Monday, November 21, 2011

Bridge Blog 474: Brighter day

There’s always another hand, another round, another day at the tables. So I usually don’t let myself get too discouraged when things go bad. But our abject wipeout in the Swiss teams game Sunday at the Airport Bridge Club left me shaken. There was no joy to be found when it was over. Mike Silverman and Art Matthies quickly disappeared. Usha and I bid rueful goodbyes and didn’t stick around to see which of the two teams finishing late would come in second.
          Come Monday, I was sitting across from Usha once again while at the next table Mike was paired with Frank Kidd, who’s a Life Master also. This time we get off to a good start and, aside from a couple slips (see Blog 473), we have a much better time. Better than we think. The partial results after the game show us in first place North-South (Mike and Frank, alas, are last and already have disappeared).
When the final results are announced, we’re still first North-South with a 58.58% game and, since we’re in the A strat this time, we need to finish high. Being a double-point occasion, it’s also good for 1.04 master points. My club total for the month rises to 12.55. What a pleasant surprise.

Bridge Blog 473: Too much = not enough

One fine day when I’m a really good player I’ll know what to do when I pick up a 29-point hand. I didn’t on Monday when I surveyed this little gem nestled in Board 15. I’m North, North-South is vulnerable, South is dealer.
Spades: A-K-7. Hearts: A-K-8-6-5.
Diamonds: A-Q-6. Clubs: A-K.
The problem with a hand this good is that my partner could have absolutely nothing. She passes. So does West. Do I bid 2 Clubs, 3 No Trump or something else entirely? I do a 4 Heart pre-empt, figuring that if nothing else, it’s probably makeable. When I see the dummy, however, I realize that someone much better is makeable.
Spades: 9-6-5-3. Hearts: Q-9.
Diamonds: 5-2. Clubs: Q-J-8-6-5.
I wind up losing the last two tricks – a Spade and King of Diamonds, the problem being that I can’t throw off my losers on dummy’s Clubs because I can’t reach them – but in No Trump, that’s not an issue.
Spades: 10-4-2. Hearts: 10-4-2.
Diamonds: 9-7-4. Clubs: 9-7-4-3.
Spades: Q-J-8. Hearts: J-7-3.
Diamonds: K-J-10-8-3. Clubs: 10-2.
My 650 score gets us only two of a possible six game points. Worse than me are the people who bid 6 Hearts (down three) and the ones who don’t make an overtrick at 4 Hearts. The winners are in No Trump. Two of them are at 3 NT making 6. One is at 3 NT making 7. And then there’s the brilliant pair (I believe it was Mike Kisiel) that went to 6 NT. Making 7.
How do I get there, I ask club manager Bill Finkelstein when I lay out the hand after the game. The opening bid, he says, is 2 Clubs. The second bid, after partner comes up with a 2 Diamond waiting bid, is 5 No Trump, showing those 29 points. Then she should bid 6 NT. Trouble is, Bill noted, partner may not understand the bid and either bid a suit or leave me there at 5 NT.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bridge Blog 472: Swiss miss

          Did I mention a while back how I love Swiss team games? I do. There’s the camaraderie, the frequent score checking, the thrill of trying to improve your team’s standing from round to round. Plus there’s almost certainly the prospect of earning master points, no matter how fractionally small.
          It was in this spirit that I forsook Saturday’s double session triple point pairs game at the Airport Bridge Club and opted for the Sunday triple point Swiss teams. Plus I needed to rake up all my leaves and do all my laundry – chores that had been neglected since the beginning of the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament nearly two weeks ago.
          We seemed to have a competitive foursome – me and Mike Silverman, both Life Masters now, paired up with Art Mathies, who’s a better player than his point count indicates after two years of competition, and Usha Khurana, who’s progressing well these days.
          It turned out to be a four-team Swiss, which meant that we faced each of the other three teams twice. With triple points, first overall and first in the B strat were worth more than three points each. So half the field would score big. Even if we washed out, we’d get a quarter point for each round we won. So at least we’d win something. Or would we?
First time around, we were skunked thoroughly. We missed games that our opponents bid and made. I mishandled a Jacoby transfer bid over interference. Silverman doubled a 5 Diamond contract that the other team made (we went down one at 3 NT). And so on. I tried to rally the troops after our pizza lunch by saying that we had just warmed up, but we really hadn’t. Closest we came was a one International Match Point loss to the Judi Marshall-Nancy Wolstoncroft team. We were shut out completely.
I had hoped that this final chance for triple points would plump up my November totals, since I’m going to miss most of next week due to Thanksgiving obligations at home. But nooooo. I’ve still got 11.51 points at the club for the month. Add my regional tournament take and it’s nearly 25. Best month of the year, to be sure, but it could be so much better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bridge Blog 471: Odometer check

          Overlooked by me amid all the excitement about passing the Life Master milestone was a mini-mile marker – my 1,200th master point. If I’m not mistaken, the master point odometer zipped past 1,200 during the triple-point double session at the Airport Bridge Club on Tuesday, when Marie Suprinick and I collected 4.36 points. If that didn’t do the trick, then June Feuerstein and I did it in the morning session on Wednesday, adding another 1.25 points with a 56.37% game that put us third in the B strat and fifth overall in a 13-pair match.
          Mike Kisiel, meanwhile, noted that while it was fine to become a Life Master, Bronze Life Master and Silver Life Master all at once, the next step up the ladder is a big one. No additional specially-colored points are needed for Gold Life Master, just a lot of points of any color – 2,500 of them. At the rate I’m going (200 to 250 points a year), that could take until 2017 unless I start traveling to tournaments.

Bridge Blog 470: Spikes

More congratulations on Tuesday, which keep me walking on air, but led me to observe to more than one well-wisher that actually I only had one good game. Or event, if you will. The rest of the month has been anything but Life Masterful. It’s sort of like that modern music piece I heard the Buffalo Philharmonic do many years ago (Ned Rorem?), in which the music was an ambient drone for many measures and then suddenly erupted into a single loud note.
I had no reason to expect anything more for my double session on Tuesday with Marie Suprinick, since we seem to be stuck in the low to mid 40% range. But some unusual opportunities came along in the morning session (see Blog 469) which lifted our ambitions and our spirits. We figured it was better than our average game, but it was better than better – 57.74%, first North-South, second in the A strat overall for 2.25 points.
The afternoon game didn’t feel as good and didn’t present any memorable hands that I recall. When the partial results showed us in second place, I shrugged it off. Our bad boards obviously hadn’t been registered. But no, we really did do well, fractionally better than the morning game with 57.94%. This time we were second North-South and third in the A strat overall for 2.11 points.
The two sessions gave me and Marie (who was lamenting her lack of winnings lately) a total of 4.36 points. It nearly doubled my previous total of 4.5 points at the club for the month. Another spike!

Bridge Blog 469: Doubly outrageous

In Tuesday morning’s game with Marie Suprinick, I made two outrageous bidding decisions, one which paid off and one which didn’t. The bad one came first on Board 9 against Jerry Geiger and Judi Marshall. East-West vulnerable, North (Marie) is dealer. She opens 1 No Trump. Jerry passes. I’m holding this hand.

Spades: A-7-2. Hearts: A-8-5-2.
Diamonds: A-J-9-2. Clubs: 8-5.

Well, it’s an opener opposite a 1 NT opener. We’ve got game, for sure, but where? I bid 2 Clubs for Stayman, asking for a major. Marie bids 2 Diamonds, denying a four-card major suit. Then Jerry doubles. How many tricks do we have, I wonder. Do we make 5 Diamonds? Maybe. I pass. Judi thinks long and hard before she passes. Marie passes. It’s 2 Diamonds doubled. Marie could have made 4 Diamonds if she took a marked finesse on Jerry, but she didn’t and only made 3. Unfortunately, the score for that is just 280. It was a bottom board. Everybody else is making 3, 4 and 5 No Trump. Jerry remarks that the pass was a good bid, but Marie should have redoubled. That would have given us a top score. Then again, maybe I should have redoubled. Here are the other hands.

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

Spades: Q-6-3. Hearts: 10-9-4.
Diamonds: K-10-8-5. Clubs; 10-7-4. He led a Diamond.

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

The second outrage was more successful. It rescued us from a bottom board on the losing side of a slam by Art Schumacher and Barb Multerer and gave us an average score. It was Board 19. East-West is vulnerable. I’m South and I’m the dealer. I pass with the hand:

Spades: None. Hearts: 9-8-6-5-2.
Diamonds: 10-9-7-3. Clubs: J-6-4-2.

West (Barb) opens a Spade and Marie jumps in with 2 Diamonds. East supports the Spades – was it with a Jacoby 2 NT bid, I don’t remember – and I look at my hand again. Worthless, but I have ruffing values. If we play Diamonds, they don’t take any Spade tricks. I bid 3 Diamonds.
Eventually, after Art and Barb check for Aces and settle for 6 Spades, I reach for the bidding box and pull out the card for 7 Diamonds. Astounding! But, of course, the vulnerability is in our favor. If they make 6 Spades, which is likely, they get 1430 points. If we manage to go down only six doubled, they get only 1400 points. They doubled and indeed that’s what happened. Here are the other hands.

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

Spades: K-8-6-4. Hearts: A-K-J-4.
Diamonds: 4. Clubs: A-9-7-3.

Spades: A-Q-J-10-5-2. Hearts: Q-7.
Diamonds: A-J-5. Clubs: 8-5.

Of course, not everyone bid 6 Spades (which made an overtrick). Four of them did and got 1460. Three of them stopped at 4 Spades and took all 13 tricks anyway, scoring 710. We were in the middle, capturing four out of a possible seven game points.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bridge Blog 468: Regional reflexions

Results are up on the ACBL website for the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament and there we are, me and Selina Volpatti, tied for 109th with 13.67 points. Best Buffalo player in the tournament is the same one who was best Buffalo player in the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional on Grand Island, Christine Urbanek. She had 36.61 points, which placed her 17th. Leader of the pack, or rather co-leaders, are William Woodcock of Sarnia, Ont., and Dwight Bender of London, Ont., with 73.56.
Second-best Buffalo player is Saleh Fetouh (28.45, 24th), followed by Chongmin Zhang (22.13, 38th), Bert Feasley (18.90, 56th), Jay Levy (18.57, 58th), John Sinclair (16.54, 69th), our knock-out teammates Mike Silverman and Helen Panza (14.63, tied for 95th – they got bonus points in Sunday’s Swiss team game), Dian Petrov (14.55, 97th) and John Toy (12.79, tied for 121st). That’s it for Buffalo players in the double digits. Not very well represented, our unit.
Meanwhile, I’m still getting congratulations. There was a round of applause when I arrived (a couple minutes late) for the morning session at the Airport Bridge Club. And numerous individual plaudits, often with the comment that it’s been a long time coming. Yes, indeed. Six years. Longer than some. Not as long as some others. Let’s just say it’s nothing special.
       Judging by what’s happened since I made Life Master on Thursday, it really hasn’t been transformational at all. I collected only a point and a half for the remainder of the tournament and struck out entirely on Monday with partner Usha Khurana. We came within striking distance of scratching in the morning session with a fraction over 50%, but were fourth out of six pairs in the afternoon with a mediocre 45%. No miracle of stratification for us.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bridge Blog 467: Basking

          After Thursday’s big win in the knock-out game at the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament, after I became Life Master, Bronze Life Master and Silver Life Master all in one swell foop, it’s been a weekend of congratulations. Helping it along was my appearance on the front page of the Daily Bulletin on Saturday, the caption (“A Hat Trick!”) and the goofy hands-up pose that the newsletter photographer had me repeat after I did it for him and his camera didn’t flash. Several people noted it on Saturday and still more did on Sunday. I even got a congratulatory hug from sweet little Kit Nash, the grand old lady of the St. Catharines club. Yes, Life Mastery is good.
          But it wasn’t that good at the tables. Playing the Daylight Open Pairs games in the fifth floor meeting rooms in the newer part of the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Brock), Selina Volpatti and I flirted with getting points, but succeeded only in our first try on Friday morning, when we were fourth in B with a 48.88% game and earned .72 red point. We just missed in the afternoon with 50.64% -- a 50.96% pair tied for fifth, getting .48 point. These were big pairs games – 16 tables in the morning, 15 in the afternoon, playing two-board rounds. Saturday was a little smaller – 11.5 and 11 pairs – but instead of doing better, we fared worse. Saturday morning found us at 45%, third from the bottom. The afternoon brought us back up to a little over 50%, but we needed 53% to scratch.
          Back on Thursday night, I had visions of collecting 20 points at the regional, but come Sunday morning, I found my name in something like 48th place on the big list of master point winners with 12.76. Success in Sunday’s grand finale Swiss teams game would bump that up, I hoped, especially since our team – Selina plus Marilyn Sultz and Ruth Wurster – would qualify as a C team since they all have fewer than 500 points.
          We started off like gangbusters, winning our first two rounds handily. And after a Chinese couple from Toronto nailed us in the third matchup, we came back to tie our fourth round opponents. After the lunch break, however, we came up empty in the fifth and sixth rounds, losing by 26 and 10 International Match Points, respectively. I was afflicted by my usual post-lunch narcolepsy and misplayed a couple cards. Focus, I told myself, reaching for some gum to chew myself awake. If we won our final round, I told the others, maybe we’ll qualify for something extra.
          Our final round opponents were folks from home – Ken Meier and Penny Shui (Marilyn and Ruth played their teammates, Paula Kotowski and John Kirsits). They had roughly the same record as we did at that point: 2.5 wins, about 75 victory points. It turned out to be a close match. In fact, if Selina made what I thought was an obvious lead into my Ace-Queen finesse of the dummy’s King of Diamonds, we would have sent them down two on a 4 Heart contract. Instead, she led into the five-card Ace-King Club suit on the board, while holding five Clubs herself. Perhaps she thought I was void in Clubs and could pick up a ruff. Wrong. Ken Meier was void in Clubs. He threw off his two losing Diamonds on the Ace-King. The 10 IMPs they won on that hand were the key to their 5 IMP victory.
          The final hand gave us one last weird little memory. We were playing Board 20 and Selina, with a 17-point holding, did a take-out double that led me into a hopeless 3 Diamond contract that went down two vulnerable. But the director – Dick Rasmus, taking a break from retirement, I guess – came over and asked us how we got that board. He brought over another player who looked at Penny Shui’s West hand and said that he had played it. Seems the caddy brought us the wrong Board 20. The right one was produced and we played it – a better hand for me, a safer contract of 2 Hearts, but it went down one vulnerable thanks to bad distribution. Our teammates had the same result.
No glory, then, in the Swiss and nothing near 20 points for the weekend. Our reward -- .36 for each game we won, a total of 0.90, giving me a tournament total of 13.66, with 12.04 gold.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bridge Blog 466: Gold rush

Going through Canadian customs on the Rainbow Bridge took so long around 12:30 p.m. Thursday that my teammates in the Whirlpool Knock-Outs were prompted to make an anxious phone call. But not to worry. I was there with about 10 minutes to spare, ready to take on the Mulhall team, which teammates Mike Silverman and Helen Panza recalled as toughies from the Grand Island regional.
We played Mulhall’s teammates – Bob and Dave – and played so steadily that even our opponents spoke admiringly of our restraint. When we compared scores at the midpoint in the 24-hand match, we were 24 International Match Points ahead of them. But things have a way of turning around, which partner Selina Volpatti and I started to fret about during the final set of six boards, when I took a 5 Heart sacrifice bid to keep them out of game, then went down four doubled, and on the next hand bid 4 Spades, got a bad trump break, and went down two vulnerable.
The Mulhall team outpointed us on that set of six boards, but we skunked them on the other set of six. We finished 33 IMPs ahead. Winners in the semi-final round, we now were guaranteed at least a second-place finish – 8.45 gold points.
The finals Thursday evening put us back up against the Benny team, the people who had slam-dunked us by 35 IMPs in the first three-way session Wednesday afternoon. However, we noted, the other people in the three-way game had beaten the Benny people. They could be had.
Tucked away along the edge of the main ballroom, we once again took up the cards with Jocelyn and Catherine from London, Ont. Once again, we started off steady, but stumbled in the second set of boards when Selina doubled their 4 Spade bid and I passed with a weak hand on what would have been a 5 Club contract for us. We lost 14 IMPs on that little disaster and suddenly felt the ground shift beneath our chairs. We got 11 IMPs back on the next hand, though, beating their 3 No Trump contract by one trick on a board where our teammates bid and made the 3 NT. At the halfway point, we were ahead, but only by 7 IMPs. Anything could happen.
What happened was that everybody started getting tired, these being the 37th to 48th hands played this day. So we had seesaw results. They took 10 IMPs when Selina and I failed to bid game. We got them back when I made a 4 Spade contract where the opponents went down. They nailed us on a 3 NT contract our teammates didn’t bid. We got them back when Jocelyn and Catherine went down three on a 6 NT slam, while Helen and Mike made 4 Spades. It was going to be close.
     But not that close. On the first set of six boards, we came out 2 IMPs ahead. On the final set, we prevailed by 6 IMPs. We did it! We won! Champions of the B division, we collected 12.07 gold points (plus some unspecified prize on Friday or Saturday from the prize desk). More than enough for my purposes. Selina and I celebrated with glasses of merlot upstairs in the hospitality room off the 10th floor Rainbow Room restaurant. We were the first players to arrive.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bridge Blog 465: Yes-s-s-s!!!

          We did it! Our team has won a spot in the semi-finals in the Wednesday-Thursday knock-out game in the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament. No matter what happens Thursday, we’re guaranteed 4.83 master points. Gold master points. All Selina Volpatti, Mike Silverman, Helen Panza and I have to do is show up at 1 p.m. and play. If we’re good enough to win our semi-final round, it’s 8-plus points. Go all the way in the finals and it’s 12.
          So congratulate me. I went to Niagara Falls this morning 2.8 gold points short of becoming a Life Master and now I’ve got ‘em. With more than 1,000 points overall, I get to skip right past the Bronze Life Master category and become a Silver Life Master. Hallelujah! Thank you, bridge gods.
          Thank you especially, bridge gods, for putting us in three-way contests in the first two knock-out rounds. In the three-way game, there are two teams that continue to the next round – much better odds than the head-to-head matchups. The afternoon round found us crushing one team by 63 points and losing to another by 35, so we got to play on.
        The evening three-way started out much tighter – we led one team by 5-1 International Match Points at the midway point and trailed the other one, 20-12. But we made up that deficit in the second half, thanks to a 6 Heart slam where our opponents went down three (Helen and Mike bid 3 Hearts and made an overtrick) and a 5 Hearts doubled contract that Selina brought home (Helen and Mike didn’t double). We happily paid the knock-out director $15 apiece for Thursday afternoon’s round. Life Master! At last!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bridge Blog 464: Masterful?

          I feel good. By this time Thursday night, I could finally be Life Master. Not just Life Master, but Silver Life Master. That’s how overdue this process has gotten. If I’m not mistaken, all our knock-out team will have to do at the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament is win the first two rounds to get the 2.8 gold points that I need.
          And it should be a very good knock-out team. I’ll be playing with Niagara Regional Counselor Selina Volpatti, with whom I usually have a great time and do quite well. Our teammates are Mike Silverman and Helen Panza, who cleaned up at last month’s regional tournament on Grand Island and earned Life Master status.
          Do I need further encouragement? Why not? I need look no further than my fruitful games with Pawan Matta Monday and Tuesday at the Airport Bridge Club. Monday was a 48.71% game, which nevertheless gave us first in the C strat for .77 of a master point. Tuesday, though it started badly, was much improved – 55.28%, first in B North-South, 1.13 master points. For the month, that’s 4.50 points.

Bridge Blog 463: Monthly roundup

          My big October was just a blip on the screen as far as the ACBL unit, district and national master point tallies were concerned. And let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, 24 points ain’t much.
          Still, it maintained my position on the Unit 116 (Buffalo) level. My 128.29 Ace of Clubs points put me sixth. Mike Kisiel stays first with 212.32, followed by Liz Clark (166.07), John Ziemer (153.24), Carlton Stone (139.23) and Vince Pesce (129.13). After me, there’s Carolyn Siracuse (110.95), Judy Padgug (98.51), Paul Libby (95.51) and Jim Gullo (93.24).
          Mini-McKenney-wise, I’ve got 145.66 points, which puts me seventh on the Unit 116 list. Dian Petrov is first with 301.66, followed by Kisiel (222.43), Ziemer (211.40), Judy Padgug (203.10), Liz Clark (177.46) and Carlton (161 even). After me, there’s Vince Pesce (137.98), Kathy Pollock (135.90) and Jim Gullo (132.26).
          On the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) level, I still register on the Ace of Clubs list – I’m eighth – but miss the Top 25 completely on the Mini-McKenney. The guy in 25th place has 160.43. On top of the heap once again is Hao Ge of Bay Village, Ohio, who was the big point winner in the Grand Island regional. He has 504.45. Dian Petrov is second. Mike Kisiel is eighth.
          Nationally, I don’t want to look, but I guess I will anyway. Ace of Clubs is still led by Zita Lechter of Sunny Isles, Fla. Now she has 320.83. Kisiel is tenth. To make the Top 100 list, you need 152.41.
          As for national Mini-McKenney, again it’s Louise Clark of Glencoe, Ill. She has 714.84. Next is Geeske Joel of Palo Alto, Calif., with 679.63. Hao Ge is eighth. Dian Petrov is 84 th. To make this Top 100, you need 291.58.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bridge Blog 462: Bill Rieker

          Last time I saw Bill Rieker was at the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament and he looked a little diminished – more tired, not as crisp. I said it was good to see him and he kind of shrugged it off. He was that kind of guy, not one to dwell on personal matters, but it made me wonder how well he was getting along these days, a year after the death of his wife, Peg, with whom he’d run B&P Duplicate all those year. The answer came in a couple emails Thursday night – first from Marge Schomers, an old friend of his who runs the Lockport game – and then from Judie Bailey, mistress of Unit 116’s Bridge Buff. Bill had passed away on Wednesday. Carlton Stone provided a link to the notice on the Dietrich Funeral Home site a day later. No calling hours. Private services.
          A couple times I’d gotten to find out a few things about Bill. He had a contracting business before he retired. His wife, Peg, who was a big golfer and bridge player, had lured him into the game. He was always the gruff but genial director and she was gracious hostess, providing the snacks and pairing up the players who came without partners. Frequently from 2005 to 2008, I was one of them and was one of the stalwarts at their faltering, underattended Wednesday game.
Often I’d get paired with Peg, but sometimes Bill would get pulled in. He was a very steady player – and a good one, though not quite as good as Peg, who was very, very good – and unlike Peg he didn’t do much correcting of other people’s mistakes, although he might fix them with a disapproving stare.
As a director, he was similarly firm, but tolerant. After the first round was completed, he ran a kitchen timer to keep the subsequent rounds on time. I don’t recall him taking boards away from slow players, so it must have been infrequent. He used a microphone for announcements in the social hall of the Zion Church in Tonawanda, but it was so distorted that it was hard to tell what he was talking about. And among the computers used by bridge directors, his was the oldest. But he made it all work. That was his great talent. He could make anything work.
His is not the only death in the local bridge community this week, as it turned out. On Saturday night, I saw Judy Padgug at the theater and she asked if I had heard about Walter Majewski. I didn’t know Walter well, since he played mainly at the Bridge Center of Buffalo, where I have rarely played, but I saw his name frequently among the winners. Judy said she had played against him on Friday at the Bridge Center and then he apparently went home and suffered a heart attack. What a bad year this has been for deaths among bridge players, Judy and I commiserated. We’re greatly diminished.

Bridge Blog 461: Points in waiting

          Go to check my master point totals on the ACBL website and what pops up but a membership renewal. How efficient. Now that I’m renewed, I see that they still haven’t posted the totals yet in the unit, district or national master point races. OK, not so efficient, but it’s only the sixth. Maybe later tonight. In the meantime, I have 24.01 points pending from October. Could be the high monthly point gain for 2011 so far. That gives me 145.66 for the year and a lifetime total of 1,181.18.

Bridge Blog 460: More slammin'

          Highlights of the pair of 57% games I had this week (with Pawan Matta on Tuesday and Celine Murray on Wednesday) were a pair of slams. The first one, on Tuesday against Harry Cheung and Liz Clark, was a gamble and I shouldn’t have made it, except that Harry trumped a Club trick while he still had a Club in his hand. It was only good for 5 Spades, but I made 6, the only one to do that.
          On Wednesday with Celine, there was a totally deserved Grand Slam. All one had to do was bid it. It was Board 18, North-South vulnerable, East is dealer. I’m sitting North with this hand:
          Spades: 8-4. Hearts: K-Q-8.
          Diamonds: A-K-Q-10-9-6. Clubs: K-J.
          East passes, South – Celine – opens 1 Heart. Hey, I’ve got 18 points and a long suit that’s probably running. Might we take a ton of tricks at No Trump? I bid 2 Diamonds, she replies 3 Clubs. This is getting promising. We can probably make 5 Hearts or 5 Diamonds. I explore for Aces with a Blackwood bid of 4 No Trump. She bids 5 Spades – 3 Aces. OK, five Heart tricks, six Diamond tricks, 2 outside Aces. 7 No Trump. East leads the King of Spades and, sure enough, it’s a lay-down, and I don’t even need to run the Diamonds. There are sure four Club tricks.
          Spades: A-J-6. Hearts: A-J-10-4-3.
          Diamonds: 4. Clubs: A-Q-9-7.
          Spades: K-Q-10-9-8. 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.

          Amazingly, only one other pair out of 10 bid the 7 NT slam, but everyone took all 13 tricks. A couple of them bid 7 Hearts. One stopped at 6 NT. Three more were at 6 Hearts. The poor unfortunates were the ones who didn’t get to 6. One was at 4 NT and, sorriest of all, the one who wound up at 5 Clubs.

Bridge Blog 459: I am such a jerk

          Where is my brain? Friday’s scorecard has words like “Revoke” (where I doomed my maybe-makeable 3 NT contract by carelessly discarding a Heart instead of a Club) and on the very next hand, “Think!” (where I should have nailed an extra trick on my 4 Spade contract, but didn’t do the discard). June Feuerstein and I brought home a 36.9% game, my worst since that dismal 35.06% with Ruthie Kozower back on July 26.
          Even more unthinkable is my revoke on attending the Individual Game on Saturday at the Airport Bridge Club. I needed an excuse, however flimsy, to go play on a Saturday, and I started out with a perfect one – bringing friend Diana Sachs’ 92-year-old dad, Gerry, out to the game. But then Diana was going to be free to do something with her dad Saturday, so that excuse evaporated.
Except that Paula Salamone needed a ride. Fine. Excuse in place again. Until Paula calls Friday night to say she’ll have her car after all. So, at that point, I should have called club manager Bill Finkelstein to tell him I’d be a no-show. But I didn’t. And Paula didn’t tell him either. So at game time on Saturday, as I’m in the bathroom, an explosive phone call comes. Finkelstein is furious. The Individual Game needs a firm number of players for the set-up. What could I say? I knew better. Just brainless.