Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bridge Blog 502: Stop the world

          I just took another look at the World Simultaneous Pairs results online tonight and discovered that Bob Padgug and I have been taken down a peg. Now we’re 13th Tuesday instead of 12th, with 63.64% instead of 64.06%.

Bridge Blog 501: Wanted: Social secretary

          So I get to the Bridge Center of Buffalo at noon Thursday and my partner, Florence Boyd, is nowhere in sight. When I ring her up, she says that she canceled the date because she doesn’t play at that club. Guess who didn’t cross her out of his datebook.
          I lingered, just in case some other wallflower came wandering in alone, but no luck. My partners the last two times I was partnerless – Bob Olin and Bob Padgug – both had been paired up. (Olin was next-to-last in the 299er game, for which he wouldn’t have gotten points anyway, Padgug was second in the open pairs with 64%.)
Director Kathy Pollock had her hands full with the two sessions – 11 tables worth of 299ers and a five-table Howell for the open pairs. I helped her by handing out boards and traveling score slips, for which she graciously gave me a free play coupon. I’ll use it Friday, when I believe I have a guaranteed partner – Joe Peters, who asked to play sometime when I saw him at the Jackie Jocko-Joe Peters birthday party Monday night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bridge Blog 500: King of the world (almost)

     You’ve got to admit, World Simultaneous Pairs sounds pretty impressive. It benefits UNICEF and the same hands are played all over the world. Plus you get to watch the aggregate scores pile up on the website as the results come in from England and Germany and Jordan and Peru. What don’t aggregate, however, are the master points. It’s not like the STaC or those other ACBL-wide events. What you get at your club is the extent of your reward.
          So on Monday, playing with Marilyn Sultz at Bridge Club Meridian (sitting on the stage in the Zion Church hall at the 16th table), I broke out of last week’s funk with a shiny 51.44% game, fifth North-South in the A strat, third in B, sixth overall in A. Points? 0.56.
          Projected worldwide, however, a score like that not only got lost, it got diminished, since our scores on each hand were computed against what everyone else did. Searching way down the list, I found us tied for 202nd with a pair from Japan with a score of just 50.31%. In all, there were 403 pairs. Bottom pair, two women from the Putney Bridge Club in England, had 29.56%. Top were two women from a place called the Bridge Academy in the U.S. with 69.63%.
          Tuesday I was scheduled to play with my Wednesday partner, Celine Murray, but game time arrived and she hadn’t. A phone call found her at home. She wasn’t feeling well and she didn’t even have me in her book. So at the last minute, I was paired for the first time with Bob Padgug, husband of one of the top local players and not a bad player himself. We have what feels like a pretty good game in the 10-table field, but we figure that no matter how well we do, we won’t beat Dan Gerstman and Chris Urbanek.
          When preliminary results come down, it turns out we’re second East-West, close behind Gerstman-Urbanek. Plus we had a good final round. Good enough, it turns out, to zip past them into first place with 63.89%, trailing only Bob’s wife Judy, who was top North-South. The master point payoff? 2.15. Hallelujah!
          Club manager Dian Petrov, having showed me on his iPad during the game how you can look up the worldwide results, emailed the link Tuesday night. Bob and I, he noted, were in second place worldwide. Not only that, our score plumped up a bit, to 64.06%. (Bob’s wife sank to 59.85%.) But that was only with half a dozen clubs reporting. As the night grew longer, we slipped to fourth place, behind a couple pairs from Germany and another one from Peru.
          Once all the results were in, we weren’t even Top 10 any more. Twelfth isn’t anything to complain about, though, out of a field of 346 pairs. And we were second in the U.S., behind a couple women from that Bridge Academy place who had 64.68%.

Bridge Blog 499: Dead of winter

          Usually this is the most barren time of year outdoors and a fertile one for building up my master point totals indoors. This year it’s just the opposite. Call it a run of bad luck. Call it a losing streak. Whatever it was, I had it last week and it started me thinking that 2012 could be an exercise in futility.
          How bad was it? Well, it started on Monday and Tuesday with Marie Suprinick, well-meaning, but not a strong player. Sometimes we can break 50%, but these were not those times – 47.72% and 43.96% respectively at Bridge Club Meridian. Wednesday – 41.67% -- had me wondering if Wednesday partner Celine Murray and I have lost the magic. Thursday I absolutely bottomed out with Bob Olin with a dead last 36.11% – totally unexpected because we had a respectable game a week earlier. Nor did I find redemption with Judy Kaprove on Friday, though 46.71% looked good after the previous three days. Two-tenths of a percent better and we would have been fourth in the B strat.
          So two-thirds of the way through January, all I have to show for my time at the tables is 2.57 black points and .93 of a silver point from the sectional – 3.50 overall. Pretty pathetic.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bridge Blog 498: Wooly bully

          So tell me, is there such a thing in bridge as a director call for bullying? The reason I ask is because of what happened on Board 12 Friday at the Bridge Center of Buffalo. I’m North. Mike Silverman’s my partner. Our opponents: sitting East, Bud Seidenberg, husband of Buffalo News restaurant critic Janice Okun; sitting West, Jay Costello. In terms of total master points – 5568 and 3961, respectively – they’re the best pair in the room, since Jim Mathis and Bev Cohen are with less experienced partners.
          Anyway, Board 12. North-South vulnerable. West is dealer. Jay either passes or opens a Club. At any rate, I pass and Bud bids a Diamond. Mike passes. Jay definitely bids at his second opportunity, 2 Clubs. I pass again. Bud goes 2 Spades. Whereupon Mike bids 3 Hearts. Here’s my hand:
          Spades: K-Q-8-6. Hearts: 9-7-5-3.
          Diamonds: J-9. Clubs: Q-5-3.
          Jay bids 4 Diamonds and, being perplexed at Mike’s bid and our vulnerability, I pause to ponder what I should do next. Whereupon Jay exclaims something like “Sheesh!” and calls the director. Too long a pause, he contends. And South had paused too long before his first passing bid. No matter that I hadn’t picked up on Mike’s pause. (We’d been having a run of particularly bad hands all day long – we played offense on only 7 out of 24.) I’m not inclined to take a chance, especially with an indifferent vulnerable hand against guys as good as Bud and Jay. So, with director Kathy Pollock looking on, I throw down another Pass card. Bud passes. Mike doubles. Pass-pass-pass.
We play it out and East-West go down one. Looking at the traveling scorecard, we discover that it’s totally a North-South hand, making 3 No Trump or 4 Hearts with an overtrick. We get a bottom board and I’m quietly annoyed. Were we bamboozled? Could I claim bullying against our opponents? After all, this is not the first time an expert player took a sure contract away from my side with a director call (Christine Urbanek, Winter Sectional a couple years ago, a call which, I was told later, was incorrectly adjudicated by the director – see one of my old Myspace bridge blogs from January 2009 or 2010, if your computer can bring it up).
Of course, all this is moot if Mike overcalls 2 or 3 Hearts on his first bid instead of passing. He says he was waiting to see which major suit the opponents were going to bid. Here’s his hand:
Spades: 4. Hearts: A-K-J-10-8-6-4.
Diamonds: A-5. Clubs: A-10-4.
Here are the opponents’ hands:
Spades: 9-7-5-3-2. Hearts: None.
Diamonds: K-8-7-6-4-3. Clubs: J-9.

Spades: A-J-10. Hearts: Q-2.

        Diamonds: Q-10-2. Clubs: K-8-7-6-2. 

        That top board helps fatten a truly incredible win by Bud and Jay. They run away from the pack in this 4½ table Howell game with a score of 75% even. If we play it in 4 Hearts, we get two game points instead of a zero but it won’t boost us in the final standings – 50.52% or 52.39%, we're still third in the B strat, still second in C, still winning .32 of a master point.
The field includes my Wednesday partner, Celine Murray, playing with Bob Olin. I was paired with Bob Thursday after I showed up without a partner – I think it was our first-ever game together – and we had a delightful time, although our 47.02% game was well out of point range. Since Celine and I have done so poorly lately, I wondered what our curse would do to a third player. Looks like Celine is more salubratory. They didn’t get points, but they did better than Bob and me Thursday – 48.96%.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bridge Blog 497: Mystery? Not really

We were baffled. Celine Murray and I came in dead last East-West on Wednesday at the Bridge Center of Buffalo. Not by much, a fraction of a percentage point, but definitely last. And we were wondering why. We’re longstanding partners. We were on offense most of the day. And we thought we did a whole lot better than 41.67%. Fortunately, the Bridge Center provides hand records. Let’s see where we fell down.
          In the first round against Paul Libby and Vince Pesce, the top pair North-South, we got only 10 out of a possible 24 game points. Board 7 saw a lot of pairs score 90, but I should have bid my five-card Spade suit instead of 1 NT. That would have given us 110 and 6 game points instead of 2.5. Board 8 was OK – two overtricks at 3 NT. Only one pair had three overtricks. Board 9, not OK, but nothing we could do about it. They could make a 6 Club slam. They stopped at 5 Clubs, made an overtrick. Other East-Wests set the contract by two or three tricks, meaning that N-S must have made the mistake of playing it at 3 NT, which loses six Spade tricks right off the top.
Second round. Bob Olin and Anna Edwards, who at age 95 doesn’t see well enough to tell if Diamonds are really Diamonds. Here we get only 8 out of 24 game points. The two of us can share the blame for that. We do fine on Board 13, bidding and making 2 Spades, but after Celine opens 2 Clubs on Board 14, I fall in love with my eight-card Diamond suit, hijack the contract and go for slam (2 Clubs-2 Diamonds-2 Hearts-4 No Trump-5 Spades-6 NT). Here’s the hand:

Spades: 10. Hearts: Q-4-2.
Diamonds: A-J-10-8-7-5-4-3. Clubs: 4.
Spades: A-K-4-3. Hearts: A-K-J-10-5-3.
Diamonds: K. Clubs: A-Q.
Spades: Q-9-7-6-2. Hearts: 9-6.
Diamonds: 6-2. Clubs: K-10-6-3.
Spades: J-8-5. Hearts: 8-7.
Diamonds: Q-9. Clubs: J-9-8-7-5-2.

Yes, it can make 7 NT. It also makes 7 Hearts and 7 Diamonds. I managed to lose a trick by foolishly taking the opening Heart lead with my Queen and then not being able to return to my hand. We got 2 out of 8 game points for that. Everybody else was in Hearts. They all took 13 tricks, but two of them didn’t bid 6 Hearts. Nobody bid 7. Had I taken the first trick in the dummy, I could have made an overtrick and had the top board.
We compounded that on the very next board when Celine bid a take-out double over North’s Diamond opener and, with 4-1-4-4 distribution, I gave her my four-card major suit, Spades, where I held 7-6-3-2. She jumped to 3 Spades and I passed. Down three. Celine never should have doubled. She had six Hearts and only three Spades. It made 2 Hearts.
          OK. I get the picture. After the first two rounds, we’re at 37.5%. Round three against Claire Gareleck and Nadine Stein finds us perking up with 15.5 out of 24, but our perking ended there. No single round could get us into the winners’ circle. We needed at least 52.55% to scratch.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Bridge Blog 496: Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament wrapup

          Congratulations to Saleh Fetouh, biggest master point winner at the Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament this weekend in the Wick Center at Daemen College. He collected 20.58 points, thanks to a third-place finish with Jay Levy Friday morning (62.63%, 3.47 points), a second-place finish with Levy Friday afternoon (65.97%, 3.17 points – smaller game), third-place finishes with Jim Mathis Saturday morning (62.88%, 3.19 points) and afternoon (61.91%, 3 points even) and another 7.75 points for first place in Sunday’s Swiss team game with Mathis, Bud Seidenberg and David Hemmer, who someone said was a math teacher at UB. Mathis was second in the tournament with 19.68. Levy was third with 17.45.
          Our Swiss team – Faith Perry, Flo Boyd, Pawan Matta and me – didn’t play Saleh’s foursome, although they could hardly have skunked us worse than six of the seven teams that we faced. We thought we were doing well when we drubbed the Wellsville-Olean ladies in the first round, but that was our only win of the day. In fact, I believe the Wellsville-Olean ladies were the only ones who had an overall score lower than we did at the end, but I see by the point list that at least they won one of their rounds, so they didn’t make the long drive home empty-handed.
Our troubles began in the second round, when we ran into Penny and Peter Shui, overall winners in Saturday afternoon’s game, and they nailed us on two of the seven hands. They wound up first in the B and C strats in the Swiss teams, giving both of them 15.03 points for the tournament,  fifth overall. Still, we had hope, since with every loss we knew we’d be facing weaker and weaker teams. When it came down to our last hope, it was against Paula Salamone and her daughter, Miri. They also skunked us.
It was an off day in almost every way. If something could have gone wrong, it did. We missed games we should have bid. We lost tricks we should have won. I went down four doubled once while aiming for a sacrificial down three against a sure vulnerable game. Our opponents bid slams that our teammates missed. I revoked not once, but twice. (On one, I held back a long Diamond, which was the only way we could keep the opponents from taking all the tricks.) Well, it still beat an afternoon of not playing bridge.
In all, 145 players got at least some fraction of a silver point in the tournament. I was 106th with 0.93, having gotten two-thirds of a point Saturday morning with Celine Murray, despite having only a 46% game. We were lucky to escape without a call for unsportsmanlike conduct. Make that unsportswomanlike. After Patricia Burns and Jeanne Gladyz came late to our table for one round, Celine and Pat got snippy with one another over slow play, of which both are sometimes guilty. 
What else … oh, the double revoke. I think it happened Friday. I asked director Mike Roberts about it on Sunday and he said that one player happened to revoke twice on the same hand. He'd never seen that before, he added.
And then there was more of that hellish Daemen hospitality. I brought my own sandwich for lunch, avoiding what many thought was a thoroughly unsatisfactory $10 box lunch, but I got sucked in by the bagels. Sunday morning they put out a huge basket of what looked like cranberry bagels, sliced and halved (not quartered like the bagels were on Friday and Saturday). I eagerly snatched the equivalent of a whole bagel, spread one half with cream cheese, took a bite and discovered that this was one very old bagel. I quietly returned the unschmeered half to the basket and took one of the last hunks of far fresher coffee cake.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bridge Blog 495: Wait'll next year

          Good as their word, the ACBL has posted the year-end master point race results online by the sixth of the month. Let’s take a look at the 1000 to 2500 point categories.
          Ace of Clubs (points earned in club play only). I’m sixth on the Unit 116 (Buffalo) Top 10 list with a 2011 total of 146.50. Top is Mike Kisiel with 237.51, followed by John Ziemer (191.44), Liz Clark (183.27), Carlton Stone (165.55) and Vince Pesce (150.08). Rounding out the list are Carolyn Siracuse (128.42), Judy Padgug (121.71), Paul Libby (113.90) and Jim Gullo (108.34). On the District 5 level (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh), I’m ninth. Kisiel is still first, leading snowbird Francine Feldman of Boca Raton, Fla., who has 195.39. On the national level, I missed the Top 100 by a mile. I’d need at least 176.82 points to tie for the bottom rung.
          Mini-McKenney (all points everywhere). I’m seventh among Unit 116 players with 191.45 overall. Leader is Dian Petrov with 343.35, followed by John Ziemer (275.16), Mike Kisiel (251.62), Judy Padgug (241.73), Carlton Stone (196.63) and Liz Clark (196.41). Behind me are Vince Pesce (166.89), Kathy Pollock (153.56) and Mike Ryan (149.46). I fall just short of making the Top 25 on the District 5 list. One more point and I would have nudged out Gary Montain of Westlake, Ohio, who had 192.44. Top of the list, of course, is Hao Ge of Bay Village, Ohio, with 642.81. Dian Petrov is second. John Ziemer is eighth. Kisiel is 11th. I’m far from making this Top 100 nationally, where the entry point is 337.99. Leader continues to be Geeske Joel of Palo Alto, Calif., with 969.52. Newly arrived in second place is another Californian, Crispin Barrere of Berkeley, with 739.19. Hao Ge is seventh. Dian Petrov is 92nd.

Bridge Blog 494: Winter Sectional Day 1

          Daemen is a demon, as far as the organizers of the Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament are concerned. Word is that the college strung along Unit 116 on arrangements for this weekend’s affair and then, two weeks ago, told them the rent would be twice what everyone thought it would be. But it didn’t end there, as I discovered when I arrived at the Wick Center Friday morning.
          Put aside the usual complaints about the venue – the way it’s either too  hot or (more often) too cold, the brutal discomfort of the chairs, or the fact that both women’s washrooms are a long walk across the dining area from the Social Hall, where the tournament takes place. This time there were new outrages. Like provisions for coats. There was just one rack. By the time I arrived, five minutes before the start of the morning session, the hangers were all engaged, the rack was full and coats were piled over nearby chairs and tables.
And then there were the arrangements for snacks and beverages. Ordinarily, these are set up in the dining hall. But there’s between-semester remodeling under way there, so the foodstuffs were moved to a big table in front of the stage. Then the hot water urn ran dry and no Daemen staff was around to refill it. And then someone mentioned that the college imposed such complete control over the food and beverages that they wouldn’t allow the tournament to put out its own pitchers of ice water. Instead, water could be purchased for 75 cents a bottle. The college also is preparing the $10 box lunches for the Sunday Swiss team game – sandwich, chips, banana and beverage. The unit is buying only a limited number of them. I’ve decided to brown bag it.

Bridge Blog 494-A: Ain't we got fun

          The Friday morning session of the Buffalo Winter Sectional was huge. Partner Florence Boyd and I were Pair 14 East-West and there was another section with another 14 tables. The play, on the other hand, was dull. No slams, no doubles, just a straight-ahead game with only two or three botched hands that gave us bottom boards – like letting Nadine Stein play a contract at 2 Diamonds when we could been bold and found our Spade fit, or that trump trick I failed to take on what should have been a down-one effort, or that extra trick Flo should have nailed to avoid going down three. When it was over, we didn’t get any master points, but we had a respectable 49.74%.
          The afternoon game was much smaller – two sections with a total of 17 tables. More than one person thought the p.m. game should start earlier, like at 3 instead of 3:30. Actually, I think a briefer lunch break and a 2:30 start could be better yet. Then the game wouldn’t collide with evening social plans.
          At any rate, Flo and I had a much jollier time and played a much looser game. The final score betrayed our carelessness – 43.29%, seventh out of nine East-Wests. Five bottom boards, including an ill-advised double of Ginny Panaro and Mike Kisiel in a 5 Diamond contract. Actually, it would’ve been a zero without the double – nobody else bid game.
          Another double, against a Jeanne Gladyz 3 Spade contract, was more successful. It gave us a top board. And then there was Board 7, a hand unlike any I’ve seen in a tournament. Here it is:
          Spades: None. Hearts: J.
          Diamonds: A-Q-J-9-7-6-5-4-3-2. Clubs: K-J.
          That’s right, 10 Diamonds. I’m sitting East. South – Jim Mathis – was dealer. I believe he opened a Spade. His partner, Bev Cohen, bid 2 Clubs.  Whereupon I plunked down the Stop card and bid 5 Diamonds. One of the opponents bid 5 Spades and I took it to 6 Diamonds, doubled by Beverly. We’re both vulnerable, but I figure I’m going to make at least 10 tricks, whereas I doubt that I have defense against Spades. Sure enough, Jim led the Ace of Spades and I gave a little mental cheer as Flo put down this dummy:
          Spades: J-9-7-5-3. Hearts: A-3-2.
          Diamonds: 10-8. Clubs: 10-9-6.
          Holy mackerel! Only one trump missing – the King. I trump the Ace of Spades and lead the Ace of Diamonds. Bev has the King. I lead my Jack of Hearts to the dummy’s Ace, return a Club, on which Bev plays the Ace, and I’m home free. Six Diamonds doubled vulnerable – 1540 game points. Here are the other hands:
          Spades: K-10-5. Hearts: Q-10-8-5.
          Diamonds: K. Clubs: A-8-7-4-3.
          Spades: A-Q-8-4-2. Hearts: K-9-7-6-4.
          Diamonds: None. Clubs: Q-5-2.
          The hand records show that North-South can make 4 Spades and 4 or 5 Hearts, depending on which of them plays it. East-West can make 2 No Trump if East plays it, 3 NT if West is declarer. And it’s always good for 6 Diamonds. As it turns out, I’m not the only one who wound up there, doubled and vulnerable. Two other pairs did the same thing. I ran into one of them, Jim Mader, after the results were posted and he was just as pumped about it as I was.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bridge Blog 493: Happy New Year!!!

          If your first experiences of the new year foretell the days and weeks and months to come, then my first duplicate bridge game of 2012 on Tuesday is a good omen. First partner of the new year in this 9½ table game at Bridge Club Meridian was Ruth Wurster. We’ve had our ups and downs in the past and the first hand didn’t bode well. Ruth opened 2 No Trump, which was passed all around (I had only one and a fraction high card point – the J-10 in a four-card Diamond suit), and she went down two after she failed to establish the Diamonds (she had three of them, headed by the K-Q, and she let my Jack win the first round). Fortunately, our opponents – Ginny Panaro and my Wednesday pal, Celine Murray – gave us one back on the next hand when they stopped at 3 Spades on a hand that made 6 Spades. And Ruth scored a coup in the next round, against Ken Meier and Gene Finton, when she brought home a 4 Diamond contract – doubled.
          Those were our best two scores of the day, although we managed a few more positive results, especially defensively. When director Dian Petrov announced the winners, we were there, toward the end of the list – fourth North-South, second in B, with a 52.61% game, good for .39 of a master point. But wait – there’s an error. Someone put the wrong board number on top of one of the traveling score sheets. When the scores were tallied up again, Ruth and I were second overall, second in B, with a 54.95% game, just a fraction of a percentage point behind winners Barbara Sadkin and June Feuerstein. New point award -- .70 – the first, I hope, of many happy returns.