which leaves me an even 3.0 short of Life Master. Total for the month at the club – 8.61. October harvest.

Bridge Blog 454: Wregional Wrapup

Hao Ge rules. The pasha of master points from Bay Village, Ohio, was in the house for the big finale at the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament – the Sunday Swiss teams extravaganza – and he triumphed. As a member of the winning Swiss team he added 23.10 points to his total and wound up with 72.92 for the tournament. As I recall (ACBL website being currently unavailable), he was part of a team of Asian players from the Cleveland area. Maybe his photo will show up in the Bridge Bulletin at year’s end.
At any rate, there aren’t any Buffalo area names on the winners’ list until you get down to 17th place. The often indomitable Christine Urbanek leads the local contingent with 45.23 points. She was a member of the second-place Swiss team.
In all, more than 600 players got points in the regional. My tally of 6.97 put me slightly above midpoint in the pack – 247th place.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bridge Blog 453: Bella flecks of gold

          Who’d think of getting gold master points in club play? Well, for one, there’s Bill Finkelstein, the director of the Airport Bridge Club. He’s doing 18-hand Swiss team games on alternate afternoons this week and there’s gold points to be had in them, albeit itsy-bitsy fractions of gold points.
          Then again, I picked up about a third of a gold point when the Airport Club did this a year ago and I gathered a little more on Monday, when my team (partner Ginny Panaro and teammates Bill Regan and Myra Razik) came in one victory point shy of first place. All of us were rewarded with .11 of a gold point within a larger award of 2.07 points overall. The top team won .13 of a gold point. Flecks of gold, Bill Finkelstein calls them. But they could add up.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bridge Blog 452: Regional Wrap-up

I scanned the list of master point winners so far between rounds in the Swiss teams game Sunday and had to scan quite a few names down to find a Buffalo area player. Top guy was 15th. The district point champ of the 1000-2500 division – Hao Ge from down around Cleveland – was 10th. Which one was he, I wondered, looking around at unfamiliar Asian players.
I had to scan a lot further to find my name. In fact, I started looking near the bottom, figuring my total was around 4 points. After my successes with Judie Bailey on Wednesday, I didn’t play the tournament on Thursday, narrowly missed getting red points in my two sessions with Celine Murray on Friday (and I do mean narrow – with our 50.38% and 52.24% games, we were less than a percentage point away from scratching).
And then there were my Saturday games with Usha Khurana, in which we competed in the C stratification because they average the master points and she has so few of them. There we were second in C in the morning with 48.61% (.87 point) and first in C in the afternoon with 49.7% (1.28 points).
When I found my name, it wasn’t on the next-to-bottom sheet, where I figured it would be, or even third from bottom. I was in 225th place with 6.25 points. Wonderful, considering.
Meanwhile, several of my bridge mates were doing even more wonderfully in the team games. In fact, they were downright spectacular. The Kaproves and Zittels won their Friday-Saturday knock-outs for 10.17 points. Mike Silverman, Helen Panza, Selina Volpatti and Adrian Figliotti were second in another Friday-Saturday knock-out game and got 8.9 points. 
Silverman made Life Master on Wednesday, as did Ross Markello, according to the Daily Bulletin. On Thursday, the Ritas – Sierocynski and Sofia – joined them. Friday saw Sue Neubecker make it. And that big knock-out win did the trick for Helen Panza on Saturday.
Moi? I went into Sunday’s Swiss teams session needing 3.13 gold points. To get them, we all (me, Faith Perry, Flo Boyd and Pawan Matta) needed to come in eighth in the B strat – as it turned out, it would take 117 victory points to do it.  
But we didn’t. Though we avoided any big disastrous shut-outs, we won only two rounds and finished with 77 vps. We would have needed 97 – another win – to earn any extra points in the C strat. Each round was worth .36 point. Final tally for the week: 6.97.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bridge Blog 451: No gold? No ... Gold!

          No expectations for the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament. None whatsoever. I even missed the first day of it so I could ferry a visiting poet over to Rochester. Top it off by playing the daytime side pairs games, where gold is the scarcest, and a partner, Judie Bailey, with whom I have limited experience.
          So I’m delighted to come in third North-South in the morning session with a 55% game. Earning one and a fraction red points. Judie and I seem to be meshing pretty well, especially if I heed her warning that her bids are often on the light side. In the afternoon, we’re hounded by the directors for being late. Not our fault, since the table that’s sending players to us got a late start and is chronically running one hand behind. It takes until the seventh round before I can pointedly approach our most critical director and announce that we were done two minutes early. Despite our haste, however, we have an even better game. We’re second overall, first in B overall, first North-South, with a fraction over 60%. Play another afternoon pairs side game and each of us gets gold. Gold!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bridge Blog 450: The monthly roundup

          The 7th of the month – ACBL master point totals are updated. For me, a modest September – 11.33 club points, 1.11 for the Buffalo Fall Sectional – bringing my figures for the year up to 111.25 for Ace of Clubs (club play only) and 121.65 for Mini-McKenney (club play plus tournaments and special stuff).
          Where does that put me in the Ace of Clubs race among Unit 116 (Buffalo) players? Still in sixth place. Mike Kisiel is first with 178.54, followed by Liz Clark (145.79), John Ziemer (141.03), Vince Pesce (122.52) and Carlton Stone (115.74). Behind me are Carolyn Siracuse (104.17), Judy Padgug (90.54), Jim Gullo (88.29) and Paul Libby (85.64).
          As for Mini-McKenney, I’m clinging to 10th. Ahead of me are Dian Petrov (253.99), Mike Kisiel (188.65), John Ziemer (184.61), Judy Padgug (174.78), Liz Clark (157.18), Carlton Stone (131.14), Vince Pesce (128.34), Jim Gullo (125.31) and Kathy Pollock (123.98). A little bump somewhere and I could be in sixth place here too.
          In District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) standings, I’m eighth in Ace of Clubs, with Francine Feldman of Boca Raton, Fla.,  (apparently a snowbird) in fourth place and James Quigley of Pittsburgh in fifth. In the Mini-McKenney, I’m not in the Top 25. I’d need 141 points. Top is Hao Ge again from Bay Village, Ohio. He has 431.53. Dian Petrov is fourth.
          Nationwide, I’m way out of the running. You need nearly 135 points to make the Top 100 Ace of Clubs list – leader is Zita Lechter of Sunny Isles, Fla., again with 294.13 (Kisiel is 13th). To hit the Top 100 Mini-McKenney, the magic number is 255. Leader again is Louise Clark of Glencoe, Ill., with 711. 77. Hao Ge is 10th, Dian Petrov just missed the cut.

Bridge Blog 449: Writing off the regional

          The Fates are conspiring against my chances in the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament on Grand Island next week. I doubt that Life Master is in the cards for me there.
          First of all, I’m not playing on the first day of the tournament on Tuesday. Long ago I promised to drive someone to Rochester that day. Then I have different partners on individual days – Judie Bailey on Wednesday, Celine Murray on Friday and Usha Khurana on Saturday. I’ve made no provisions for the point-heavy team games, so we’re likely to be playing pairs. Plus on Wednesday, due to scheduling foul-ups at the Buffalo News, I’m working the night city desk. I told them I’ll be a little late. And since I have no partner for Thursday, I told them I’ll also work the city desk that night.
          On Sunday, I’m playing on a Swiss team with Faith Perry and Florence Boyd. Sometimes we do well, but we didn’t at the Buffalo Fall Sectional and it’s more than likely that we won’t strike gold on Grand Island. So I’m writing it off already. The regional in Niagara Falls, Ont., in November could be another story, however. Selina Volpatti says she wants to be my partner there for the entire week. If we play together all week, we’re going to score.

Bridge Blog 448: Wham bam slam

          Famous hand of the week at the Airport Bridge Club was played on Tuesday and I had it. It was a 7 No Trump grand slam, but partner Alicia Kolipinski and I didn’t bid it. We stopped at 3 No Trump. I opened the bidding at 2 Clubs with these cards:
          Spades: K-J-4
          Hearts: A-K-Q-J-9-4
          Diamonds: Q-3
          Clubs: A-5
          Alicia bid 2 Diamonds, I responded 2 Hearts, she bid 3 Diamonds and I went to 3 No Trump. Her hand looked like this:
          Spades: A-9-5
          Hearts: 3
          Diamonds: A-J-9-8-7
          Clubs: K-Q-9-7
          A Spade was led and it was a laydown. Three Spade tricks, six Hearts, the Ace of Diamonds and three Clubs. We were the second table to play it. First one bid and made 7 NT. Do I go wrong bidding 2 Clubs? Club manager Bill Finkelstein said at the end of the day that 2 Clubs was the right bid, but my partner, with 14 high card points, needed to push to slam.
At nine tables, only two pairs bid the grand slam. Two others bid 6 NT and made an overtrick. We were the only ones who didn’t bid the slam who took all 13 tricks. The other two took 12. And then there were the poor unfortunates who wound up at 4 Hearts. They made two overtricks and had the bottom board.