Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bridge Blog 623: The Doomsday effect

          If the Mayan Apocalypse really was going to happen on Dec. 21, 2012, where would I want to be when it happened? Short of hopping a plane to Tahiti, it would be at the bridge table. Plus, short of total vaporization of the planet, it’s hard to know just what’s going on outside when you’re at the Airport Bridge Club, its rooms being windowless and surrounded by other offices.
          It was certainly an eventful day in other ways.  The winter solstice. The first serious stow storm of the season. The new stadium lease for the Bills. The appointment of Sen. John Kerry as Secretary of State. The National Rifle Association saying we should have armed guards in every school in the land. The failure of the brakes in the House of Representatives as the nation heads toward the Fiscal Cliff. And closer to home, an incoming call during my morning shower that vibrated my cell phone off the shelf in the bathroom and onto the tile floor. When I flipped it open (it’s an old LG flip phone), the display screen looked like striped pajamas. No info at all, although it could still make and receive calls.
          And when I arrive at the last minute at the bridge club, expecting to play with Wednesday partner Celine Murray, whose name was in my datebook, her car isn’t in the parking lot. I’d reminded her more than once on Wednesday of our date, but no Celine. I walk in, however, to discover that I already had a partner for the game whose name I hadn’t written down – Usha Khurana. Now suddenly I’m hoping that Celine’s memory doesn’t kick in.
          It doesn’t. Disaster averted, we settle in for a game that seems much better than usual. Particularly satisfying are a pair of doubled hands when Jerry Geiger and John Ziemer are at the table. In one, Jerry wrests a bid away from us by bidding 4 Spades. I double and he goes down four, vulnerable. Not quite a top board, but good enough. Next hand John ventures up to 5 Diamonds, denying us a game bid at 4 in a major suit. I double and we barely beat it, but it’s down one, a tie for top board.
          In all, we have five top boards (including a 3 Spade, doubled, that I make) and two more ties for tops. It’s one of our best games ever together – 62.5%, second overall, for 1.49 master points.
          Saturday I arrive without a partner and club manager Bill Finkelstein calls in one of the substitutes – sweet little old Ruth Hnath. But before she arrives, he plays a round with me and I start off with a doomsday scenario on the very first hand (see Blog 622). The opponents – Paula Salamone and Ross Markello – follow it up by bidding 6 Hearts and making an overtrick. A dark day ahead, indeed.
          Ruth arrives for the second round and immediately is the declarer on five straight hands, including a 4 Club doubled contract that she makes. Well, opponent Martin Pieterse observes as he doubles, it’s either going to be a top board for us or a top board for you.
          In all, Ruth winds up as declarer on 13 of the 24 boards she plays and nails four other tops. Good thing, too. I’m declarer on only one more for the rest of the game and I bring home a bottom score on that one too. Thanks to her stellar play and some good defensive work, we avert disaster and finish with 56.48%, second overall in a tight three-way race for the top, first in the B strat. This being a triple-point game, we collect 1.95. Total for December – 24.24.

Bridge Blog 622: Bottom of the class

          I’ve butchered hands before. No big deal. But it’s bad to massively mess up the first one of the day. And it’s even worse when your partner is someone you’ve given mucho bucks to for bridge lessons. This is how Saturday started at the Airport Bridge Club, with club manager Bill Finkelstein in the opposite chair until substitute Ruth Hnath arrives.
          It’s Board 7. Both sides vulnerable, South is dealer. I’m sitting North. Bill opens a Club. Ross Markello, sitting West, passes. I’m holding this:
          Spades: 10-9-5-3-2; Hearts: A-Q-J-5
          Diamonds: 9-8-6-3; Clubs: None
          So I bid the Spade. Bill rebids the Clubs. I try 2 Hearts. Bill  jumps to 4 Hearts. And there we are. Paula leads the Jack of Diamonds and here’s the dummy:
          Spades: 8; Hearts: K-6-3-2
          Diamonds: A-K; Clubs: Q-10-7-6-5-2
          Clearly, it’s going to take a cross-ruff to make this work. Eight tricks from the cross-ruff. Two Diamonds. I take the first Diamond trick with the Ace and play the King of Diamonds. Big mistake. East is out of Diamonds. She ruffs, leads a Spade, taken by West, who leads another Diamond. Paula ruffs with the 7 of Hearts and I’m stuck with a choice between losing the trick or playing the King. At any rate, it’s a disaster. I’m down three and Bill is declaring that he can’t believe I ever took a lesson from him. Set up the Clubs, he says, then draw trump.
          The other hands:
          Spades: A-Q-7-4; Hearts: 9-7-4
          Diamonds: J; Clubs: A-9-8-4-3
          Spades: K-J-6; Hearts: 10-8
          Diamonds: Q-10-7-5-4-2; Clubs: K-J
          Yes, it was indeed a bottom board, a big fat zero. Top was the pair who bid 4 Hearts and made it. John Ziemer, watching me copy it down, said he bid 3 Hearts and that was all he made. (So it’s not guaranteed, after all. Then again, Bill noted that I shouldn’t have bid 2 Hearts unless I had 11 high card points, so we shouldn’t have been there at all.) (John Ziemer also had a comment about the hand in Blog 621 – see the insert there.) Meanwhile, a 2 No Trump bid by East went down one. And a 2 Diamond bid by West made exactly 2 Diamonds.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bridge Blog 621: Doubled up

Ever notice how certain things always seem to happen in every game? I mean, for a while now, I feel like I’m destined to register a minus 800 score on a hand before the day is done. That happened again today, Wednesday, at the Airport Bridge Club in a totally inappropriate sacrifice where I bid 2 Spades and was doubled on a hand where the opposing pair routinely made 3 Spades. Yes, I was down four. And yes, it was far and away an absolute bottom board.
But now a more satisfying phenomenon has begun to pop up – the doubled contract that I succeed in making. This one happened on the very first hand of the day Wednesday against Dave Donaldson, sitting East, and Mike Silverman, who is West. Board 21. I’m the dealer, sitting North, and we’re vulnerable, East-West is not.

Spades: 4; Hearts: None
Diamonds: A-Q-10-9-5-4; Clubs: A-7-6-4-3-2

This hand screams for some sort of high-drama bid, but I’m reluctant to pre-empt, so I just open 1 Diamond. Dave passes and Wednesday partner Celine Murray bids a Heart. Mike chimes in with a Spade, I bid 2 Diamonds, Dave goes to 2 Spades, Celine bids 3 Hearts and Mike jumps to 4 Spades. My hand is worthless if we play in Spades. Maybe Celine has the Clubs instead, so OK, 5 Clubs. Celine corrects to 5 Diamonds and Mike doubles. Dave leads a Spade and I suppress a smile as Celine lays down this hand:

Spades: 8-2; Hearts: K-9-8-7-4-3
Diamonds: K-J-8-3-2; Clubs: None.

Mike captures the trick and there’s no lead he can make that I can’t take. I draw trumps in one round and cross-ruff my way to an overtrick. Plus 950. But, everyone at the table wonders, won’t somebody bid and make the slam? Or wouldn’t it be better to sacrifice at 6 Spades? I check the traveling score slips later for the answer, but first here are the other two hands:

Spades: A-J-10-7-3; Hearts: 6-5-2
Diamonds: 6; Clubs: 10-9-8-5

Spades: K-Q-9-6-5; Hearts: A-Q-J-10
Diamonds: 7; Clubs: K-Q-J

It turns out to be a top board. One other North-South matches it. Nobody bids the slam. At every other table, East-West plays it in Spades – 4 Spades, down 2; 5 Spades, down 3; 5 Spades, down 4; and 6 Spades doubled, down 4. (John Ziemer tells me Saturday that he bid the 6 Diamond slam on this hand, which would have yielded a score of 1370, but this is where the opponents went to 6 Spades.)
I give Dave and Mike a top board on the next hand by trying for the slam we should have made on this one. Celine opens and I have three Aces and 17 high card points, but we only have seven trumps between us and it goes down two. In the end, we’re second in B in our direction with a 48.75% game, earning 0.50 of a master point. Total for December now is 20.80.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bridge Blog 620: Paging Mr. Jacoby

Sometimes it takes a bonehead maneuver – and the subsequent chastening from your partner (and opponents) – to knock you into focus. In the second hand of Tuesday’s game with Beverly Dale, she opened 1 Heart, Mike Silverman bid 2 Diamonds. I’m holding six Spades, Ace-Jack, and four Hearts headed by the King-Queen, plus a singleton King of Clubs. I bid 4 Hearts, since there’s our nine-card fit, and that’s it.
Except Beverly goes on to take 12 tricks. She has the other three Aces. It’s a slam. All at the table agree that I should have used the Jacoby 2 No Trump bid to show my four-card support and strong hand. My lame excuse – I haven’t bid Jacoby 2 NT in a long time and I didn’t recognize it. Either people don’t play it (like my Wednesday partner Celine Murray) or it doesn’t come up.
At any rate, it’s a low average board for us, not the worst of outcomes. There are a couple absolute bottoms later on – the double that I let stand after we battled Celine and Dotty May to game level, bidding Hearts and Spades. Celine turns out to have no Hearts at all and Dotty beats the double. And then there was the hand where I’m five-five in the minors and trying to foil Jerry Geiger and Judy Marshall’s almost certain game in Hearts. I bid a Diamond, Jerry doubles, Bev bids 2 Spades, Judy doubles, I’m void in Spades. So I bid my Clubs. Jerry doubles again and Bev passes. She has one Club, three Diamonds. We’re down four. Diamonds, on the other hand, would have been down only two.
At that point, I’m telling our opponents we’d trade them a top board for a bottom board, but we manage to break the pattern and finish with a 54.98% game, second in the B strat in our direction, fourth overall, for 1.23 points. That pushes me past the 20-point mark for December – 20.30.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bridge Blog 619: Not so blue Monday

I’m beginning to think that earning an average of a point a day should be my permanent goal. 365 a year. Not only is it a tidy concept, but it also would get me to Gold Life Master at least a couple years sooner than 2017, which is what I’ve been projecting.
But anything could happen between now and 2017, so let’s be grateful and take it day by day. Today, Monday, with Judy Zeckhauser, turned out to be upbeat. We felt good about making our initial 1 No Trump contract, even though it turned out to be a bottom board after all seven tables played it, and we were mostly decent on defense, also a good thing because we were on defense on 11 of the last 16 boards and 16 of 28 in all. We were 57.96% on defense overall and finished with 55.90%, second North-South, third overall for 1.59 master points. That brings the total for December to a rosy 19.07.
Speaking of rosy, Mike Silverman mentioned Monday that he was still glowing over our Swiss team sweep on Sunday (Blog 618). How sweeping was it? I’ve dug out my scorecard to see. Scoring in International Match Points, in the morning we won 15-7, 7-1 and 32-0. In the afternoon, we were just as dominant, winning 20-3, 13-1 and 16-11. Guess I’m still glowing too.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bridge Blog 618: Climb every mountain

How I wish last Sunday’s Swiss team had played in the final installment of STaC week the way this Sunday's Swiss team did, when less was at stake. Last week at the Airport Bridge Club, Sharon Chang and I were teamed with Gaurang Sheth and Richard Cramer-Benjamin, decent players both, and were shut out in our first two rounds. Fortunately, we rallied to win three of the next six, collecting 0.69 for our efforts and salvaging our pride.
This week was a whole different story. My partner was the savvy and aggressive Selina Volpatti. Our teammates were the supremely steady Mike Silverman and Nancy Wolstoncroft. Things went well right from the start, beginning when I made a 5 Diamonds doubled contract against two of the best players in the room, Harry Cheung and Liz Clark. We won every round, six of them in all.
Club manager Bill Finkelstein, seeing an opportunity to maximize the point awards, declared at the start that the four competing teams would play two sessions – six boards a round against the other three, once before lunch, once after lunch, so there would be a morning winner and an afternoon winner, along with a runner-up. That winner was us. We netted 1.63 master points each time.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bridge Blog 617: Unorthodox

          There’s another point-a-day phenomenon happening here in December, but not in the usual manner. It doesn’t involve Ace of Clubs points.
          On the updated master point list at the Airport Bridge Club, my total is 6.03 points for the month, 4.78 of them silver from STaC week. But that doesn’t count my district bonus points from the STaC last Friday. I earned 10.37 silver points overall. So add another 5.59, making 11.62. And then there was the Unit 116 annual meeting and game, where Dotty May and I earned 2.60 points. So it’s 14.22.  
          Now if I could only achieve something in club play. Barbara Sadkin and I had a rollicking old time Thursday playing North-South at the Airport club, making slams, doubling people and setting them. But for every top board, we had a bottom one. We wound up with exactly 50%, a fraction of a percent behind the point-winning second-place B pair.
One less mistake and we’d be those point-winning runners-up. For instance, that hand that Barb wouldn’t let me forget about, where I had eight Spades and opened 1 Spade instead of pre-empting. She had eight Diamonds, played it at 5 Diamonds. Bottom board.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bridge Blog 616: STaCked up, moved out

          Just did a double take when I clicked on the link for the master point winners in  the Winter STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) for District 5 ACBL. The list that comes up is topped by a banner that says “2011 Winter STaC.”
          It’s this year’s list, though. I look for my name and it has  this year’s total in 36 th place with 10.37, thanks mostly to that 7-point first-place game on Wednesday afternoon. The rest of the week was dribs and drabs, including a 0.69 for our team winning three rounds in the Swiss teams match on Sunday. Had we won a fourth, we would have gotten into bonus territory.
          It’s not my finest STaC – better than last summer, when I registered 9.28 points, not as good as last December, which saw my all-time STaC high of 13.91.
Meanwhile, Buffalo area players hold down the top two places on this year’s STaC winners list. First place belongs to John Ziemer with 26.52. Second goes to Bud Seidenberg (or, if you will, Randolph Seidenberg Jr.) with 23.88.
          In all, Buffalo players held down 16 of the first 52 positions on the list. Here it is, minus the Cleveland and Pittsburgh people:

Elizabeth Clark,  East Aurora NY
Judith Marshall,  Buffalo NY
Harry Cheung,  Williamsville NY
Allen Beroza,  East Amherst NY
Bob Andersen,  Clarence NY
Mike Silverman,  Williamsville NY
Carlton Stone,  North Tonawanda NY
Jay Costello,  East Amherst NY
Eleanor Whelan,  Lewiston NY
Beverly Cohen,  Cleveland OH (former Buffalonian)
Dale Anderson,  Buffalo NY
John Kirsits,  East Amherst NY
Jerry Geiger,  Hamburg NY
Barbara Pieterse,  Lancaster NY
Martin Pieterse,  Lancaster NY

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bridge Blog 615: We're Number One!!!

         First in the district in the STaC (Sectional Tournament in the Clubs), that’s where Celine Murray and I wound up as a result of Friday afternoon’s 69.05% game. What’s it worth? What’s our bonus? An even 7 silver points. We’ll take it. With my fractional winnings earlier in the week, the STaC total is 9.67, which turns out to be better than my summer STaC effort of 9.28.
          No such luck Friday morning. Selina Volpatti and I had 60.36%, a good game in normal competition, but not in the STaC. We needed at least 62.23%. As for Bud Seidenberg and Jay Costello with their awesome 74.7%, they were first, a bigger first than we were in the afternoon. 11.33 points,
          No luck Saturday either. I had a couple next-to-last efforts, a wimpy 41.67% with Marietta Kalman in the morning, an even more pathetic 38.89% in the afternoon with Sharon Chang. Sunday will find Sharon and me paired up for STaC Swiss teams, where perhaps we’ll be luckier.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bridge Blog 614: Raised on robbery

          That Joni Mitchell song ran through my brain more than once Friday morning in the STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) Tournament game at the Airport Bridge Club. Partner Selina Volpatti and I committed grand larceny several times in the 6½ table session.
          Victims of our first crime were Dave Donaldson and my Wednesday partner Celine Murray. I opened a weak 1 Heart after two passes, Dave bid 1 No Trump, Selina bumped it to 2 Hearts and there it stood. We had just seven Hearts between us and only one honor, the King, but I engineered a cross-ruff and we went down only one. It was good for 3 out of 4 game points. A couple hands later, with a 19-point hand, I let Dave play 4 Clubs doubled, not vulnerable, instead of pushing on to what would have been a 4 Hearts vulnerable game. He went down four. Top board!
          On the next round, against Doug Dean and Ginny Panero, I overcalled Doug’s 1 No Trump opener with 2 Spades, a six-card suit to the Jack, and went down two, not vulnerable, on a hand where they should have made 3 NT. Another top board! We had three for the session. I told Selina it felt like a good game (we had only one bottom board) and it was – 60.36%, third overall, second in the B strat, 0.88 silver points with the potential for more on the district level.
          Selina begged off on the second session (she was up to 3 a.m. in the Niagara Regional Council budget meeting), but fortunately Wednesday partner Celine Murray was available for Friday afternoon play. Nothing fancy, she admonished at the start, and there wasn’t, but we were just plainly on fire. In 21 hands, only four of the scores were on the opponents’ side.
          When a partial score went up at the end of the game, we were at an astounding 71%. The final tally put us at 69.05%, first overall and the best I’ve done in a long, long time. The immediate reward was 1.42 silver points. I can’t wait to see what it does at the district level.
          Meanwhile, let’s go to the District 5 site and see if Thursday’s games rewarded us with some extra silver. No, not in the morning. Last B pair on the list to win a bonus had 57.9%. And not in the afternoon, either. The bar there was set even higher – 59.52%.
          At the moment, Friday morning’s score tally is partial, but it looks like our 60.36% might mean something. With four of six clubs reporting (but not Airport), that figure would put us in seventh place overall. Top game, by the way, came from Jay Costello and Bud Seidenberg at the Bridge Center of Buffalo – an awesome 74.7%. As for Friday afternoon, no results at all yet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bridge Blog 613: Penultimate totals

OK, the ACBL has posted the November tallies for the master point races, right on time, and here’s how things look with one month to go in 2012.
Unit 116 (Buffalo). In the Ace of Clubs race, I’m not first. I didn’t overtake Carlton Stone, after all. And I’m not second. John Ziemer has slipped past me. Here’s the list: Carlton Stone, 185.27; John Ziemer, 182.34; me, 181.45; Mike Silverman, 171.58; Liz Clark, 153.65; Vince Pesce, 141.97; Jim Gullo, 131.54; Barbara Libby, 131.24; Michael Ryan, 119.52; and Carolyn Siracuse, 114.53.
In the Mini-McKenney race, I’m fifth, right where I expected to be, but on by a hair. Here’s the lineup: John Ziemer, 319.05; Judy Padgug, 282.40; Dian Petrov, 276.67; Michael Ryan, 250.46; me, 218.95; Jim Gullo, 216.86; Carlton Stone, 203.45; Mike Silverman, 189.37; Liz Clark, 185.66; and Barbara Libby, 148.16.
District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). In Ace of Clubs, Unit 116 has the top five positions in the 1,000-2,500 point division and eight of the top 10 (Robert Maier of Morgantown, W.Va., is sixth with 144.79 and Francine Feldman, a Pittsburgher whose home is listed as Boca Raton, Fla., is eighth with 140.97). We have 12 of the 25 spots. Paul Libby is 17th with 109.84 and Judy Padgug is 18th with 105.48.
In the Mini-McKenney, Unit 116 has eight players of the list of 25. John Ziemer is second, behind Michael Craeger of Brecksville, Ohio, who has a towering 661.81. Judy Padgug is fourth, behind the aforementioned Robert Maier, with 290.61. Dian Petrov is fifth, barely ahead of a frequent player in local tournaments, Marc Sylvester of Edinboro, Pa., who has 275.60. Michael Ryan is eighth. I’m 16th, having been surpassed by Jack and Vicki Goodykoontz of Morgantown, W.Va., who each have 220.81. You need at least 185 to catch 25th place, which is where Liz Clark is sitting.
Nationwide Ace of Clubs leader once again is good old Charlie Christmas from Tallahassee, Fla., with 312.44, followed by J. R. Melis of Seal Beach, Calif., with 301.54 and John Petri of Long Beach, Calif., with 291.67. You start finding us Unit 116 folks in the middle of the list. Carlton Stone is 44th. John Ziemer is 50th. I’m 53rd. Mike Silverman is 70th. And that’s it. Cutoff at 100 th place is at 163.28.
Nationwide Mini-McKenney is headed by a District 5 guy – Michael Craeger. He’s 13 points ahead of Stephen Apodaca of Santa Fe, N.M. (648.11). John Ziemer is 97 th. He’s the only Unit 116 player on that list, which cuts off at 318.59.

Bridge Blog 612: Out of the woods?

I finally broke out of my 40% funk Thursday. Paired with substitute Paula Salamone in the morning STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) game at the Airport Bridge, we played modestly with few mistakes, although we missed a slam early on. Our final tally? 52.38%. Had we been North-South, we would have gotten B strat points, but we needed 54% to do that in our direction. At least it was better than 50%.
I was supposed to play all day with Barbara Sadkin, but she begged off from the morning session on Wednesday. When she arrived at 1 p.m., I was upbeat, figuring that the 40% curse could be beaten again. And it was. We emerged with 57.14%, just a fraction behind North-South winners Jim Mathis and Judi Marshall. Had I not come in a trick short by screwing up a couple hands, we would have been on top. Our reward? 1.05 silver points. Will our sub-60% performance get us a district-wide bonus? Maybe. A percentage like that would have won nearly 3.5 points Wednesday morning and a little better than 2 points Tuesday afternoon, but nothing at all Wednesday afternoon.

Bridge Blog 611: Satisfied

“There’s a special satisfaction,” Donald Fagen of Steely Dan sings in his latest solo album, “when a job turns out so right …” And there was a special satisfaction in the following hand in the middle of the Thursday afternoon STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) game at the Airport Bridge Club, because it turned out just the way I thought it would.
Spades: A-K-Q-9-8-2; Hearts: None.
Diamonds: A; Clubs: J-10-9-8-4-2.
It’s Board 10, both sides vulnerable. East (Bob Linn) is dealer and he passes. Sitting South, I open 1 Spade, but I’m thinking 4 Spades. Unless the opening lead is a Club, I’ll take the first trick, bang out the top three Spades to draw all the trump (assuming it breaks well) and start hammering the Clubs from the top down until everybody runs out.
I’m reassured when West (Bill Boardman) overcalls 2 Hearts. My partner, Barbara Sadkin, passes. Bob goes to either 3 or 4 Hearts. I bid 4 Spades and everybody passes. Bill’s opening lead, as expected, is a Heart. The Ace.
“I hope you weren’t expecting anything from me,” Barbara says as she lays down a truly wretched dummy. “All I need,” I tell her, “is your two little Spades.”
Spades: 6-5; Hearts: 10-7-5-4.
Diamonds: J-10-5-4-2; Clubs: 6-5.
And it goes just the way I envisioned it. Trump the Ace of Hearts. The outstanding Spades split 3-2. And then I just lead Clubs. The split there is 5-0, but I still have one trump and three long Clubs left when Bob Linn runs out of Club honors. I only lose three Club tricks.
Spades: 10-3; Hearts: 8-6-2.
Diamonds: 9-8-6; Clubs: A-K-Q-7-3.
Spades: J-7-4; Hearts: A-K-Q-J-9-3.
Diamonds: K-Q-7-3. Clubs: None.
We got a tie for top board. Just one of the other six North-Souths bid and made 4 Spades. The only other North-South to win the auction got it at 4 Clubs doubled, played by South, down one.
At the other tables, East-West got to play it at 4 Hearts three times, two of them making the bid, one of them going down one. The other East-West was at 5 Hearts doubled, down two.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bridge Blog 610: Looking ahead to last month

One day away from the new postings for the master point races on the ACBL website and I fear that the slump that’s engulfed me since mid-November will cost me position.
My pending points, November’s totals, amount to 16.95. For the year so far, that would raise my overall Mini-McKenney score to 218.95, with 184.45 Ace of Clubs points.
Chances are I’m still fifth in the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney and won’t catch fourth-place Mike Ryan at all this year. He had 233.18 as of the end of October. In the Unit 116 Ace of Clubs, I had visions of overtaking first-place Carlton Stone and I may have done it, since I was trailing him by less than a point. As goes the Unit, so goes District 5. Big question is whether I stay ahead of John Ziemer. He was only 8.47 points behind me and he’s been winning a lot.

Bridge Blog 609: Still on the skids

        After the brilliant performance with Dotty May on Sunday at the Unit 116 annual meeting and game (where corrections revised our score to 63.01%), my slump has gone back into effect for STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) Week.
        Despite high hopes for a silver-point romp with Selina Volpatti on Monday, we were victims of our trick-costing mistakes and overbidding. In the morning session, where we took 13 of the 20 auctions, we managed a meager 44.38%. The afternoon showed just as much aggressive bidding – we took 16 of the 24 contracts – but not enough improvement. Our 48.92% was one place short of earning points.
        I had similar ambitions for my two sessions Tuesday with Beverly Dale, who I haven’t played with since she suffered broken ribs a couple months back. The morning session found us a little out of synch, registering a feeble 38.81% game which put us next to last North-South. Like Monday, the afternoon was better, but still insufficient – 46.82%, eighth out of 11 North-Souths.
        Wednesday partner Celine Murray said it would be OK if we only played one session when she called Tuesday night, but I insisted on two. Sometimes we’ve done well in the STaC, hitting that magic 60% level and earning District 5 bonus points.
These, alas, were not those times. The morning game, where we ground out defense in 14 out of 21 miserable holdings, yielded us only a 46.25% game. Miraculously, it was good for second in the B strat and 0.74 of a silver point. No miracles in the afternoon, though. Though we got many more biddable situations, our fortunes declined to 42.36%, third from the bottom among seven North-Souths.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bridge Blog 608: It comes but once a year

          The universe tried to keep me from going to the annual Unit 116 holiday lunch, meeting and game on Sunday at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Union Road in Cheektowaga, but I was adamant. Go to the art-studio open house along Elmwood with my significant other? No. Cancel so I could attend a memorial service at 4 p.m.? No, no, no. And no regrets, either.
          Not long after I arrive, board member Sue Neubecker hands me a holiday gift bag and after I tell her the News won’t allow me to accept gifts, I unwrap it. It’s a package of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, making up for the cream cheese I purchased from the deli next door when supplies ran out too soon at the last sectional tournament there. Perfect. Thank you, Sue.
          And then during the meeting, when they’re recognizing new life masters, they call my name. My life master hat trick last November (basic, bronze and silver all at once) must not have been reported in time for last year’s honors, so here we are. My trophy? A little “I Love Bridge” patch.
          Finally, the game. Dotty May and I haven’t had great games together recently, but this time we clicked, starting with a 71.11% round against Carol Bedell and Marietta Kalman. We finished first in the B strat in our section, second in B in overall and fourth among all players with 62.58%. Best game I’ve had since my winning streak ended in the middle of November. The points were worthwhile, too. 2.60.
          The food also was worthwhile. Beef on weck, potato and pasta salads, a green salad and a ton of desserts and cookies. I dug repeatedly into Carolyn Siracuse’s excellent cheesecake. In fact, I got the last piece.

Bridge Blog 607: Out with a whimper

          The last day of November did nothing to improve my figures for the month. It goes down in history as 16.70. Marilyn Sultz and I came in either last or next-to-last with a 42.5%. Where did we go wrong? Let’s take a quick look at this 6 ½ table game and see. Top on a board is 5.
          Round 1 (Nancy Acara & Beverly Dale): 6.5 out of 15, or 43.33%. Took a bottom board on a bad 2 Heart bid that went down two.
          Round 2 (Jerry Geiger & Barbara Libby): 6.5, or 43.33% again. Another bottom board here, but there might have been two of them if they bid their sure game on the first hand.
          Round 3 (Bill Boardman & Pawan Matta): 6.5, or 43.33%. Still another bottom board, this time because I bid with too much weakness.
          Round 4 (Judi Marshall & Jim Mathis): 2, or 13.33%. Toughest pair in the room, but overbidding on our part didn’t help, especially the 3 NT down four.
          Round 5 (Ginny Panaro & Doug Dean): 5, or 33.33%. Fifth bottom board in five rounds is a 4 Heart bid on a hand where everyone else stops short of game and makes 3 Hearts.
          Round 6 (Celine Murray & Paul Libby): 9, or 60%. At last, a top board when I make an overtrick at 3 NT, an ill-advised contract that should have gone down two.
          Round 7 (Chuck Schorr & Judy Kaprove): 6.5, or 43.33%.
          Round 8: Our third-best round. We have a sit-out.
          Round 9 (Judy Zeckhauser & June Feuerstein): 9, or 60%. We stop bidding and play defense on all three hands.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bridge Blog 606: Out of clock

Looks like the calendar has run out on my 20-point ambitions for November. One day left. Still 3.5 points short, since Florence Boyd and I were unsuccessful Thursday in the triple-point game at the Amherst Bridge Club. We seemed to play well, though we spent two-thirds of the session on defense, but I think we missed reaching the lower ranks of the winners because of a certain mindless error on my part.
We’re North-South at Table 1 in a 9 ½ table game. Three hands per round. Top score on a board is 8.
Pair 1 (Marilyn Sultz – my Friday partner -- & Ruth Wurster): 8, or 33.33%. We probably get 50% if I make an early Club lead in the first hand and hold them to just 2 Spades. My 1 Spade contract, bid and made, is a high middle board, but we should have let them play for a part score instead of bidding 4 Hearts, doubled, down two.
Pair 9 (Art Schumaker & Barb Multerer): 14, or 58.33%. I make a tough 3 NT bid, tie for a top board.
Pair 8 (Judi Marshall & Ed Drozen): 8, or 33.33% again. Good: Keeping Judi from making an overtrick on a 3 NT contract. Bad: Letting her play a makeable 3 Spades on a hand where we can make 4 Clubs. At the one-third mark, we’re an anemic 41.67%.
Pair 7 (Florence Notto & Janet Frisch): 7, or 29.17%. They just plain nail us. Florence leads a Spade against my initial 3 NT contract, taking out our only stopper and I have to rake in my winners immediately. A different lead and we make three overtricks. Janet finds a fruitful 2 Heart contract where every other East-West bids NT and hands us a bottom board. And then she cruises to a middle board with an overtrick at 2 Spades.
Pair 6 (Bruce Burr & Ross Markello): 7.5, or 31.25%. We register the first of the day’s two pass-outs when Florence passes on a hand where she could have opened 1 Club. It doesn’t make Clubs, but it’s good for 2 NT. Then Bruce and Ross proceed to make three overtricks on a 3 NT contract and send me down two on a 3 NT hand where Ross, on my right, opens a weak 2 Diamonds that’s not so weak and I overcall 2 NT with a 1 NT opener. Ross gets in when I eventually go to knock out the Ace of Clubs and runs five carefully-preserved Diamonds.
Pair 5 (Paul & Barbara Libby): 4, or 16.67%. Here’s that big mistake – reaching for an Ace of Hearts that would have defeated Barb’s 2 Spade contract and putting down a Jack of Hearts instead, which allowed her to make it. But we miss our chances on the other two hands, as well. Paul goes 2 Spades and comes two tricks short, but we can make 2 NT. And then a well-considered hold-up play by Barb keeps me from making 4 Spades. At the two-thirds mark, we’re truly pathetic – 33.68%.
Pair 4 (Nancy Kessler & Carlton Stone): 17, or 70.83%. We start getting cards. Flo plays her first contract, 3 NT making five. I make an overtrick at 4 Spades. Nancy and Carlton make 3 NT, but only bid 2.
Pair 3 (Jan Hasselback & Linda Wynes): 14.82, or 61.75%. That’s despite my daily minus 800, down four doubled on a 6 Club sacrifice bid. I make an improbable 4 Spade contract with a 7-point hand for out topmost board of the day and Flo caps it with a bold 5 Clubs, bid and made.
Pair 2 (Helen Panza & Mike Silverman): 15.5, or 64.58%. Flo makes an overtrick at 1 NT for a tie for top and we finish the day with another pass-out, this time for a near top. We’re 65.72% on those last three rounds. Overall, we bounce back to 44.36%. Too bad our good play didn’t kick in sooner.